Small British company makes a UAV flying saucer

A small British company based in Peterborough called GFS Projects, says it has built the world's first flying saucer. The 60-cm-diameter craft made its first flight at a technology event at Churchill College, Cambridge, on Wednesday.

The UAV is capable of vertical take off, fully controlled flight, hovering and landing on a specified point. It uses the Coanda principle - first discovered by Romanian aviation engineer Henri Coanda in 1910 - to create lift. It has very little downwash and is aerodynamically stable. All prototypes have so far been battery powered, but the design is scalable and the larger versions will have internal combustion engines.

The craft can hover and fly close to and within buildings. Having no exposed rotating parts, brushes with walls etc, do not compromise the craft's flight. The creators of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) say their technology has wide application, including military use (close quarter surveillance and intelligence gathering), mountain rescue, and even for farmers. Inventor Geoff Hatton said the team was still a few years away from a commercial product.

Flying saucers fitted with a range of sensors, including video and thermal imaging, he said, would be a very cost-effective alternative to scrambling helicopters for difficult rescue missions. Because the vehicles are unmanned, hazardous situations can be closely monitored without putting a crew at risk.

Director David Steel said that ultimately it should also be possible to design one around 10 metres in diameter; big enough to carry people. It could be used to get emergency medical teams into areas where it is impossible to land a plane or a helicopter, because of difficult terrain. The saucer can land on uneven ground or even on a slope.

The Coanda effect says air passed over a curved surface would reduce the pressure on its upper surface, causing it to rise. The challenge is to generate sufficient airflow to create lift, while keeping it stable and preventing rotation.