The Latest | Southern California breaking news and trends
Environment & Science

This hybrid plane might be the secret to cleaner, quieter flying — Yes, it looks like a manta ray on purpose



The manta ray-like shape of the X-48C Hybrid Wing Body aircraft is obvious in this underside view as it flies over Edwards Air Force Base on a test flight on Feb. 28, 2013.
The manta ray-like shape of the X-48C Hybrid Wing Body aircraft is obvious in this underside view as it flies over Edwards Air Force Base on a test flight on Feb. 28, 2013.
Image Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas
The manta ray-like shape of the X-48C Hybrid Wing Body aircraft is obvious in this underside view as it flies over Edwards Air Force Base on a test flight on Feb. 28, 2013.
The NASA-Boeing X-48C Hybrid/Blended Wing Body research aircraft banks left during one of its final test flights over Edwards Air Force Base from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Feb. 28, 2013.
Image Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas
The manta ray-like shape of the X-48C Hybrid Wing Body aircraft is obvious in this underside view as it flies over Edwards Air Force Base on a test flight on Feb. 28, 2013.
X-48 Project completes flight research: In this image, the aircraft flies over the intersection of several runways adjacent to the compass rose on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base during one of the sub-scale aircraft's final test flights on Feb. 28, 2013.
Image Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas


An airplane shaped like a manta ray has been tested in California as a concept craft for "cleaner and quieter commercial air travel," according to NASA.

Eight months of flight research on the "X-48 Project" was completed on April 9 as part of NASA's "Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project." The space agency has been demonstrating its hybrid, blended wing-body technology with the remotely piloted "X-48C."

The scale-model aircraft, shaped like a manta ray, was designed by The Boeing Co., built by Cranfield Aerospace Limited of the United Kingdom, and flown in partnership with NASA.

The X-48 is designed with no tail, a flattened fuselage and engines mounted on the top. The concept stems from studies for commercial planes that could be flying sky high in the next 20 years. A number of modifications took place between the B and C versions of the aircraft. 

Says NASA: