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NASA researchers are using the Air Force Research Lab's X-56A remotely piloted aircraft to explore the behavior of lightweight, flexible aircraft structures. NASA photo by Ken Ulbrich​​

The Air Force Research Lab's second Lockheed Martin-built X-56A Multi-Utility Technology Testbed lifted off earlier this month on its maiden flight from Edwards AFB, Calif. The remotely piloted aircraft, named Buckeye, will support NASA's Performance Adaptive Aeroelastic Wing project, which is exploring flexible-wing control surfaces and attempting to model and combat destructive aerodynamic forces, according to an April 14 release from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. An X-56 dubbed Fido previously explored means of counteracting aerodynamic flutter and gust loading. NASA will use the second airframe to expand the X-56's flight envelope and improve performance prediction models, states the release. Buckeye on April 9 conducted its inaugural flight, the first of eight planned "stiff-wing" flights to evaluate its performance. It reached 4,000 feet in altitude and 70 knots airspeed, states the release. The RPA is designed with interchangeable wings; later flights will test flexible designs. AFRL is teamed with NASA Armstrong for flight testing, and NASA centers in Ohio and Virginia for modeling and analysis.