Flying Saucer designs made on Earth
Flying saucers are generally associated with UFOs, with that "U" in there standing for "unidentified." But the saucer shape isn't just limited to aliens from outer space: there are a fair number of entirely identified terrestrial aircraft that utilize a more or less circular and saucer design.
We've got a list of ten flying saucers for you, each of which made it far enough out of someones imagination that at the very least a proof of concept was constructed. No blurry pictures that may or may-not-be-streetlights here: these are all real designs that actually existed."
Lenticular Reentry Vehicle.
U.S. government documents declassified in 2000 reveal that back in the '60s, the U.S. military was working on a way to deliver nuclear missiles from orbit with a manned flying saucer called the lenticular reentry vehicle, or LRV. Launched on top of a conventional rocket, the LRV could spend six weeks in orbit while supporting a crew of four, relying on its saucer shape to dissipate heat when returning to Earth and acting as a wing to glide to a landing.
According to the "information" on the EKIP website, this flying saucer is poised to be the greatest thing since triple-distilled vodka. Internal jet engines have their thrust partially directed downward, creating an air “cushion” that both adds to lift and acts as landing gear. A 300 ton version carrying 100 tons of cargo or passengers will be able to take off in about 1,500 feet on either grass or water, and it’s supposed to be twice as efficient as a conventional aircraft. Scale models have been flown successfully and there’s a fully-scale prototype in a hangar somewhere just waiting for more funding.
Locomo Sky Thermoplan
A thermoplan is a saucer-shaped blimp of sorts, with one key difference: instead of being filled entirely with helium, a thermoplan also contains air that can be heated or cooled by its engines to provide dynamic lift, like a hot air balloon. The saucer profile allows it to stay stable even in high winds, and the design is scalable to carry up to 600 tons of cargo or 11,000 (!) passengers. A Russian company has had at least one prototype thermoplan in the air since 2009, and they’re reportedly building a fleet of them for heavy cargo lifting.
Couzinet RC360 Aerodyne Frenchman
René Couzinet designed this flying saucer with two counter-rotating discs that spun around the perimeter of the craft. Each disc had 50 airfoil vanes to provide lift and control. The pilot sat under the glass bubble in the middle, and six turbojet engines embedded in the body provided the lifting power while another engine underneath was for forward thrust.
Moller M200 Volantor
The Moller M200 tried really hard to be that flying car you’ve always wanted, but couldn’t quite come through. Eight ducted fans could put the vehicle into a hover out of ground effect, but questions about safety, efficiency, and control-ability along with a continually slipping certification and delivery schedule have kept the M200 in the prototype phase indefinitely. It’s now looking like the M200 will be turned into the Nuera, a hovering all-terrain vehicle with a maximum altitude of ten feet.
A laser lightcraft is a flying saucer that doesn’t use any on-board propulsion, instead relying on a ground-based laser to provide thrust. Energy from the laser gets reflected around the edge of the saucer, which concentrates it to heat the air to temperatures five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The air then explodes, pushing the lightcraft up and forward. Hypothetically, this system works well enough to get a passenger or cargo lightcraft anywhere in the world in under an hour, or up to orbit. Small scale prototype designs have been flying for years, and we’re really just waiting on a big enough laser to make something that you can ride in a little more practical.
Coandă Effect Aircraft
The Coandă Effect is what smart people call it when moving air sticks to a curved surface. These same smart people have been able to use the Coandă Effect to design flying saucers that use air flowing over curved surfaces to generate lift. The nutty-looking thing in the picture (a 1963 prototype from Astro Kinetics) has an engine underneath the saucer that forces air down over the saucer and causes the craft to lift off. More recently, updated Coandă saucer designs have been used for UAVs, since while they can hover like helicopters, they don’t have any exposed rotor blades, making them more resilient to running into stuff.
Avro Project Y Canada, as it turns out, is somewhat of an expert on building flying saucers. Or at least, they’ve had more realistic experience with them than anyone else (that we know about!). Avro Canada’s Project Y was an attempt at a VTOL fighter jet, which used jet engines to spin a giant turbine inside the body of the craft. Channels inside the airframe directed airflow from this turbine backwards to provide thrust.
The version in the above picture was codenamed “Spade,” but a subsequent version (codenamed “Omega”) had the rear wing cut away to make more of a saucer shape. It could sort of take off vertically by standing upright, and was supposed to have a top speed of 1,500 mph, but funding for the project was cut in 1953 before a prototype got off the ground.
Avro Project Silverbug
The U.S. military was pretty optimistic about the UFO shape, and in 1954 they funded a derivative of the Project Y aircraft called Project Silverbug. Silverbug was designed to fly in excess of Mach 3.5 at up to 100,000 feet using six jet engines to drive the main impeller. A test rig of the engine (named “Viper”) was set up in a bunker protected by quarter-inch steel and bulletproof glass, but it proved to be so dangerous that nobody wanted to go anywhere near the thing. A “nearly lethal” and totally disastrous engine test in 1956 finally convinced everybody that Project Silverbug wasn’t going anywhere.
Avro was by no means done with the flying saucer. By 1959, they’d come up with a prototype for a smaller hovering vehicle called the Avrocar, which relied on three jet engines to power a gigantic turbine that forced air outwards and downwards around the rim of the saucer. Despite the fact that the Avrocar tended to melt itself with its own exhaust, the U.S. military continued to hope that it would replace the Jeep with something a little more flying sacuery up until 1961, when the program was cancelled after the prototype failed to get more than three feet off the ground.
From Fox: "A 1945 report on airplanes designed by Germany's Horten brothers included this photograph of an unusually shaped parabolic aircraft. This was ostensibly used by Stalin on Area 51 to panic Americans in the late 1940's.