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—Photo illustration by Sean Parsons; Drone courtesy of Ryan P. Starkey

The World’s Fastest Drone Takes Flight In Colorado

A University of Colorado professor will test his supersonic UAV this spring.

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Apparently Maverick and Goose aren’t the only ones with a need for speed. This spring, a group from the University of Colorado Boulder led by assistant professor of aerospace engineering sciences Ryan P. Starkey will, for the first time, test-fly a supersonic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or, more commonly, drone) at New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center. The drones you hear about on the news every day—the ones used by the military as well as those creeping into commercial airspace—are actually “pretty slow,” Starkey says, and typically max out between 225 and 300 miles per hour. That’s snail speed compared to Starkey’s stealthy prototype, which is designed to cruise at Mach 1.4, or roughly 1,000 mph, making it the fastest UAV in the world. If the prototype pans out, this type of vehicle could be used for intelligence-gathering, military missions, and even climate research (tailless versions could fly into hurricanes to gather data). Further down the road, its engine, which has been dubbed “GoJett,” could be a model for supersonic passenger planes. First, Starkey and Co. must make sure their six-foot-long carbon-fiber drone actually works. “Our goal is to fly and learn, fly and learn,” Starkey says. “If you know what’s going to happen, that’s a ‘demonstration,’ not a ‘test.’?” And, for the record, this test does not include buzzing the tower.

This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of .

Geoff Van Dyke, Editorial Director

Geoff Van Dyke oversees editorial for 5280 Magazine and 5280.com and is the editorial director of 5280 Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffVanDyke

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