Geoff Hatton, a British engineer that previously worked on hovercraft designs, has designed an unmanned aerial vehicle that has attracted the interest of the US military and its very healthy budget allocation. The design is based around the melding of a hovercraft with a helicopter, and manages to take some of the best characteristics of each. For one thing, the saucer shaped UAV can fly high in the air (unlike a hovercraft) but also doesn't have a large rotor blade (unlike a helicopter.) The concept takes advantage of the "coanda effect" -- which says that a fluid will tend to stay attached to a convex surface -- with control surfaces at the base of the UFO-like vehicle used to alter the course of the UAV. One of the main reasons that the military is interested is that the design means there's much less of a problem with collisions because the rotor isn't as big or as exposed on other reconnaissance vehicles, although Geoff points out that there are "a lot of prospects besides the military": because civilians can be klutzes when it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles too.
[Via The Raw Feed]