Super-maneuverable drone airplanes are coming

Drone aircraft are getting vectored thrust propellers that help them turn on a dime.

Helicopter-like drones are extremely nimble, but their fixed-wing counterparts aren't so lucky. Chinese researchers have a way to bring some of that agility to conventional airplane designs, though. They've developed a vectored thrust propeller system that lets the drone make tighter turns, take off quickly and otherwise fly in areas where it would normally be too dangerous. And unlike jet-based vectored thrust (such as on the F-22), this system is light and small enough to fit into a relatively compact UAV.

It's not certain when you'll see more maneuverable robotic aircraft in the skies, although the scientists have already tested their prototype in a tricky plateau region. Either way, this could be a tremendous help for drones that need both range and maneuverability, such as low-altitude recon or search-and-rescue models that may have to map narrow valleys and streets.