Published: June 1, 2012 By

go jett concept

CU-Boulder’s first-of-its-kind supersonic unmanned aircraft is expected to fly faster and farther, using less fuel, than anything remotely similar to date. Rendering created by master’s degree student Greg Rancourt.

Sound travels at approximately 760 miles per hour. What can travel faster than that?

A supersonic unmanned aircraft designed by about 50 CU-Boulder students under the wings of CU-Boulder assistant professor and aerospace engineer Ryan Starkey. The aircraft is poised to break the world record for speed in its weight class since it will be capable of traveling at a speed of Mach 1.4. The speed of sound is Mach 1.

“The group of students working on this is very excited because we’re not just creeping into something with incremental change,” Starkey says. “We’re creeping in with monumental change and trying to shake up the ground.”

After three years of hard work, the actual building of the prototype and the application process for FAA approval to test the aircraft began this year. Falling under Starkey’s new business, Starkey Aerospace Corp., the aircraft will cost between $50,000 and $100,000. So far, it has captured the attention of the Army, Navy, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA.

Other CU-Boulder space projects include:

The inclusion of CU-designed instruments, a photopolarimeter and a radio astronomy instrument aboard Voyagers 1 and 2 in the solar system.

A team of 20 CU students and 16 professionals from CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics will control NASA’s Kepler mission to hunt down Earth-like rocky planets in other solar systems for another four years after receiving NASA approval.

Four facts about the unmanned aircraft

  1. Will travel faster than the speed of sound
  2. Measures 5 feet wide and 6 feet long
  3. Could penetrate and analyze storms
  4. Could be used for military reconnaissance missions