Every year the Royal Aeronautical Society honours individuals and groups who have made an exceptional contribution to the world of aeronautics. The winners are selected by a panel of judges who are leading national and international figures from the aerospace industry, aerospace research, academia, government or the armed forces. The first awards were made in 1908 and were Gold Medals presented to Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Cranfield Aerospace has now joined the list of winners of these prestigious awards. At the Wilbur and Orville Wright Lecture on the 11 December 2008, the Cranfield Aerospace X-48B UAS team were presented with the RAeS Team Silver Award, which was conferred for work of an exceptional nature, leading to major advances or contributions in aerospace.

The award recognises Cranfield Aerospace’s involvement in the desin and construction of Boeing Phantom Works’ subscale Blended Wing Body technology demonstration aircraft, which began its initial flight tests from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Centre at Edwards Air Force Base, California in the summer of 2007. The 8.5% dynamically scaled unmanned aircraft, designated the X-48B by the Air Force, is designed to mimic the aerodynamic and flight characteristics of a full-scale large cargo transport aircraft with the same blended wing body shape. The initial flight tests focused on evaluation of the X-48B’s low-speed flight characteristics and handling qualities. About 35 flights were originally planned to gather data in these low-speed flight regimes.