Keeping the wing and tail in fixed position while the fuselage tilts... this is what the Freewing UAV is all about.

Model 60 (prototype #2), developed from the earlier Model 50.

Nice view of Model 100 prototype landing at Mojave airport.

Status: tilt-body STOL UAV



Powerplant: 1 x 22 hp Quadra 200 engine (Model 60-25)
                    1 x 65 hp Hirth engine (Model 100-60)

Significant date: 1994

The Tilt-Body is a new kind of airplane, neither fixed wing nor rotary wing nor any combination of the two. The wing is placed on bearings so that it is completely free to rotate in pitch. (Imagine a weathervane turned horizontally.) The fuselage itself is a lifting body, so the result is a left/right wing pair conjoined by a cross spar passing through the lifting body. Both the left/right wing pair and the central lifting body are free to rotate about the spanwise shaft, free with regard to the relative wind and free with regard to each other.

Although a rotatable wing has been known at least since 1949, when George G. Spratt flew the first aircraft he called a Controlwing, what Freewing™ Aerial Robotics Corporation and its principals have done is first to create a pivoting wing capable of generating higher lift coefficients than previously possible, making the pivoting wing truly practical. These innovations are the subject of patents (pending and granted) by Freewing's founder. Herein we refer to the gestalt as the "improved pivoting wing." The cross section on the left illustrates the pivoting wing principle.

Since the center of lift is behind the rotational axis, generating lift creates a negative pitching moment. But the airfoil itself has a positive pitching moment at trim. Where those pitching moments resolve themselves to zero, that is the angle of attack the wing sets and maintains. Thus it automatically adjusts to changes in the relative wind (e.g. gusts) just as weathervanes do. This means that the pivoting wing can be essentially stall-free, since the wing maintains a constant angle of attack. It is important to note that the resulting "flying wing" has but a fraction of the pitching moment of inertia compared to an otherwise identical fixed wing vehicle. Therefore the wing responds rapidly to alleviate gust loads. Fixed wings have to drag the whole fuselage through the pitch axis to do this, but in a pivoting wing the fuselage is decoupled from the wing in pitch.

Freewing™ Aerial Robotics Corp. is introducing this novel type of air vehicle in the form of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Tilt-Body is a new invention in many ways more dramatic than the pivoting wing itself. The subject of several new patents assigned to the Company, the Tilt-Body is created by adding trim tabs to the fuselage, or center lifting body. These trim tabs are in the form of long booms, which help to increase tail volume (and therefore controllability at slow speeds). But they are functionally just trim tabs. The left and right tail booms are cross connected by a lightweight torque tube. A single jackscrew acts against a control horn on this torque tube to motor the booms (i.e. fuselage trim tabs) "up and down" during flight. In fact the booms cannot pitch up and down during flight any more than an arrow can fly sideways. Dynamic pressure on the trim tabs forces the booms to stay parallel to the direction of flight; the result is that the fuselage is forced to pitch up and down as the jackscrew moves. And since the engine and propeller are in the fuselage, the thrust line also pitches up and down. In short, one achieves simple thrust-vectoring with just a few moving parts, and the totality is autostable in the bargain.

The Scorpion is a short range UAV that applies the Freewing principle to allow the wing to remain at a constant angle of attack throughout its operating environment. The benefits of this configuration include stall resistance, improved gust response characteristics, and enhanced longitudinal stability. This configuration gives the various sensors excellent stability, particularly during low level operations in turbulent air.

The tilt-body arrangement also allows the Scorpion UAV to follow very steep launch and recovery profiles, by the tilting of the thrust vector. This will be especially helpful when trying to launch or recover the UAV from a confined area or for operation on board marine vessels in rough seas. Because of its insensitivity to turbulence and gusts the Scorpion UAV can operate in conditions that would not be considered practical with existing UAV configurations.

Scaled Composites worked directly with Freewing Aerial Robotics in the development of the tilt-body configuration (the Scorpion is also described as the Rutan-Roncz-Schmittle UAV). Included was the tail planform design, landing gear design, and the development of new airfoil sections optimized to provide maximum lift with minimum drag. Outboard mounted elevons are used for pitch and roll control. Scaled fabricated the all-composite airframe, installed the Rotax propulsion system and integrated the flight control systems. Dan Kreigh was the program manager and sole UAV pilot for this program.

Launch: Inherent ESTOL; no launcher required
Recovery: Thrust-vectored ESTOL; no nets or other external devices required

Sensor(s): EO/IR, laser target designator, EW or other
Data Link Band and Range: 75km range S Band video and TM downlink, separate C Band command uplink, UHF command backup

Ground Control Station: The Scorpion Ground Control Station (GCS) provides command and control of air vehicles and payloads, display and recording of payload video and air vehicle telemetry and complete mission planning functions. The system is waypoint programmable, allowing hundreds of waypoints, and allows in-flight changes to waypoints and mission plans. The system is built around a PC architecture, using ruggedized COTS equipment, and includes displays and control panels for the air vehicle and payload operator, as well as a control box for an external pilot for launch and recovery.

Population: unknown

Specs (Model 60-25):
Span: 12.2 ft (3.7 m)
Length: 6.8 ft (2.0 m)
Empty weight: 75 lb (34 kg)
Payload: 25 lb (11 kg)
Max speed: 100 kts
Ceiling: 5,000 ft
Landing speed: 20 kts
Endurance: 4.3 hours
Takeoff speed: 18 kts
Fuel: gasoline
Fuel capacity: 6.0 US gal

Specs (Model 100-60):
Span 16.1 ft (4.9 m), length 11.8 ft (3.6 m)
Empty weight: 319 lb (145 kg)
Payload: 60 lb (27 kg)
Gross weight: 475 lb (215 kg)
Max speed: 120 kt (138 mph)
Landing speed: 29 kt (33 mph)
Loiter speed: 60-75 kt (69-86 mph)
Ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,572 m)
Sub-loiter: 29 kt (33 mph)
Rate of climb: 2,400 ft/min (12.2 m/sec)
Best range: 65 kt (75 mph)
Endurance @ range: 6.5 hours @ 50 km
Takeoff speed: 45 kt @ 385 lbs
Fuel: gasoline (growth planned to heavy fuel)
Fuel capacity: 16.5 US gal
Takeoff roll: < 100 ft

Crew/passengers: unmanned


Main sources:
- Freewing Aerial Robotics official site
- Air & Space Magazine Dec. 94-Jan. 95
- Freewing Scorpion page at
- Freewing page at Edwards Air Force Base website

This unpainted Freewing Model 100 is probably the prototype.

Pre-production Scorpion #3 on lease to NASA in 1998.

Pre-production Scorpion 100 #4 was also leased to NASA
in 1998; it was later sold to Matra/BAe that same year.