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Boeing X-48C's first flight showcases fuel-efficient aircraft design

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An experimental craft from Boeing and NASA took its very first flight, showing what airplanes could look like 20 years from now.

Boeing X-48C
Boeing X-48C

The Boeing X-48C took its very first flight on Tuesday morning as part of a NASA project exploring what aircrafts could look like two decades from now. The unmanned craft — which was designed by Boeing and built by Cranfield Aerospace — took off from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, reaching an altitude of 5,500 feet during its nine minutes in the air. According to NASA and Boeing, the triangular shape and "blended wing body" of the X-48C have the potential to offer both much greater fuel efficiency and a lot less noise compared to current planes.

However, the 500-pound craft that took flight is a much smaller version of what they're ultimately attempting to build — the goal is a craft with a 240-foot wingspan, compared to the X-48C's 21 feet. A full-size version could be as little as 15 years away, though, and Boeing believes it would be a great fit for the military, where it could be used as a cargo ship and for aerial refuelling.