In August 2019 sensational footage of an actual flying saucer was uploaded to YouTube – and understandably went viral. This real-life UFO looks every bit the sci-fi staple, after all, and is supposedly capable of flying in all directions while pulling off incredible speeds and expert maneuvers. But even though this man-made craft might look ready to explore the universe, that’s not exactly what its creators have in mind.
The disk – officially known as an All Directions Flying Object (ADIFO) – is the invention of engineer Razvan Sabie and aerodynamicist Iosif Taposu, who are both from Romania. The latter definitely has the chops for this sort of project, too – if his résumé is anything to go by. Once a senior scientist at Romania’s National Institute for Aerospatiale Research, Taposu is now in fact head of Theoretical Aerodynamics at the National Aviation Institute.
Yet it was Sabie who, in August 2019, explained the work that went into the ADIFO in an interview with Vice. The engineer said, “The aerodynamics behind this aircraft is the result of more than two decades of work and is very well reasoned in hundreds of pages and confirmed by computer simulations and wind tunnel tests.” And, as we mentioned earlier, there’s now even footage to prove it.
The YouTube clip, uploaded by the account Tech World, actually shows the flying saucer hovering and performing vertical take-offs. And according to the ADIFO’s inventors, the inspiration behind the recognizable design wasn’t done to mimic UFOs – rather, it has more organic origins. Yet it’s hard to ignore the fact that the disk will now join the eye-opening history of alien-like crafts on planet Earth.
Amazingly, you see, UFO sightings have been recorded since the time of ancient Egypt. Yes, there’s actually a Tulli Papyrus transcription that claims a pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty called Thutmose III had seen “fiery disks” hovering in the skies. And what’s more, at least five official sightings were also recorded during the Roman era.
The alleged UFO sightings during Roman times included airborne craft spotted in the skies above Rome in 218 B.C. and a silvery object, shaped like a storage jar, hovering above what is now Turkey. Then, between the 16th and 19th centuries, several instances of aerial phenomenon were recorded – in sites located everywhere from the United States to Japan. And in the following century, the claims began to stack up.
In fact, UFO sightings really started to pick up in the 1940s, during World War II. Some Allied pilots even described seeing circular, glowing objects in their vicinities during the conflict’s aerial battles. A number of them apparently observed fiery globes, while others claimed that they came across orange, white or red orbs. But, according to the eyewitnesses, these things weren’t just floating there.
You see, the airmen claimed that these “foo fighters” – as the unidentified objects were called – seemed to be playing with the Allied pilots. The UFOs reportedly even dashed around completing wild maneuvers and then simply disappeared. Witnesses further said that the supposed UFOs appeared to be intelligently controlled – but never hostile. And these events paved the way for a decades-long run of sightings.
In 1947, for instance, the term “flying saucer” accidentally came into being after a reported UFO sighting in the skies above Washington. Kenneth Arnold, who was out piloting his private plane at the time, said that he had seen a group of around nine crescent-shaped craft flying at the speed of several thousand miles an hour “like saucers skipping on water.” Then, in a subsequent newspaper article, the UFOs were erroneously described as saucer-shaped – and the name was born.
Yet soon after the Washington incident came possibly the most famous of all UFO sightings. This time, though, the alleged alien aircraft was discovered after having supposedly crashed. Found by W. W. “Mac” Brazel, a local rancher, the wreckage lay close to a military base in the New Mexico town of Roswell. What was left of the “craft” was reportedly 600 feet long – but could it have been a real UFO?
Well, the local newspapers subsequently reported the wreckage near the Roswell airfield as an alien aircraft – though the U.S. military disagreed. According to an official statement, in fact, the craft was nothing more than a downed weather balloon. Photographs of the wreckage printed in the papers seemed to contradict that stance, however, and it would be decades before the truth finally came to light.
Fifty years after the discovery of the wreckage in Roswell, you see, the U.S. military finally came clean about its purpose. It turned out that the craft had been built for Project Mogul – a classified operation aiming to collect information about Soviet nuclear testing. This had been done by attaching microphones capable of detecting sound waves from atomic explosions to high-altitude balloons.
And while Project Mogul had had some success, the cost – along with the introduction of air sampling methods and seismic detectors – had led to it being shut down. But this explanation obviously came too late to stop the flow of conspiracy theories that surrounded the Roswell incident. Only a few years later, for instance, another event pushed the UFO debate to the fore once again.
Yes, alien conspiracies increased following another alleged sighting in Roswell in the 1950s. This time, though, witnesses claimed to have seen bodies with aluminum bones and latex skin falling from the sky. So, had extra-terrestrials actually landed in New Mexico?
Well, probably not. But for some, those supposed alien bodies in the desert in New Mexico were indeed proof of extra-terrestrial existence. And the military’s hasty retrieval of them only fed rumors of a government cover-up. So, for those who didn’t believe the explanation for the 1947 Roswell wreckage, this latest incident only further convinced them of an other-worldly presence on the planet. But the military had a very different explanation for the strange occurrence.
The official response was that the bodies were not alien corpses but were, in fact, dummies. It was also claimed that these mannequins were used to discover whether pilots could survive falling from planes. But this explanation did little to quell enthusiasm for all things extra-terrestrial – and sightings continued to increase.
And it seems that even the U.S. military itself wasn’t immune to the UFO mania. In 1948, after all, the U.S. Air Force decided to investigate the phenomena of unidentified flying objects. But with the Cold War now in full swing, the government had very different theories for what the crafts were.
Inevitably, then, the U.S. military had only one likely explanation as far as UFOs were concerned – and it wasn’t aliens. For them, the source of the flying saucers was clear: it was the Soviet Union. This Cold War foe was, the government believed, sending sophisticated aircraft to gather data on America.
Yet clearly, any unidentified aircraft flying in the U.S. is a worry. So in 1948 Project Sign came in to being. Its aim was to test the belief that the UFOs were indeed Soviet spy planes. There were, however, some researchers who reportedly thought it was entirely possible that aliens were behind the flying saucers. And that’s why the so-called Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis was also put to the test.
Project Sign then became Project Grudge, and in 1952 the investigation was replaced by Project Blue Book. Under this new moniker, in fact, the study would go on to become the longest-running official inquiry into UFOs. Lasting nearly two decades, the probe showed just how seriously the issue was taken at the time.
Between 1952 and 1969, for instance, Project Blue Book assembled over 12,000 reported UFO sightings. And after investigations, those claims were then placed into one of two categories: “identified” or “unidentified.” The former category included reports that could be explained by man-made, atmospheric or astronomical events. That latter classification, though, was for the six percent of sightings for which there was no apparent explanation.
Around the time that Project Blue Book got off the ground, though, the U.S. government decided to launch its own UFO probe. In 1953, you see, a panel consisting of an astronomer, multiple physicists and a rocket scientist convened to investigate the extra-terrestrial phenomena. The group then spent three days looking at Project Blue Book’s results, interviewing military personnel and reviewing photographs and films supposedly showing UFOs.
The panel concluded that most of the reported sightings, around 90 percent in fact, were easily explainable. These reports were attributed to, among other things, ion clouds, bright planets, meteors, planes, balloons and lights. The panel also reasoned that the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis therefore had no support in evidence.
These conclusions, however, did little to dampen UFO fever, and in 1966 the U.S. military requested another government review, in order to further analyze Project Blue Book’s findings. This time, though, a committee spent two years looking at its conclusions, fielding 37 researchers to intensely study 59 specific sightings.
Despite the interest in these cases, though, the committee found again that the UFO sightings were the result of everyday phenomena. They also recommended no further investigation into the reports. And these findings, coupled with a reduction in alleged sightings, led to Project Blue Book’s closure in 1969.
The official closure of Project Blue Book didn’t see the end of UFO investigations, though. That’s because private citizens took up the cause instead. And one of them, J. Allen Hynek – once a scientist on the government committee – set up the Center for UFO Studies in 1973. Yet while that Chicago-based organization continues its probes, two European scientists have been building their own flying saucer.
So, as we’ve touched upon, the ADIFO craft might look a UFO, but its design actually has a far more organic origin. The circular shape is, in fact, based on an airfoil – a fin located on a dolphin’s back that helps the mammal glide through water. This design therefore gives the saucer the ability to safely move between supersonic speeds, the engineers claim, and lowers the chance of shockwaves on the surface of the disk. But the advantages reportedly don’t stop there.
The ADIFO is also incredibly agile, boasts a pair of jet engines and operates like a quad copter, thanks to the four ducted fans on the bottom that launch the craft into the air. And, according to its inventors, the ADIFO’s unique shape means it is well-placed to achieve supersonic speeds without the usual sonic boom that accompanies moving faster than the speed of light.
According to the video uploaded to YouTube, the ADIFO could also be used for military purposes. In the clip, you see, the narrator explains, “[It] can be used as an unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned combat aerial vehicle or even a fighter aircraft, due to its… hypermaneuverability… and very low rate of signature.” And if the ADIFO really can quietly transition to supersonic speeds, it could become the ideal craft for espionage too.
The ADIFO team have also argued that it could become a manned craft – if future manufacturers were to install a jet and an electric hybrid propulsion system into it. But it isn’t just these Romanian scientists who are looking into the military applications for such a plane.
In 2017, in fact, the United States Navy was granted a patent for a new aircraft that can supposedly perform many actions that ADIFO’s plane claims to do. Plus, the navy’s craft can also supposedly fly underwater and in space. The craft will also have “enhanced stealth capabilities,” according to the patent application.
The patent filing further stated that the plane will be “enclosed in a vacuum plasma bubble/sheath.” The U.K. newspaper Metro added that the craft “features a cavity wall filled with gas, which is then made to vibrate using powerful electromagnetic waves. This then creates a vacuum around the craft, allowing it to propel itself at high speeds.” But how any of this works in reality remains to be seen; just because a design has been granted a patent doesn’t mean it has been built and tested yet.
And if you think all of this sounds bizarre, you’re not alone. As Nick Pope, ex-UFO investigator for the British government, told Metro in April 2019, “It’s sometimes hard to tell where the boundary lies between fringe science and science fiction.” Given that there is other research into cloaking, warp drives and anti-gravity measures, it’s hard to disagree.
Pope continued, “Even if the theoretical physics turns out to be sound, aeronautical engineers will still have to build something if this [patent] is to have any tangible effect. If they have built the technology described in the patents, I’m sure the program is highly classified. The bottom line is that if any of this works, we’re in game-changing territory.”
This isn’t the first time that the U.S. government has tried to build its own UFO-style aircraft, however. Believe it or not, during the 1950s the U.S. military actually commissioned a flying saucer-inspired ship that was hoped to become as ubiquitous as the jeep.
And U.S. policymakers held the project, which hoped to be utilized to transport troops, in high regard at the time. The website Messy Nessy Chic even claimed that when Air Force Dynamics Lab engineer Bernard Lindenbaum approached Washington to request funding for improvements to helicopters, he was told that research into those craft would soon cease. In the future, Lindenbaum was apparently informed, the military would run on this new form of transport, known as the Avrocar.
The Avrocar was the brainchild of British engineer Jack Frost and began life in the early 1950s. Working for the Special Projects department of aircraft manufacturer Avro Canada, Frost actually managed to convince the U.S. military that not only was travel by flying saucer theoretically possible – but that he could also make it a reality. However, the two craft that he subsequently built didn’t quite work the way that they should have done.
Despite the teething issues, though, the Avrocar was ready for testing in 1959. And while the craft did indeed leave the ground, it couldn’t get any higher than about three feet – not an ideal altitude for any flying vehicle. According to those piloting the Avrocar, the heat in the cockpit was also unbearable, and its top speed was just 35 miles per hour.
But the problems didn’t end there, because the Avrocar also emitted a horrific screeching sound while in operation. Unsurprisingly, then, in 1961 funding for the project stopped. One of the planes later ended up at the Cold War Gallery in the National Museum of the United States Air Force, while the other was apparently put in storage by the military in 2002.
So, as we have seen, flying saucer-style aviation is still a work in progress. But the engineers behind the ADIFO project in Romania are bullish about their prototype, with Sabie telling Wired magazine that it’s “the peak of the iceberg.” He added that two government entities, venture funds, one large aircraft manufacturer and at least ten possible partners have expressed interest in the technology. But with the U.S. military hot on their heels with similar aircraft of its own, time will tell who will present the first fully functioning UFO-style planes to the world.