Science Daily reports a patent on a magnetohydrodynamic drive to be used by flying saucers. Of course a patent means nothing in itself, but it’s still a cool concept if it actually works. The problem, naturally, is to provide enough lightweight electrical power to make the plasma, which sounds offhand to be impossible; but I speculate perhaps it could be kickstarted by using an external power source or remote laser ignition.
An obvious thought: Flying saucers are just the future, full-size, working versions of this, visiting us from the future!
They always crash before they have time to warn us about building flying saucers, though.
Or they just call us kneebiters and fly off again.
Plasma propulsion has been around since the 60s, actually - those durned Reds were experimenting with it for (I think) a possible Mars mission. The most promising project and design I’ve heard of is VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) which has been in development since the early 80s. It basically heats the plasma using radio waves and contains it with a magnetic field before letting it shoot out rocket-style. It’s a lot more flexible than all of the other designs I’ve read about.
Plasma drives in general are actually less powerful than rockets. They’re more efficient, though, so most of the research done on them involves propulsion once actually in space, for long distance trips and such. Still, the tech isn’t all that new.
According to this article, a mere order of magnitude is required for the drive to work in the atmosphere, which I think would give it a much more powerful thrust than previous plasma drives.