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DARPA confirms VTOL X-Plane contract recipients

19th March 2014 - 14:13 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


DARPA has finalised the list of contenders for its VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) programme, with the awarding of two additional Phase 1 contracts to Boeing and Karem Aircraft. The companies will join Aurora Flight Sciences and Sikorsky in developing potential solutions for the programme.

The VTOL X-Plane programme aims to overcome challenges inherent to VTOL aircraft design; namely the inability to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA believes the solution involves innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities.

Ashish Bagai, DARPA programme manager, said: ‘We were looking for different approaches to solve this extremely challenging problem, and we got them. The proposals we’ve chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing. We’re eager to see if the performers can integrate their ideas into designs that could potentially achieve the performance goals we’ve set.’

Ultimately the programme aims to develop a technology demonstrator that is capable of achieving a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt-400 kt; raising aircraft hover efficiency from 60% to at least 75%; and presenting a more favourable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6. The demonstrator should also be able to carry a useful load of at least 40% of the vehicle’s projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000lbs.

The next major milestone for VTOL X-Plane is scheduled for late 2015, when the four contenders will be required to submit preliminary designs. At that point, DARPA plans to review the designs to decide which to build as a technology demonstrator, with the goal of performing flight tests in the 2017-18 timeframe.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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