U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences with a contract worth up to $90 million to build a prototype hybrid electric-powered aircraft. This will be carried out under the VTOL X-Plane project which is the designated Aurora Flight Sciences vertical takeoff and landing experimental plane which Aurora is planning on flight testing in 2018.
The VTOL X-Plane Project is aimed to develop and integrate the novel aircraft subsystems in hopes of improving vertical and horizontal-cruise flight. Aurora was awared the second and third phase contract by the Department of Defense on March 3rd.
There were three companies in direct contention for the contract but U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) refused to identify who the losing bidders were. Per Darpa’s specification the VTOL X-Plane is required to have a top sustained flight speed of at least 300 and up to 400 knots, improve their hover efficiency from 60% to at least 75%, improve their cruise lift-to drag ration and have the capacity to carry a load of at least 4,800lbs, which is roughly 40% of the vehicle’s projected gross weight.
The aircraft’s design will required feature parts 2 large rear wings, 2 smaller front canards, a Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine, 3 Honeywell generators, 24 ducted fans, an electric distributed propulsion (EDP), Synchronous electric drive systems which will rotate and the wings/canards to direct fan thrust where needed and . Darpa’s program manager Ashish Bagai believes that should the VTOL X-Plane project prove successful, it will a momentous and radical breakthrough in vertical and horizontal-cruise flight for the aviation and aerospace industry.