The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Thursday that the Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences was awarded a contract worth $89 million for Phases II development of vertical take-off and landing X-plane research project.
The VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program aims top aircraft speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability. The program has the goal of performing flight tests in the 2018 timeframe.
“Just when we thought it had all been done before, the Aurora team found room for invention—truly new elements of engineering and technology that show enormous promise for demonstration on actual flight vehicles,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. “This is an extremely novel approach,” Bagai said of the selected design. “It will be very challenging to demonstrate, but it has the potential to move the technology needle the farthest and provide some of the greatest spinoff opportunities for other vertical flight and aviation products.”
VTOL X-Plane seeks to develop a technology demonstrator that could achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt to 400 kt, raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60 percent to at least 75 percent, present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6 and carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the vehicle’s projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 pounds.
Aurora’s Phase 2 design for VTOL X-Plane envisions an unmanned aircraft with two large rear wings and two smaller front canards—short winglets mounted near the nose of the aircraft.
A turboshaft engine—one used in V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft—mounted in the fuselage would provide 3 megawatts (4,000 horsepower) of electrical power, the equivalent of an average commercial wind turbine. The engine would drive 24 ducted fans, nine integrated into each wing and three inside each canard. Both the wings and the canards would rotate to direct fan thrust as needed: rearward for forward flight, downward for hovering and at angles during transition between the two.
The design envisions an aircraft that could fly fast and far, hover when needed and accomplish diverse missions without the need for prepared landing areas. While the technology demonstrator would be unmanned, the technologies that VTOL X-Plane intends to develop could apply equally well to manned aircraft.
Aurora’s unique design is only possible through advances in technology over the past 60 years, in fields such as air vehicle and aeromechanics design and testing, adaptive and reconfigurable control systems, and highly integrated designs. It would also be impossible with the classical mechanical drive systems used in today’s vertical lift aircraft, Bagai said.
The Phase 2 design addresses in innovative ways many longstanding technical obstacles, the biggest of which is that the design characteristics that enable good hovering capabilities are completely different from those that enable fast forward flight.
Among the revolutionary design advances to be incorporated in the technology demonstrator includes electric power generation and distribution systems to enable multiple fans and transmission-agnostic air vehicle designs, modularized, cellular aerodynamic wing design with integrated propulsion to enable the wings to perform efficiently in forward flight, hover and when transitioning between them and overactuated flight control systems that could change the thrust of each fan to increase maneuverability and efficiency.
“This VTOL X-plane won’t be in volume production in the next few years but is important for the future capabilities it could enable,” Bagai said. “Imagine electric aircraft that are more quiet, fuel-efficient and adaptable and are capable of runway-independent operations. We want to open up whole new design and mission spaces freed from prior constraints, and enable new VTOL aircraft systems and subsystems”.
EmbraerX, an Embraer organization, unveiled Tuesday its first electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft concept during Uber Elevate 2018, in Los Angeles, California. EmbraerX is engaged in several projects, including the development of eVTOL concepts through a cooperation with Uber and other companies to explore business opportunities within the Uber Elevate ecosystem
Airbus Helicopters recently tested the propulsion system of the CityAirbus demonstrator – a multi-passenger, self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle designed for urban air mobility. The first flight is scheduled for the end of 2018
Aurora Flight Sciences has successfully demonstrated its LightningStrike, Vertical Take-off and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL x-plane) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at a US military facility. The flight of the subscale aircraft met an important DARPA risk reduction requirement, focusing on validation of the aerodynamic design and flight control system
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Phase 1 contracts for its Gremlins program, which seeks to develop technologies and systems enabling aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. Such systems, or “gremlins,” would be deployed with a mixture of mission payloads capable of generating a variety of effects in a distributed and coordinated manner, providing US forces with improved operational flexibility at a lower cost than is possible with conventional, monolithic platforms
DARPA is working on a developmental time machine using the peripheral nerve stimulation to enhance learning processes as a substitute for drugs to treat diseases and accelerate healing and also to control advanced prosthetic limbs and restore tactile sensation to their users. The new program Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), seeks to advance the pace and effectiveness of a specific kind of learning—cognitive skills training—through the precise activation of peripheral nerves that can in turn promote and strengthen neuronal connections in the brain, DARPA said in a statement Wednesday
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