The next generation of vertical flight

March 1, 2013

(Credit: DARPA)

The DARPA Tactical Technology Office is soliciting proposals on the design, development and demonstration of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft (X-Plane) with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight

Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the focus of DARPA’s new VTOL X-Plane.

The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft make them ideal for a host of military operations.

Helicopters are slower — leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.

However, “for the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager.

“To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity.”

“We have not made this easy,” he continued. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results.”

A Proposers’ Day will be held on March 14th.

The Broad Agency Announcement for the solicitation can be found here.