DARPA Wants to Invigorate VTOL Aircraft Design

DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to encourage “the elegant confluence” of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft designs in order to overcome the performance limitations of current vertical takeoff and landing platforms, announced the agency. “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, in the agency’s Feb. 25 release. Bagai said DARPA wants “to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency, and useful load capacity.” DARPA plans to host a proposers’ day on March 14 in Arlington, Va., according to an agency notice. Over the course of a 52-month, three-phase effort, the agency intends to sponsor the design, development, and the flight demonstration of an experimental aircraft “with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight,” states the agency’s broad agency announcement. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for,” said Bagai.