DARPA Tasks Industry to Design Speedy Hybrid Helo

Four companies will submit design proposals to build a high-speed experimental vertical takeoff and landing demonstrator for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA announced. “The proposals we’ve chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing,” said DARPA Program Manager Ashish Bagai in a March 18 release. The agency selected Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, Karem Aircraft, and Sikorsky Aircraft to develop VTOL designs capable of a top speed between 300 knots and 400 knots, without sacrificing range and payload. Craft should be capable of carrying a payload of 40 percent of their gross weight, attain a hovering efficiency of 75 percent, and double the lift-to-drag ratio of current designs, according to the release. The agency plans to select a winning design in late 2015, which would be built and test-flown in the “2017-18 timeframe,” according to DARPA. “For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency, or the ability to do useful work,” states the release. The VTOL Experimental Plane program “seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds . . .”