USAF to Launch Search for Flying Cars This Month

The Air Force will kick off its effort to encourage the development of flying cars with a virtual launch event featuring product presentations and government briefings from April 27 to May 1.

Known as “Agility Prime,” the initiative aims to support private companies that are pursuing the next great creation in air transportation. The Air Force is offering funds and testing resources to vendors with designs for “advanced air mobility vehicles” that can be used for missions from medical evacuation to installation security to disaster relief.

The service hopes to mature that market to the point that flying cars become cheap and accessible enough for the broader public, not just for military use. Its first solicitation calls for vehicles that can carry three to eight people at speeds faster than 100 mph, with a range of more than 100 miles and endurance of more than an hour. Those prototypes must make their first full-scale flight by Dec. 17 to prove they are on the path to certified airworthiness and move on in the program.

If successful, the service plans to buy a small number of usable flying cars—or “ORBs”—by 2023. ORB can stand for “organic resupply bus, for disaster relief teams, an operational readiness bus for improved aircraft availability, and an open requirements bus for a growing diversity of missions,” according to an Air Force solicitation document.

“Agility Prime also aims to bring together industry, investor, and government communities to establish safety and security standards while accelerating commercialization of this revolutionary technology,” the service said. “Over two hundred companies around the world are developing transformative vertical flight aircraft. … These aircraft may incorporate non-traditional electric or hybrid propulsion for manned or unmanned missions, with an onboard pilot, remote pilot, or autonomous control.”

Defense One previously reported the concept could eventually augment or replace the V-22 Osprey as a quiet, affordable, more flexible air vehicle that doesn’t need a runway.

To bring the idea to fruition, the Air Force Research Laboratory will work with the mobility program office and the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability group on transitioning prototype technology to a real-world program for Airmen. AFVentures, a service-run group that works with venture capitalists and small businesses, will help bridge the gap between the Defense Department, funding sources, and industry as well.

“Now is the perfect time to make ‘Jetsons’ cars real,” Air Force acquisition boss Will Roper said in an April 13 release.