Electra.aero has secured a contract to develop full-scale pre-production prototype of an electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for the US Air Force (USAF).

The contract has been awarded by the USAF’s innovation arm AFWERX, providing a strategic funding increase (STRATFI) of up to $85m between private, government and matching Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fundings.

The STRATFI award will support rapid development and evaluation of a full-scale pre-production eSTOL prototype that can be used by the USAF to assess and validate operational needs and cases.

The prototype will use capabilities used in the upcoming first flight test of Electra’s two-seat piloted eSTOL technology demonstrator aircraft.

It will subsequently expedite transition phase of the company’s commercial nine-passenger eSTOL platform to serve the USAF’s missions of interest.

Electra CEO and founder John S Langford said: “This STRATFI award reinforces USAF’s commitment to dual use eSTOL as a solution for national security and other government missions and validates Electra’s aircraft design and engineering work to date.”

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The initial contract for eSTOL was signed between the USAF and Electra in 2021, however, the latest STRATFI award also builds on Electra’s other six SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer Phase II and III contracts that helped in maturing eSTOL’s different core aspects.

AFWERX Agility Prime lead lieutenant colonel John Tekell said: “It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the US.”

Electra’s eSTOL aircraft offers helicopter-like operational flexibility at a lower performance and operating costs than a fixed-wing aircraft.

It can operate in crowded urban areas and undertake cargo logistics, executive transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions and more.