Sikorsky Innovations has secured a contract to work on Phase 1 of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) vertical take-off and landing experimental aircraft (VTOL X-Plane) programme. Under the $15m contract, the company will develop the initial design for the VTOL X-Plane, which is a high-speed VTOL aircraft having the hover capability of a helicopter. The company has partnered with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works to conduct trade studies and subsequently develop the preliminary VTOL X-Plane design, based on its Unmanned Rotor Blown Wing concept, over the next 22 months. Representing a unique integration of fixed wing aerodynamics and advanced rotor control, the Rotor Blown Wing aims to offer a low complexity configuration that will be capable of addressing the challenging programme’s goals. Sikorsky Innovations vice-president Chris VanBuiten said, ”This program explores a generation of innovation that has yet to be introduced, and we have the opportunity to develop our novel design of the X-Plane concept with our partner at Skunk Works.” Sikorsky Research & Engineering vice president Mark Miller said the contract is a significant win for the company as only four Phase 1 awards are expected to be released by DARPA. ”We have a non-traditional technical solution, and this is an opportunity for Sikorsky Innovations to excel, to expand our relationship with DARPA, and to embark on a great partnering opportunity with another company known for its innovative solutions – Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works,” Miller said. Valued at $130m, the VTOL X-Plane programme is a 52-month effort aimed at developing and flying an experimental aircraft capable of exceeding 300kt, with a hover efficiency of 75%, useful load capacity, as well as a cruise lift-to-drag ratio of ten or more. The first flight of the demonstrator aircraft is anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Image: Hypothetical concepts of DARPA’s vertical take-off and landing experimental aircraft (VTOL X-Plane). Photo: courtesy of DARPA .