USA-based aviation R&D company Aurora Flight Sciences is to develop a blended wing body jet VTOL “X” aircraft for the first phase of a DARPA program.
The US Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Aurora has selected Aurora to design the aircraft as part of the SPeed and Runway INdependent Technologies (SPRINT) X-Plane Demonstration Project.
SPRINT aims to build and fly an X-Plane that takes off and lands vertically and does not require a runway while achieving high speed during flight.
Aurora, which has been part of Boeing since 2017 will work to reach a conceptual design review stage for SPRINT. The contract then includes an executable option to work through to the aircraft’s preliminary design review.
Design work will take place at Aurora and Boeing facilities across multiple states including Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The program is targeting first flight of the X-Plane demonstrator within 42 months.
The high lift, low drag fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator concept aircraft integrates a blended wing body platform with embedded engines and moderate sweep, with a vertical flight design comprised of embedded lift fans linked to the engines via mechanical drives.
The aircraft would combine vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability and top speeds at over 520mph (145 km/h) in one aircraft.
Aurora said that SPRINT will build on past R&D programs such as the Boeing X-48 blended wing body aircraft and the Aurora Excalibur drone that combined jet-borne vertical lift with three electric, louvered lift fans that would retract into the wing in forward flight.
“Aurora and Boeing are excited to work with DARPA to develop this revolutionary capability,” said Larry Wirsing, vice president of aircraft development programs at Aurora Flight Sciences. “This X-plane will demonstrate that a high-speed, vertical lift, blended wing body aircraft will provide superior flexibility and operational performance to the military in the future.”