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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DARPA's X-Plane Competition Heating Up

[Aviation Today March 19, 2014] The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected four new companies to compete to build a high-speed, vertical takeoff and landing X-Plane. 
Boeing, Aurora Flight Sciences, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky have been awarded prime contracts to submit a design for Phase 1 of the X-plane program. DARPA calls the X-plane a "cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities."
The agency plans on selecting one of the four designs to build a technology demonstrator aircraft and start performing flight tests by 2017. All of the competitors must design an aircraft that can achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300-400 kt, carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the X-plane's projected gross weight of 10-12,000 pounds. DARPA also wants the design to produce a hover efficiency from 60 percent to at least 75 percent. 
“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 Ashish Bagai, program manager for DARPA.  

All four competitors are required to submit preliminary designs by late 2015.  

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