The U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program chose Electra for a Strategic Funding Increase award. This award secures up to $85 million for Electra to continue developing a full-scale pre-production prototype of its electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft. (Photo: Electra)
Today, Electra announced that the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program has selected it for a Strategic Funding Increase award. This award secures up to $85 million for Electra to continue developing a full-scale pre-production prototype of its electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft. The funding will come from private investments, government contributions, and matching SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) funding.
The Air Force will be able to use the prototype for validating requirements and operational use cases. Small eSTOL aircraft that do not require a runway could be valuable for contested logistics environments where operating larger fixed-wing or rotorcraft platforms is difficult. Using Electra’s fuel-efficient design could also help the USAF to reduce its carbon emissions.
Almost exactly one year ago, Electra publicized an investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures in its Series A funding round. In February, it announced the receipt of a Phase III SBIR contract from the U.S. Air Force. This contract was awarded through the AFWERX Agility Prime program.
In March 2022, the USAF awarded Electra—in partnership with MIT—a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract. This contract was awarded to the partners for advancing the development of flight control systems for Electra’s eSTOL vehicle. Electra now has a total of six active USAF SBIR and STTR contracts and has matured several technologies for its aircraft, including precision flight controls, distributed electric propulsion, blown lift aerodynamics and acoustics, and hybrid-electric powertrains.
Electra's eSTOL model on display at NBAA (Photo: Jessica Reed)
2022 was a busy year for the eSTOL developer. Electra was selected by NASA as an Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign partner in June. That same month, the company also announced the acquisition of fellow eSTOL developer Airflow.
In October, Welojets signed a letter of intent with the company for 32 eSTOL aircraft. This put the company’s order book total over 1,000 aircraft, valued at over $3 billion. “We offer a lower cost per seat mile, we offer quieter operations than traditional aircraft in this class, and we offer the ability to take off and land from a field the size of a soccer field, or a 300-foot runway length,” Marc Ausman, Chief Product Officer at Electra, shared in an interview with Avionics.
With the Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award announced this week, Electra can continue to strengthen its partnership with the Agility Prime program. In the press release, John S. Langford, Founder and CEO of Electra, stated, “This STRATFI award reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to dual-use eSTOL technology as a solution for national security and other government missions, and validates Electra’s aircraft design and engineering work to date.”
Lieutenant Colonel John “Wasp” Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime Lead, also commented on the announcement, remarking that the technology could provide valuable logistics and mobility capabilities for the USAF. “It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the U.S.,” he said.
"[Our] eSTOL is ideally suited to serve as a small highly fuel-efficient airlifter that helps the Air Force execute its Agile Combat Employment doctrine and meet its operational energy goals to reduce aviation carbon emissions." – Ben Marchionna, Director of Technology and Business Development (Photo: Electra)