Experimental aircraft program to develop the next generation of vertical flight

Feb 26, 2013

One of the greatest challenges of the past half century for aerodynamics engineers has been how to increase the top speeds of aircraft that take off and land vertically without compromising the aircraft's lift to power in hover or its efficiency during long-range flight.

The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) make them ideal for a host of military operations. Currently, only helicopters can maneuver in tight areas, land in unprepared areas, move in all directions, and hover in midair while holding a position. This versatility often makes rotary-wing and other VTOL aircraft the right aerial platform for transporting troops, surveillance operations, special operations and search-and-rescue missions.

Compared to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are slower-leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.

By their very design, rotary-wing aircraft that take off and land vertically have a disadvantage achieving speeds comparable to fixed-wing aircraft. Since its invention, engineers have attempted to overcome this design barrier but have encountered lower and less lift capacity, controllability, simplicity, and reliability of design. While engineers have improved the speed of fixed-wing aircraft-achieving two and three times the speeds of jets designed since the 1960s-attempts to increase efficient VTOL aircraft speed have stalled.

"For the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex," said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. "To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity."

"We have not made this easy," he continued. "Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we're looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results."

A Proposers' Day will be held on March 14th.

Explore further: Firm combines 3-D printing with ancient foundry method

More information: The Broad Agency Announcement for the solicitation can be found at: www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/… A-13-19/listing.html.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lancets Flights Probe Supersonic Shockwaves

Jan 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA is concluding a series of flight tests to measure shock waves generated by an F-15 jet in an effort to validate computer models that could be used in designing quieter supersonic aircraft.

Recommended for you

Firm combines 3-D printing with ancient foundry method

Mar 27, 2015

A century-old firm that's done custom metal work for some of the nation's most prestigious buildings has combined 3-D printing and an ancient foundry process for a project at the National Archives Building in Washington, ...

Wearable device helps vision-impaired avoid collision

Mar 26, 2015

People who have lost some of their peripheral vision, such as those with retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, or brain injury that causes half visual field loss, often face mobility challenges and increased likelihood ...

Applications of optical fibre for sensors

Mar 26, 2015

Mikel Bravo-Acha's PhD thesis has focused on the applications of optical fibre as a sensor. In the course of his research, conducted at the NUP/UPNA-Public University of Navarre, he monitored a sensor fitted to optical fibre ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.