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Air Platforms

DARPA cancels LightningStrike eVTOL X-plane programme

25 April 2018
A full-scale LightningStrike XV-24A was to be tested in 2018. Source: Aurora Flight Sciences

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) cancelled its LightningStrike XV-24A electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) X-plane programme.

DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) Director Fred Kennedy said in a 25 April email that the agency recognised, during a recent programme review, that the major objectives of the VTOL X-plane were achieved with the subscale demonstrator. There appears to be strong interest in a civil or commercial transition for the VTOL X-plane or its technology, he said, however, there is no immediate transition partner.

Kennedy said the subscale demonstrator will allow DARPA the flexibility to pursue other priorities. The subscale demonstrator, he said, advanced many technologies such as 3D-printed plastics for flight structures and aerodynamic surfaces as well as embedded distributed electric propulsion.

Kennedy said the subscale demonstrator also improved methods to develop the aerodynamic databases upon which future air vehicle control systems can be modelled and provided lessons for flight control systems. DARPA spokesman Jared Adams said test flights for the full-scale demonstrator did not take place.

Aurora Flight Sciences was the contractor for the LightningStrike programme with subcontractors Honeywell and Rolls-Royce North America. The company said in a 24 April statement that it reached an agreement with DARPA to transition its X-plane programme technology to commercial applications, including expanding its research into commercial eVTOL systems.

Aurora said its XV-24A subscale vehicle demonstrator delivered other milestones, including distributed electric propulsion ducted fans, an innovative synchronous electric-drive system, tilt-wing- and tilt-canard-based propulsion for VTOL, and high efficiency in hover and high-speed forward flight.

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