Concept after concept has come across DARPA's desks, but none have measured up. The problem,
as DARPA sees it, is that nobody has yet been able to create a
faster-than-ever VTOL aircraft without significantly sacrificing the
aircraft's usefulness and range.
To find a solution, DARPA put out an open call to designers, birthing the VTOL X-Plane project. Out of the pool of concepts that came their way, DARPA has
rounded up a veritable A-team of aviation companies: Boeing, Sikorsky
Aircraft, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Karem Aircraft. These four,
awarded with prime contracts for Phase 1 of the VTOL X-Plane's
development, still have a huge amount of work to do.
X-Plane's final design will need to meet some impressive criteria. The
plane will have to sustain speeds of 345-460 MPH, have a carrying
capacity of at least 40 percent of its own weight, and increase hover
efficiency while also reducing drag. Basically, in every way possible,
the VTOL X-Plane needs to blow current tech out of the water.
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