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Aurora's latest X-Plane design speeds ahead
Wednesday, 22 May 2024
The concept is a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator that combines the agility of VTOL with unprecedented speed. An Aurora and Boeing team is advancing this concept to the preliminary design phase.

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, recently completed the conceptual design review for a game-changing, high-speed, vertical lift X-plane and has been selected to continue development of a preliminary design review. The aircraft is being developed for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme called Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT), which 'aims to design, build and fly an X-plane to demonstrate the key technologies and integrated concepts that enable a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence'.

Aurora's concept is a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator that integrates a blended wing body platform, combining the agility of vertical take off and landing with unprecedented speed. The team's approach seeks to set the programme on the path to successful flight and demonstrate game-changing capability for air mobility and Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions.

New renderings of the fan-in-wing demonstrator reveal three lift fans, a more refined, composite exterior and an uncrewed cockpit. The choice of three lift fans reflects the team's strategy to simplify the demonstrator and streamline its path to flight test; the technology could be scaled to four or more lift fans to meet future aircraft requirements, and it could unlock opportunities for a future family of systems. Similarly, while an uncrewed demonstrator offers benefits in testing and risk reduction, the fan-in-wing technology would be fully transferrable to traditional aircraft with crews.

Aurora's concept is designed to meet or exceed the challenging programme objectives set by DARPA. For example, the blended wing body platform is capable of 450 knot cruise speed, and the embedded lift fans with integrated covers allow a smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight. The design also leverages existing engine solutions, shortening development risk and timelines. In addition to VTOL, the aircraft is capable of short take off and vertical landing, super short take off and landing and conventional take off and landing.

"Aurora and Boeing bring relevant expertise in blended-wing-body platforms, high-speed VTOL configurations and military aircraft development," says Larry Wirsing, vice president of aircraft development at Aurora Flight Sciences. "The DARPA SPRINT programme is an exciting opportunity to continue our history of advancing technology demonstrator programmes that enable new capabilities for the US military."

Aurora and Boeing's Vertical Lift teams are combining over 30 years of experience in novel VTOL platforms with a proven technology maturation process. The team estimates completion of their preliminary design review for the SPRINT programme in approximately 12 months, with the goal of first flight in 36 months.

Contact details from our directory:
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company Airframer
Related aircraft programs:
Aurora Flight Sciences SPRINT X-Plane
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