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DARPA Test-Flies Aurora Flight Sciences’ VTOL X-Plane Prototype

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has conducted subscale flight tests of an Aurora Flight Sciences-developed vertical takeoff and landing aircraft as part of DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane program.

DARPA said Wednesday the subscale X-Plane model demonstrated auto takeoff, sustained hover, directional and translational control, waypoint navigation and auto landing functions during flight tests that began in March 2016.

The tests also showcased X-Plane’s aircraft wing and canard tilt mechanisms, tilt schedules and wing-borne flight controls, the agency added.

Aurora Flight Sciences secured an $89.4 million contract last year to further develop a VTOL aircraft platform under the second and third phases of the X-Plane program.

“The VTOL demonstrator was designed specifically to test the aerodynamic design of the aircraft, validate flight dynamics, and develop the flight and mission-systems controls for application to the full-scale vehicle,” said Ashish Bagai, a DARPA program manager.

The full-scale X-Plane, now officially named XV-24A, will incorporate a triple-redundant flight control system and hybrid turboshaft engine.

DARPA said the 12,000-pound aircraft is designed to have full hover and vertical flight modes and operate at a speed of more than 300 knots.

XV-24A also seeks to demonstrate a 25 percent boost in hovering efficiency and 50 percent decrease in system drag losses compared with helicopters.

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