DARPA awards Phase 1 contracts for VTOL X-Plane program

Robotics

DARPA is working on revolutionizing rotorcraft technology DARPA is working on revolutionizing rotorcraft technology

DARPA is working on revolutionizing rotorcraft technology

Helicopters and other rotorcraft are impressive bits of technology, but the only place where they match the performance of fixed-wing aircraft is in bad 1980s television. That may soon change with DARPA announcing the selection of four companies to compete in the next phase of its Vertical Take Off and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program. The four companies are tasked with developing unmanned demonstrator aircraft designed to increase the performance of VTOL rotor aircraft while reducing their complexity.

Rotorcraft can move in any direction, hover, and land on almost any flat surface. The problem is their performance is painfully limited with top speeds for operational craft below 150 kt (172 mph, 278 km/h). While it is possible for rotorcraft to set much higher speed records, it’s at the cost of range, efficiency, useful payload or…

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