Home System concept Air Force competition boosts ‘flying car’ concepts

Air Force competition boosts ‘flying car’ concepts

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The artist’s conception shows an airplane that uses Jetoptera’s propulsion system. (Illustration of Jeptera)

The US Air Force Technology Incubator has greenlighted 11 design concepts aimed at pushing the frontiers of aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing – and at least two of the concepts have their roots in the region from Seattle.

Among the teams selected to progress in AFWERX’s high-speed VTOL concept challenge are Edmonds, Washington-based Jetoptera; and VerdeGo Aero, which is based in Florida but has Bainbridge Island’s Erik Lindbergh as co-founder and executive chairman. Lindbergh is the grandson of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh.

AFWERX’s challenge focuses on technologies the military could use in VTOLs – vertical take-off and landing aircraft that could include next-generation helicopters and other types of vehicles commonly referred to as “flying cars.” The challenge is conducted for the Air Force as well as United States Special Operations Command.

The winning teams were chosen from over 200 challenge participants. Over the next six months, all 11 teams will receive market research investments aimed at advancing their technologies.

Jetoptera is working with Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Whitney on an adaptive fluidic propulsion system that directs airflow over an aircraft’s flight surfaces in a controlled manner. The team proposes to build a VTOL demonstrator which could be tested by 2025.

In a press release, Jetoptera CEO Andrei Evulet said supporting the AFWERX Challenge will help “bring the best technologies to the fighter faster.”

VerdeGo Aero has gained support for its hybrid power plant technology. In the coming months, VerdeGo will work closely with the winning bidders of the competition to refine their propulsion system requirements.

“VerdeGo is excited to move forward with the early stages of developing a utility-scale hybrid turbine power plant for high-performance applications,” Lindbergh told GeekWire in an email.

An illustration highlights VerdeGo Aero’s propulsion system in Jaunt Air Mobility’s VTOL spacecraft. (Image VerdeGo)

Other AFWERX Challenge Phase I winners include Transcend Air, Valkyrie Systems Aerospace and Jaunt Air Mobility (already one of VerdeGo Aero’s development partners).

Reid Melville, director of innovation for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Office of Transformational Capabilities, said the AFWERX Challenge “has highlighted an impressive range and caliber of solutions to help us understand how to build a new class of aerial vehicles”.

“We believe the organizations selected to receive market research investments at this stage have the potential to deliver truly game-changing innovation,” Melville said in a statement.