Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, has completed a conceptual design review for its high-speed, VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) capable X-plane; paving the way to continue development of a preliminary design review.

The low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator is being developed for a US Defence 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 transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence”.

New renderings of the blended wing body demonstrator show three lift fans, reflecting the team’s strategy to “simplify the demonstrator and streamline its path to flight test,” with the technology scalable to meet future aircraft requirements. Although the initial demonstrator will be uncrewed, Aurora says its fan-in-wing technology would be “fully transferrable to traditional aircraft with crews”. Optimised to “design or meet the challenging programme objectives that DRPA set for the programme,” Aurora’s concept is capable of a cruise speed of 450 knots, and is designed to leverage “existing engine solutions, shortening development risk and timelines”.

Aurora and Boeing teams anticipate completion of the preliminary design review for the SPRINT programme within 12 months, paving the way to the first flight in 36 months. “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,” explained Larry Wirsing, vice president of aircraft development at Aurora Flight Sciences.
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