Sci-Tech: DARPA selects electric-rotor design for vertical take-off and landing X-Plane

Aurora Flight Sciences has beaten several much bigger companies for a DARPA contract to build a vertical take off and landing demonstration vehicle that has much higher performance that helicopters or tiltrotor designs like the Osprey now in operation: DARPA Selects Aurora to Build VTOL X-Plane Technology Demonstrator


Aurora’s LightningStrike has an unusual design with 24 electric ducted-fans distributed along the wing and canard and driven by an on-board generator.

The technology demonstrator was designed in close collaboration with Aurora’s team members, Rolls-Royce PLC and Honeywell International Inc. The Aurora-led team intends to deliver a number of aviation milestones with the demonstration aircraft, including being the first aircraft designed to demonstrate:

  • Distributed hybrid-electric propulsion ducted fans
  • An innovative synchronous electric-drive system
  • Both tilt-wing- and tilt-canard-based propulsion for vertical takeoff and landing
  • High efficiency in both hover and high-speed forward flight

The aircraft design features a Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine that would power three Honeywell generators, and 24 ducted fans distributed on both the wings and canards. The aircraft’s electric distributed propulsion (EDP) system would consist of highly integrated, distributed ducted fans that, combined with the synchronous electric drive system, would enable the design’s potentially revolutionary hover efficiency and high-speed forward flight.

This video animation illustrates how the Lightning Strike will operate: