DARPA cans X-Plane


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has pulled the plug on the Aurora Flight Sciences experimental defence Vtol, the X-Plane. But Aurora’s air taxi is there to pick up the pieces.

The Boeing-owned aeronautics research company is planning to transition the technology developed from the DARPA-funded X-Plane to its own air-taxi eVtol project.

Aurora signed an agreement with DARPA to transition the technology used in the program to its Aurora eVtol, which is being developed as part of the Uber Elevate programme.

The XV-24 X-Plane prototype, was one of Boeing’s key research-and-development projects for electric propulsion. The technologies that will be transitioned to the eVtol project include: distributed propulsion ducted fans, a synchronous electric-drive system, tilt-wing and canard propulsion for vertical take-off and increased efficiencies in hover and forward flight.

John Langford, Aurora founder and CEO said: “When DARPA launched the idea of distributed electric propulsion in 2013, it was a novel concept. Today, it is widely accepted as the catalyst to a sophisticated electric air-transportation ecosystem. Expanding on DARPA’s vision, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to take this ground-breaking capability to completely new markets.”

Aurora is fully-owned by Boeing but has sought funding from external investors, raising a total of $15 million across two series-A funding rounds according to Crunchbase. DARPA approached Aurora to develop the X-Plane in 2016, signing a $89 million contract for an electric-powered Vtol.

“Growing private capital investment in electric aircraft has quickly accelerated the timeline of point-to-point VTOL travel within the commercial space,” said Tom Clancy, Aurora Chief Technology Officer. “DARPA has always been at the forefront of technological advancements, and the success of this ambitious project has the potential to redefine the world we live in.”