Astro Aerospace and Jaunt Air Mobility selected to participate in US Air Force’s AFWERX High Speed VTOL Concept Challenge

Astro Aero­space’s Cavorite X5 eVTOL air­craft and Jaun­t’s MAV55 Mul­ti-Mis­sion Air Vehi­cle have been select­ed for the high­ly com­pet­i­tive AFWERX High Speed VTOL (HSVTOL) Con­cept Chal­lenge.

Launched in part­ner­ship with the US Air Force and US Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand (USSOCOM), it will explore inno­v­a­tive HSVTOL con­cepts that can sup­port a wide range of mil­i­tary appli­ca­tions. Both are now in con­sid­er­a­tion to be grant­ed fund­ing asso­ci­at­ed with research, devel­op­ment, test­ing and exclu­sive con­tract oppor­tu­ni­ties to pro­duce and field air­craft to the US Air Force and USSOCOM.

Reid Melville, Chief Inno­va­tion Offi­cer, Air Force Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry (AFRL) Trans­for­ma­tion­al Capa­bil­i­ties Office stat­ed at the Challenge’s May 5th launch: “The USAF and USSOCOM are seek­ing ground-break­ing ideas that will fur­ther strength­en oper­a­tional effec­tive­ness and effi­cien­cy in con­test­ed, resource-con­strained, and run­way-inde­pen­dent set­tings.”

Astro’s Cavorite X5 has been designed for speed, stealth, and oper­a­tional ver­sa­til­i­ty to sup­port mil­i­tary mis­sions such as Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Forces (SOF) infil­tra­tion and exfil­tra­tion, per­son­nel recov­ery, aeromed­ical evac­u­a­tion, and tac­ti­cal mobil­i­ty. It can trav­el more than 340 miles at speeds of 275mph and is also pur­pose­ly designed for dis­as­ter relief, res­cue mis­sions and car­go trans­port.

The Cavorite X5’s wings allow for flight in a con­fig­u­ra­tion much like a nor­mal air­craft for 98 per cent of its mis­sion, reduc­ing drag for increased speed and oper­a­tional range. Using a hybrid elec­tric pow­er sys­tem, the air­craft may also act as a mobile pow­er gen­er­a­tion sta­tion and poten­tial­ly a remote com­mand and con­trol node on a mil­i­tary net­work.

Hori­zon Air­craft, a whol­ly owned sub­sidiary of Astro, has com­plet­ed more than 250 test flights of a 1/6th scale pro­to­type of the Cavorite X5 and will begin test­ing a 50 per cent scale air­craft in Q1 2022. This pro­to­type will have a wingspan of over 20 feet, weigh almost 500 pounds and have iden­ti­cal con­trol sur­faces and mov­ing wing sec­tions as the full-scale air­craft.

Bran­don Robin­son, Pres­i­dent of Astro Aero­space, said: “We are very proud that the Cavorite X5 was cho­sen for the extreme­ly com­pet­i­tive AFWERX Chal­lenge. The patent­ed tech­nol­o­gy that under­pins our advanced design rep­re­sents a ver­sa­tile, scal­able plat­form that can eas­i­ly be adapt­ed to help our ser­vice peo­ple around the world.”

Jaun­t’s MAV55 Mul­ti-Mis­sion Air Vehi­cle brings the speed and capa­bil­i­ties of a fixed-wing air­craft com­bined with its high­ly effi­cient and patent­ed slowed rotor com­pound (SRC) tech­nol­o­gy. It has a use­ful load of 11,000lbs and can trav­el 1,400 nau­ti­cal miles with pay­load at 268 kts, car­ry­ing 12 peo­ple.

The com­pa­ny’s SRC-enabling tech­nolo­gies bring advanced capa­bil­i­ties to the mil­i­tary, util­is­ing a sin­gle main rotor for hov­er, take­off and land­ing, and, high aspect ratio, small area wings for flight once aloft. 

SRC is a suite of tech­nolo­gies that dra­mat­i­cal­ly slows the rotor as the for­ward air­speed increas­es and the wings take on the lift reduc­ing drag, noise, and asso­ci­at­ed vibra­tion. The con­fig­u­ra­tion pro­duces a lift to drag ratio 5x bet­ter than a heli­copter, as demon­strat­ed dur­ing over 300 flight test hours. 

Jaunt teamed up with VerdeGo Aero for this pro­pos­al to utilise a ver­sion of their pro­pri­etary electric/hybrid dri­ve sys­tem already in devel­op­ment and near­ing pro­duc­tion on a dif­fer­ent scale.  VerdeGo, as a mis­sion-enabling sys­tem, was also one of the com­pa­nies down-select­ed by the Air Force to the round of 35. Jaunt is cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing an all-elec­tric VTOL for the Urban Air Mobil­i­ty mar­ket based on the same SRC tech­nolo­gies,

Jesse Crispino, Chief Oper­a­tions Offi­cer for Jaunt Air Mobil­i­ty, said: “Hav­ing worked with­in USSOCOM in Rotary Wing Spe­cial Oper­a­tion Forces dur­ing my mil­i­tary ser­vice, our team ful­ly under­stands the mis­sion require­ments of infil­tra­tion and exfil­tra­tion, per­son­nel recov­ery, aeromed­ical evac­u­a­tion, and tac­ti­cal mobil­i­ty, at jet-like speeds. 

“These are the core fun­da­men­tals we applied in design­ing the MAV55. Still, we’ve also added the ele­ments of low­er acoustic sig­na­tures and min­i­mal down­wash in hov­er oper­a­tions.”

Ear­li­er this year, Jaunt com­plet­ed three Small Busi­ness Tech­nol­o­gy Trans­fer (STTR) con­tracts for the Agili­ty Prime Office of AFWERX via con­tracts through the Air Force Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry. These con­tracts cov­ered Extreme Fast Charg­ing (XFC), Advanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing of Ther­mo­plas­tics, and Acoustics.

Jaunt worked with BAE Sys­tems and Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty to assist in design­ing a large-scale fast-charg­ing sys­tem near­ly twice as effi­cient as cur­rent charg­ers on the mar­ket today. Work­ing with Qar­bon Aero­space and Geor­gia Tech, Jaunt val­i­dat­ed and quan­ti­fied the ben­e­fits of using ther­mo­plas­tics for large-scale struc­tures in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process of this new avi­a­tion seg­ment. 

Last­ly, with Penn State and Con­tin­u­um Dynam­ics Inc., Jaunt val­i­dat­ed the Jour­ney air­craft acoustic pro­file. 

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Jason Pritchard

Jason Pritchard is the Editor of eVTOL Insights. He holds a BA from Leicester's De Montfort University and has worked in Journalism and Public Relations for more than a decade. Outside of work, Jason enjoys playing and watching football and golf. He also has a keen interest in Ancient Egypt.

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