U.S-based startup, Jetoptera, announced last week, it had completed a fourth Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract awarded by the US Air Force to evaluate its experimental “3-in-1” propulsion system concept, reports a press release.

This system enables the aircraft to take off and land vertically (VTOL), yet accelerate to jet speeds in forward flight configuration. Referred to as a “High Speed VTOL (HSVTOL)”, the release states, “The technology presents several fundamental advantages over VTOL legacy systems, emitting lower, atonal noise and benign exhaust temperatures while eliminating rotors or propellers. It employs reliable and low maintenance turbo-compressors which are easy to adapt from current reliable turbines.”

The release continues, “Jetoptera designed, built and tested an Upper Surface Blown Wing (USB) equipped powered-high-lift test article integrating a Fluidic Propulsive System (FPS). The experimental data produced informs the concepts critical to the delivery of a HSVTOL aircraft conceptual design.”

Jetoptera is now preparing to start wind tunnel tests with a more advanced version of the Fluidic Propulsion System seen here being evaluated in 2021. (Image: Jetoptera)

The FPS has no visible moving parts or propellers. Instead, the technology uses a relatively small flow of compressed air from a turbo-compressor to suck in a much greater volume of ambient air, creating a vortex that significantly amplifies the airflow through an aerodynamic loop. Additional thrusters augment the thrust output of the FPS. The company says the technology is scalable and can power aircraft with a takeoff weight of up to 10,000 lbs. 

Jetoptera partnered with Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman company, for both the aircraft and conceptual design of the HSVTOL. A subscale model of this conception is currently being studied and tested in a wind tunnel.

The recently completed USAF contract allowed sizing, optimisation of the FPS and USB configuration using static and wind tunnel data. This expanded the data obtained in previous contracts.

The team achieved a number of firsts, including:-

: Testing with an electric air compressor feeding the FPS thruster-ejectors, which may be used to distribute primary air across the aircraft for hybrid or fully electric systems.

: Optimisation of a high-lift flap system working with FPS for maximum lift production.

: Demonstration of lift coefficients exceeding 8.0 – up to 40 percent better than propeller blown wings results obtained under other programs and with lower noise emission and vibrations.

: Delivery of a first of a kind HSVTOL aircraft concept that embeds the data-validated principles honed under this SBIR.

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The conceptual aircraft is predicted to perform at Mach numbers of 0.8. A separate, ongoing STTR Phase II program, will validate its design in the first half of 2023. The maximum speeds predicted for the concept are over twice as fast as a tiltrotor. Jetoptera has stated the aircraft could be ready to fly in 2025.

AFRL and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants, and decrease bureaucratic overhead.


Jetoptera has developed “a unique propulsion system integrated with a novel airframe.” This allows the company to create lighter, more efficient, and less complex aircraft. The technology enables vertical and short takeoff and landing (V/STOL), high speeds, sizeable payloads and range alongside maneuverability.

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(Top image: Jetoptera)