The Pentagon is perpetually looking for ways to do things better, especially in the area of aircraft that can take off and land vertically. But, as with battery technology, progress is incremental at best.
The DARPA Tactical Technology Office is soliciting proposals on the design, development and demonstration of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft (X-Plane) with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight. The purpose of the program is to champion the design and development of sub-system technologies and integrated air vehicle configurations that will enable radical improvements in VTOL flight. The program will demonstrate an aircraft capable of sustained flight at high speeds, improved hover and cruise efficiencies that are significantly greater than contemporary rotary-wing aircraft, and increased useful load fractions and aircraft functionality.
But as incredible as all that seems, it’s not the really amazing part about this push.
As part of this program, the technologies should be proven at relevant scale on a manned or unmanned flight demonstrator aircraft weighing between 10,000 lb – 12,000 lb, and with projected scalability applicable to platforms ranging in gross weights from approximately 4,000 lb to 24,000 lb. The design of the demonstrator as a manned, unmanned or optionally piloted aircraft is left to the proposers.