Aurora advances high-speed vertical lift concept to preliminary design phase

Aurora Flight Sciences

The high-speed vertical lift X-plane concept developed by Aurora Flight Sciences has reached the preliminary design phase.  

This progress comes after completing a conceptual design review for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT).  

The design envisioned by the Boeing subsidiary integrates vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities with high-speed flight. It features a low-drag, fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator incorporated into a blended wing body platform.  

Aurora and Boeing aim to complete the preliminary design review in 12 months and achieve the first flight within 36 months.  

“The team’s approach seeks to set the program on the path to successful flight and demonstrate game-changing capability for air mobility and Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission,” Aurora explained in a statement

The company shared renderings of the FIW demonstrator, which depicts three lift fans, a refined composite exterior, and an uncrewed cockpit. Although the current design is uncrewed, Aurora claims the technology can be adapted for traditional crewed aircraft. 

The SPRINT project, a collaborative effort between DARPA and the US Special Operations Command, aims to create, construct, and test-fly an X-plane that combines speed and independence from traditional runways. The envisioned aircraft must be able to maintain speeds between 400 and 450 knots (740 to 830 kilometers per hour) at relevant altitudes and take off vertically from unprepared surfaces. 

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