Aurora Flight Sciences
Manassas, Virginia, USA
The Aurora LightningStrike XV-24 was a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) project to demonstrate high speed and Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capabilities in a drone.
The LightningStrike had tilting rear wings and forward canards that employed one Rolls-Royce AE1107C turboshaft 4,023 hp engine (used on the V-22 Osprey) to generate electric power via three Honeywell generators for 24 distributed ducted fans. The wings had 18 100 kW motors while the canard used 6 70 kW motors. The final vehicle was to weigh between 4,500-5,400 kg with a cruising speed of 555 km/h (80 km/h above the Osprey). Along with carbon composites many components were manufactured by a 3-D printer.
The DARPA VTOL X-Plane project’s goals were to achieve a top speed of at least 300 kt (555 km/h), increase hover efficiency to at least 75 percent, achieve a lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, and ensure the solution could carry a useful load of at least 40% of the projected gross weight. In February 2013, Aurora Flight Sciences and its partners Honeywell and Rolls-Royce were awarded a cost-plus fixed-fee contract worth $89.4M over competitors Boeing, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky.
A 20% scale, 147 kg, demonstrator was flown on March 29, 2016. Phase II was to fabricate two full-sized vehicles (designated the XV-24A) for flight testing by September 2018. However in April 2018 it was decided the subscale model demonstrated the program’s major objectives and Darpa cancelled the project. Aurora was able to shift some efforts and data to support its commercial interest for eVTOL aircraft in conjunction to the Uber Elevate Mission. After the beginning of their partnership with Uber, Aurora began development of the Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV).
Aurora LightningStrike Characteristics (Updated Feb. 2017)
||> 38 ft
||> 60 ft
||> 18.2 m
||> 60 ft
||> 18.2 m
||~ 11,375 lb
||~ 5.16 t
|Max gross takeoff wt
||< 5.9 t
||~ 1,625 lb
||~ 737 kg
||> 300 kt
||24 ducted fans
||18x 168 hp + 6x 121 hp
||18x 125 kW + 6x 90 kW
- Aurora LightningStrike website
- Article: DARPA Selects Aurora’s LightningStrike 24-prop Hybrid VTOL X-Plane, Defense Update.com, March 2, 2016
- Article: Lightning Strikes Aurora, Vertiflite, May/June 2016
- Article: A Small LightningStrike, Vertiflite, July/August 2016
- Patent: "Hybrid Propulsion Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft," US Patent Application 15403818, filed Jan. 11, 2017
- Article: Uber Partners with Aurora Flight Sciences to Manufacture Electric VTOLs, eVTOL.news, March 1, 2017
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March 1, 2017
- Article: Aurora’s Small LightningStrike Transitions, eVTOL.news, April 4, 2017
- Article: LightningStrike Concluded, eVTOL.news, Mar/Apr 2018
- Article: Thinking Outside the Box Is Inside the Box at Aurora Flight Sciences, eVTOL.news, May 1, 2018
- Article: The eVTOL Industry in Transition, Vertiflite, Mar/Apr 2019