DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded contracts to four companies for phase one of their VTOL X-Plane. According to a press release from DARPA, the four companies selected are: Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, The Boeing Company, Karem Aircraft, Inc., and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

“For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA’s VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities,” DARPA said.

“We were looking for different approaches to solve this extremely challenging problem, and we got them,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. “The proposals we’ve chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing. We’re eager to see if the performers can integrate their ideas into designs that could potentially achieve the performance goals we’ve set.”

The four selected companies will submit preliminary designs in late 2015. After that, DARPA will review the designs and select one to build as a technology demonstrator. Flight tests are projected to begin in 2017-2018.

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