The U.S. Air Force has awarded a Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to Electra.aero, Inc. to support the development of Electra’s hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft. The contract, awarded through the Air Force Agility Prime program, will accelerate Electra’s plan to begin flight testing a full-scale hybrid eSTOL technology demonstrator aircraft later this year, and charts a clear transition path for future Air Force acquisition of Electra’s eSTOL aircraft.
Electra was previously awarded an Agility Prime SBIR Direct-to-Phase II contract earlier last year, which accelerated the development of Electra’s hybrid-electric propulsion system technology. The Agility Prime program aims to champion the innovation and tech transition of electric aircraft into the advanced air mobility market for both military and commercial applications.
“Hybrid-electric STOL technology has the potential to deliver game-changing energy efficiency improvements and meaningful payload and range performance needed for Air Force missions of the future,” said John S. Langford, Founder and CEO of Electra. “We are thrilled to continue our close collaboration with the Agility Prime team and are honored to be selected for this important contract.”
Electra’s unique eSTOL aircraft can operate from spaces as small as 300×100 feet using its patent-pending distributed electric propulsion and blown lift technology. A small turbine-powered generator recharges the batteries mid-flight, eliminating the need for new ground charging infrastructure. The quieter and more environmentally friendly aircraft is currently being designed to transport up to 1,800 pounds of cargo or move 7 to 9 passengers up to 500 miles. Electra’s aircraft can operate in a variety of environments ranging from busy urban areas to remote landing strips, and fly missions ranging from on-demand passenger flights to cargo transportation, search and rescue operations, medical missions, and more.
“Agility Prime is leading the outside-the-box thinking necessary to quickly and affordably deliver disruptive capabilities for national security and other U.S. Government missions like humanitarian aid and disaster relief,” said Ben Marchionna, Electra’s Director of Technology and Innovation. “Hybrid eSTOL aircraft are particularly well-suited to support the Air Force’s agile combat employment doctrine by providing middle- and last-mile island-hopping and distributed cargo logistics in the Indo-Pacific theater or operations in areas with limited infrastructure like Africa.”
“We are excited to expand our partnership with Electra through this Phase III contract award,” said Lieutenant Colonel John “Wasp” Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime Lead. “Electra’s hybrid eSTOL technology has the potential to bring a valuable, differentiated capability to the U.S. Air Force and Joint Partners. We look forward to supporting the rapid development, flight testing, and transition of eSTOL aircraft while continuing to support the development of advanced air mobility.”