17 avril 2020 | International, Aérospatial

Roper Sees Air Force ‘Flying Cars’ In Production By 2023


"We are going to accelerate this market for domestic use in a way that also helps our military," Roper stressed. "The Air Force is all in."

By   on April 16, 2020 at 7:15 PM


WASHINGTON: ‘Flying cars’ using electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology could be in full-up production for Air Force use in moving cargo and people within three years, says Air Force acquisition head Will Roper.

Such a capability, Roper enthused, would give the US military the ability to undertake missions “in three dimensions that we normally do in two,” giving the services “much greater agility.” This is why the Air Force program for investing in commercial firms now pursuing eVTOL vehicles is called “Agility Prime,” he noted.

The Air Force will take a first look at vendor offerings in a virtual pitch event at the end of the month, with a focus on small eVTOL vehicles that could be used for missions involving transport of only a few people.

Roper told reporters today that the size of any future Air Force vehicle buys would depend on what missions eVTOL vehicles prove capable of carrying out. “If it’s helping us to do logistics at the edge, we could end up buying these in higher quantities. If it’s things like security and rescue, it will be smaller quantities,” he explained.

Roper has previously said he envisions large flying cars for carrying cargo, as well as smaller vehicles for Special Operations-type missions. 

But no matter what, Roper added that he expects that granting commercial producers Air Force safety certifications and allowing them to rack up flying hours under Agility Prime “will really help accelerate domestic use of these vehicles and [allow some companies to] get FAA certification sooner that it would have come if we had not interjected ourselves into the market.”

The Agility Prime program will hold a “virtual launch event” April 27 to allow vendors to showcase their capabilities and interact with potential investors from both the private sector and the military, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) announced earlier this week. Roper, who will give a keynote, said the event originally had been planned as a live demonstration of capabilities by chosen vendors at the annual South By Southwest music festival in Austin that was scheduled for March 13-22, but cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The objective of the event is to reinforce the Air Force commitment to partnering with industry, investors, and the interagency to help ensure there is a robust domestic capability in this new aerospace sector,” AFLCMC explained.

Agility Prime is designed as a “challenge” where eVTOL vehicle makers compete in a series of demonstration that ultimately could result in a contract for full-scale production. According to documents provided for potential competitors on the program website, the Air Force is asking potential vendors to be able to complete a flight test by Dec. 17. In the first round, companies will need to demonstrate the following specifications:

  • Payload: 3-8 personnel
  • Range: Greater than 100 miles
  • Speed: Greater than 100 mph
  • Endurance: Greater than 60 minutes

Roper said the second round of the competition would be dedicated to larger vehicles for cargo, and multiple people.

Agility Prime is a unique effort that involves a number of service entities working together, including AFLCMC, the Program Executive Office for Mobility, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) office, AFWERX, and the new AFVentures office that serves as an intermediary between vendors and venture capital providers.

Roper said that besides helping to move the US into a prime spot in an emerging marketplace, he intends Agility Prime to also serve as an example to the commercial sector that the Air Force is serious about being “a good innovation partner.”

One of the hallmarks of Roper’s term as Air Force acquisition chief has been his focus on figuring out how to leverage commercial research and development to help DoD ensure that it can stay ahead of China in the pursuit of new technology — arguing that innovation is the new battlefield.


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