Rolls-Royce Working on 'Breakthrough' Technology

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("LightningStrike" Image Courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.) ("LightningStrike" Image Courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.)

Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis is collaborating on a high-profile unmanned aircraft project. Nearly one-third of the work involved in the second and third phases of an $89 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract for so-called X-Plane technology will be completed by Hoosiers.

Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. is leading the "LightningStrike" team, which also includes Honeywell and Rolls-Royce.

The craft, which is capable of vertical take-offs and landings, features a Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turbo shaft engine. Rolls-Royce's advanced aerospace technology unit, LibertyWorks, is handling the engine work. LibertyWorks Chief Operating Officer Mark Wilson says "the Aurora team's goal is to help redefine the future of vertical flight. Rolls-Royce Liberty Works is proud to contribute both proven components and innovative new technologies in turbo-electric distributed propulsion to this exciting program."

Aurora says DARPA's specifications for the project include:

  • Achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt-400 kt
  • Raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60 percent to at least 75 percent
  • Present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6
  • Carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the vehicle's projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 pounds

The project is expected to be complete September 2018.

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