Air Force conducting market research for electric VTOL aircraft

By Michael Marrow / October 7, 2022 at 12:27 PM

Market research for an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft is underway for the Air Force, according to a request for information posted by the service.

The eVTOL aircraft would be tasked with distinguished visitor transport and logistics support missions, the Oct. 6 RFI says.

The Air Force envisions the aircraft would serve as a “commercial air taxi,” shuttling personnel and supplies within and between urban areas. Typical intra-urban flights would span about 15 to 30 nautical miles per one way trip, according to the RFI, whereas an inter-urban flight would likely stretch between 30 to 90 nautical miles.

Officials are seeking to cut down on operations and maintenance costs for legacy aircraft, meaning that sustainment for the platform would have to be cheaper than upkeep required for aging assets. The Air Force is also interested in advancing a dual-purpose design that can serve commercial needs, the RFI says, making the platform a “mutually beneficial early use case for the military and commercial industry.”

The Air Force plans to begin evaluating the platform with transport of personnel and equipment around DOD test ranges. According to the notice, this mission would be executable within the “late 2023 timeframe.”

Following successful testing range operations, the program could then transition to distinguished visitor transport missions, the RFI adds.

Several procurement options are on the table for an eVTOL platform. The aircraft could either be government owned and operated; contractor owned and government operated; or contractor owned and operated. Responses to the RFI are due Nov. 4, the notice says.

Market research and potential acquisition of an eVTOL aircraft could aid other Air Force requirements. A House amendment to the fiscal year 2023 defense policy bill would mandate the Air Force to study options for an eVTOL aircraft to support combat rescue operations, filling a gap left by the truncated buy of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.