Army grants LiquidPiston engine development contract for UAVs

By Jaspreet Gill / September 15, 2020 at 2:58 PM

The Army has awarded LiquidPiston a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant to develop the company's X-Engine as a hybrid-electric propulsion platform for unmanned aerial vehicles, LiquidPiston announced today in a press release.

The Phase I grant is worth $100,000 with a chance to be extended to $1.1 million. The company showcased its X-Engine in a successful UAV demonstration using jet fuel earlier in the summer.

The parallel electric hybrid configured engine provides UAVs with the ability to cruise in quiet mode using electric-only power and the ability to restart the engine mid-flight, according to the press release.

"The X-Engine, when matured and deployed, will help to provide the increasing power requirements for direct and hybrid electric propulsion for the U.S. Army Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) and other [Defense Department] UAS programs as well as auxiliary power units (APUs), supplemental power units (SPUs) and power and thermal management systems (PTMS) for manned rotorcraft and fixed wing aircraft," the press release states.

The Army is midway through completing FTUAS assessments with five brigade combat teams.

LiquidPiston was also named one of 12 winners of the third iteration of the Army's Expeditionary Technology Search competition, for which the Army held a virtual summit Sept. 8.

The company showcased an aviation APU concept for rotorcraft, which can perform both on-ground and in-flight functions "to offload the main engines in providing supplementary power for hydraulics, heating and cooling, and addresses the increasing power demands of the onboard electronics, weapons and other equipment," according to the press release.