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Aviation Blog

Air Force in Pursuit of High Speed Hovercraft – National Defense Magazine

National Defense provides authoritative, non-partisan coverage of business and technology trends in defense and homeland security. A highly regarded news source for defense professionals in government and industry, National Defense offers insight and analysis on defense programs, policy, business, science and technology. Special reports by expert journalists focus on defense budgets, military tactics, doctrine and strategy.
JetPack Aviation illustration
A new challenge sponsored by the Air Force’s innovation incubator, AFWERX, aims to help the service and Special Operations Command find and develop a high speed aircraft.
The High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing, or HSVTOL, Concept Challenge imagines an aircraft that can take off from any location and operate at speeds comparable to much larger platforms.
The aircraft will need to maximize speed, range, survivability, payload, size and flexibility. The Air Force could use it for various applications.
It has the potential to revolutionize special ops, personnel recovery, aeromedical evacuation and tactical mobility, according to AFWERX.
California-based JetPack Aviation is one of 35 winners of the challenge, said CEO David Mayman. The company’s offering, the VTOL Speeder, can approach speeds approaching 300 mph when operated in unmanned mode, Mayman said.
The platform is designed like a flying bike, which can be operated manually, remotely or fully remotely-controlled with no rider to reach top speeds.
Because of its envisioned speed and lift capabilities, the HSVTOL will be able to deliver cargo in environments where a slower-moving helicopter could be a target for enemy defenses, he noted.
“It could be used for very rapid delivery of lifesaving cargo … [where] a helicopter is too slow and has crew on board and you’re risking the life of the people,” he said.
The Speeder’s autonomous capabilities enable flight in any weather conditions and its compact size allows for take off from a location as small as a parking space. Multiple Speeders could be deployed as a drone swarm, Mayman added.
The Air Force and SOCOM “are seeking groundbreaking ideas that will further strengthen operational effectiveness and efficiency in contested, resource-constrained, and runway-independent settings,” Reid Melville, chief innovation officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Transformational Capabilities Office, said in a statement.
The military has been working on the concept for fast VTOL for years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency invested in a vertical takeoff and landing experimental aircraft program, known as the X-Plane, in 2016.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the high speed vertical take off and launch aircraft as a hovercraft.
Topics: Air Force News
Perfect form to launch head first in a crash
That is not a hovercraft — its an aircraft! A hovercraft is a vehicle that floats on top of the water or ground on a cushion of air. HSVTOL is looking to develop high speed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft — capable of hovering — but a hovering aircraft is not a hovercraft!
Just don’t go racing through redwood forests!
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