The United States Air Force plans to release a solicitation for its Agility Prime program: an exchange of government resources in exchange for knowledge transfer, aerial demonstration flights, and potential buyouts of various aerial mobility companies that elect to participate.
The Agility Prime program is the flagship eVTOL program for the USAF, as an increasing number of military organizations across the world become more and more interested in applications of aerial mobility technology as supplemental (and eventually in replacement of) current mobility offerings for both manned and unmanned missions.
USAF Acquisition Chief, Dr. Will Roper, told reporters of the Prime Project: “It’s going to be a challenge-based acquisition plan, so we’ll have different durations of flight and payloads that have to be carried. And if you pass the hurdle then you’ll move further down the wickets of getting safety certified by the Air Force and moving on to a procurement contract.”
Dr. Roper also added that the intent of the project was to identify candidates that can conduct repeatable and regular flights of their eVTOL designs “in 2020” meaning that companies searching for seed funding, or that were earlier on the in preliminary design phases wouldn’t be ideally suited for Agility Prime.
Avionics International reports on the specific requirements the USAF has established for participating aircraft: “Aircraft applying to participate must make their first full-scale flight prior to December 17, 2020, and be capable of carrying 3-8 personnel greater than 100 miles at speeds exceeding 100 mph, with an endurance over 60 minutes — capabilities that very few currently-flying eVTOLs claim to have.”
Additionally, Agility Prime serves as an early certification pathway for many aerial mobility companies, which could potentially aid in speeding the certification process for civilian flight operations – a commonly cited hurdle in successful deployment of commercial air taxi operations. Economic validations will be conducted on the following five topics (and these criteria will be evaluated against the claim of aerial mobility becoming a more efficient means of transport than any existing medium today)”
- Lower maintenance cost due to simplified mechanical design
- Improved safety and declining personnel demands, using autonomy
- Affordable quantity, based on potential mass production
- Improved acoustics, employing distributed propulsion
- Greater flexibility and reduced infrastructure needs, with runway independence
Why it’s important: The Agility Prime program represents a large commitment from the USAF to be at the forefront of aerial mobility technology, while also serving as a method of benefit for existing eVTOL manufacturers. The offering of test ranges and Air Force certification processes represents one fo the largest tangible commitments by a large government agency to advance the aerial mobility industry to date. While the USAF’s funding is unconfirmed, reports from various independent news outlets state that the USAF has achieved the necessary funding to commence its solicitation.