Commercial flying cars could serve as inspiration for the V-22 Osprey successor.
With an abundance of funding and fast-paced iterations on cutting-edge designs, the private sector has potentially edged ahead of military vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology in the recent years. There has therefore been ample time and research in optimizing an enormous variety of approaches to aerial mobility, and many of them could also be feasibly implemented in the defense industry.
The Fall of 2019 is planned to see the beginning of Agility Prime, an effort to harness the commercial world’s work on flying cars and, eventually, replace the V-22 Osprey. The program could also open up opportunities to expand the scope of VTOL operations in the U.S. Air Force. While many commercial prototypes are not currently designed to be capable of the Osprey’s mission, there are an abundance of applications, such as logistics, that will absolutely benefit from the technological advancements in aerial mobility.
Further, the U.S. Air Force has articulated similar performance metrics of interest as those seen in the commercial sector, such as noise reduction. Defense One recently interviewed Mark Moore, a former NASA engineer who now runs aviation engineering for Uber, who talked about the potential for “an ultra-low noise insertion signature and increased surveillance capabilities,” which would quietly place Special Operations Forces behind enemy lines.
These types of dual-sector technologies and interests could also bring unforeseen benefits and collaboration efforts between commercial and defense innovations, and even have the potential to trim expenses. Will Roper, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, explained to Defense One: “Every flight hour we are flying in the Air Force is worth is worth millions, if not billions, to those private companies that are wanting to take over this domestic urban mobility boom that’s been predicted. It’s a wonderful way to think about using the defense market as a partnership opportunity.” Roper described the Agility Prime program at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference this week as “a low-hanging opportunity” to gain insight on aerial mobility operations based on the learnings thus far in the commercial sector.
Why it’s important: The aerospace industry has historically been driven by military applications, as many have necessitated the innovation of cutting-edge materials, airplane configurations, or entirely new aircraft systems. In the aerial mobility field, commercial development for civilian transportation has recently been the focus use of VTOL technology. Now, the upcoming V-22 Osprey replacement efforts could usher in a collaboration between public and private sector to potentially see development synergies.