VerdeGo awarded US military contract for hybrid-electric power plant


VerdeGo Aero has been selected by AFWERX for a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract worth $1.24m.

The contract, focused on VerdeGo’s VH-4T-RD turbine hybrid-electric powerplant, is aimed at demonstrating the viability of the power plant for flight testing in unmanned applications. The programme has already been moving quickly since beginning in February with full-scale iron bird test hardware operational at VerdeGo’s Daytona Beach, Florida R&D centre.

“VerdeGo Aero is excited to partner with AFWERX to accelerate this important capability for the US Air Force,” said David Eichstedt, vice president of product management at VerdeGo Aero. “The high power density of the VH-4T will provide the performance needed to deliver the range, speed, and payload required to make the next generation of electric aircraft compelling and practical.” 

Built around an existing helicopter turboshaft engine, the VH-4T-RD will generate 380 kW of electricity to power lift and propulsion motors or onboard electronic payloads. VerdeGo is currently constructing the first prototype with testing scheduled to begin in May 2024. A future production version is expected to produce 415 kW. 

“The goal is that at the end of this effort the VH-4T-RD will have demonstrated its suitability for flight testing in experimental, unmanned applications,” said Dave Spitzer, VerdeGo’s vice president of product development. “Hybrid-electric power is really a requirement for military-focused eVTOL aircraft since military missions typically involve round trips. Batteries alone can’t provide the necessary range, especially since charging infrastructure doesn’t exist in remote locations where charging infrastructure is lacking.”

The US Air Force began offering the Open Topic SBIR/ Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programme in 2018. A result of a partnership between The Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, the process accelerates the small business experience through faster proposal to award timelines, changes the pool of potential applicants by expanding opportunities to small business and eliminates bureaucratic overhead by continually implementing process improvement changes in contract execution.