Electra.aero awarded army contract for wind tunnel tests


Electra.aero has been awarded a US Army contract to begin powered wind tunnel testing of its hybrid-electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract is valued at $1.9 million. It enables the army to explore the potential of Electra’s blown wing aircraft technology for military capabilities, especially for fuel-efficient, resilient logistics in contested environments.

The powered wind tunnel testing will advance Electra’s novel aerodynamics database for use in performance analysis, simulator, and control law development.

“There is a substantial benefit to employing the right-sized aircraft for a given payload-range mission,” said Ben Marchionna, Electra’s Director of Technology and Innovation. “It’s a very effective method to substantially reduce fuel use – or operational energy – in theater, which really matters for enabling distributed operations in contested locations.”

Electra’s eSTOL represents a new category of aircraft capability, combining operational flexibility comparable to a helicopter with superior fixed wing-like performance and operating costs. The combination of blown lift and eight distributed electric motors significantly increases wing lift, enabling short takeoffs and landings from spaces as small as a football field. 

Also, hybrid-electric power ensures ranges beyond 1,000 miles for national security applications without the need for battery charging stations.

“Many of the most commonly deployed military logistics solutions in use today are flown well below their intended payload capacity,” said Marchionna. “Our eSTOL aircraft can fulfill these missions while using dramatically less fuel, providing much more range, operating at significantly reduced noise levels, and utilizing the same constrained operational ground footprints. It’s an extremely compelling capability and we’re thrilled to be working with the Army team to advance this key national security technology.”

These wind tunnel tests, combined with ground tests and the ongoing flight test programme of Electra’s eSTOL technology demonstrator, will feed into the development of Electra’s production aircraft.