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Electra gets US Air Force funding for electric short take off and landing plane

Photo: Electra

The US Air Force’s AFWERX innovation program has awarded aerospace company Electra funds to develop a full-scale pre-production prototype electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft.

The funding is a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award and secures up to $85 million between private investments, government funding, and matching Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding for Electra’s development.

Designed for operations from soccer field-sized spaces, the eSTOL represents a new class of aircraft, characterized by helicopter-like operational flexibility with performance and operating costs better than comparable fixed-wing aircraft.

According to the company, the eSTOL aircraft can operate in environments ranging from busy urban areas to remote landing strips, and fly missions including on-demand urban and regional air mobility, cargo logistics, executive transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and more.

Electra has received over 1,000 eSTOL aircraft orders from commercial customers around the globe aiming to lower operating costs, access new markets through smaller ground footprints and lower noise profiles, and meet both customer and investor expectations for reduced carbon emissions.

This STRATFI award secures an investment partnership that funds the rapid development, test, and evaluation of a full-scale pre-production prototype eSTOL aircraft which can be used by the Air Force to validate requirements and operational use cases.

It will leverage Electra’s upcoming flight test of a two-seat piloted eSTOL technology demonstrator aircraft and accelerates the transition path for Electra’s commercial nine-passenger eSTOL product aircraft to support Air Force missions of interest.

This effort builds directly from Electra’s six active USAF SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II and Phase III contracts which have matured each of the core aspects of eSTOL technology – distributed electric propulsion, blown lift aerodynamics and acoustics, precision flight controls, and hybrid-electric powertrains.

Under the STRATFI contract, Electra will further strengthen its partnership with the AFWERX Agility Prime program, chartered with expanding technology transition paths to accelerate emerging dual-use markets by leveraging government resources for rapid and affordable fielding, while bolstering US tech advantage.

“This STRATFI award reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to dual-use eSTOL technology as a solution for national security and other government missions, and validates Electra’s aircraft design and engineering work to date,” said John S. Langford, founder and CEO of Electra. “The cost and risk advantages of eSTOL technology also make it a smart investment. We are honored to be chosen for this significant award and look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Agility Prime team.”

“There is a significant gap in the Joint Force to provide logistics and sustainment to widely dispersed units across large contested geographical areas at the tactical edge,” said Ben Marchionna, Electra’s director of technology and business development. “Electra’s eSTOL is ideally suited to serve as a small highly fuel-efficient airlifter that helps the Air Force execute its Agile Combat Employment doctrine and meet its operational energy goals to reduce aviation carbon emissions. Small, affordable, runway-independent eSTOL aircraft could also alleviate demand on larger, few-in-number, high performance fixed wing and rotorcraft platforms in a contested logistics environment. Our team is thrilled to help the Air Force solve this key national security priority.”

“It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the US,” said Lieutenant Colonel John “Wasp” Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime lead. “Electra’s eSTOL technology has the potential to deliver valuable logistics and mobility capabilities to the Air Force. We value our partnership with Electra and look forward to supporting their continued development and future transition.”