The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

USAF Contract Boosts Electra's eSTOL Aircraft Program

Electra expects to start ground testing a reduced-scale technology demonstrator for its planned eSTOL aircraft later this year as it prepares to start flight testing in 2022. Last week, the program received a boost when the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime team awarded the Virginia-based company a Phase II small business innovation research contract to support the development of a hybrid-electric aircraft that is expected to be able to take off and land in distances as short as 100 feet.

The technology demonstrator will carry two people and be powered by Electra’s first 150-kW electric propulsion system, consisting of a small gas turbine, a generator, a gearbox, a rectifier, and a control system. The turbogenerator will power eight wing-mounted electric motors and charge a battery system during flights.

In early June, Electra unveiled the series production design configuration for the aircraft. It is deploying "blown lift" technology through which the electric motor-driven propellers blow air over the entire span of the wings and flaps. 

Electra aims to complete FAA Part 23 certification of a larger version of the aircraft by 2026. This will carry a pilot and up to seven passengers and is projected to have a range of 500 miles. It is expected to be able to operate from less than 150 feet of runway with a landing speed of just 30 mph.

The company foresees the as-yet-unnamed eSTOL aircraft operating in urban and regional air passenger services, as well as for applications such as “middle mile” cargo logistics and emergency medical support.

Through Agility Prime, the USAF is evaluating a wide variety of new aircraft and their supporting technologies for possible military applications. “We look forward to exploring the unique capabilities of this design while continuing to accelerate the electric aviation industry,” commented the program’s deputy lead, Major John “Wasp” Tekell.