Sunday, March 01, 2020

Planes, Trains, and…Flying Automobiles?

          The Air Force has pushed forward on its Agility Prime program in its search for electronic vertical-takeoff-and-landing technologies (eVTOL). These eVTOLs are complicated in name and innovative in design, but their inspiration hearkens back to old cartoons and their emblematic flying cars. Starting this Tuesday, the Air Force will now be accepting proposals from private sector companies for prototypes of eVTOL aircraft, however the Air Force has noted that “alternatives will be considered”.
          Will Roper, the Air Force acquisition executive, stated on Tuesday that “now’s the perfect time to make Jetsons cars real”, but flying cars aren’t all the Air Force has envisioned for these aircraft. Although the Air Force has emphasized its interest in these aircraft being capable of transporting up to eight troops, the possible applications of this technology also range from the delivery of small logistics like ammunition and provisions to weapon resupplies for aircraft.
          The technology is not the only novel aspect of this program. Instead of offering funding for the R&D of these aircraft, the Air Force is modeling its Agility Prime program as a kind of competition between companies. The technology will be put through an array of payload and flight duration tests. Companies that perform well will be rewarded with safety and airworthiness certifications from the Air Force for their aircraft, which could help boost these companies’ presence in the commercial sector. There will also be the possibility of procurement contracts with the Air Force further down the line. 

          By taking proactive steps like these in an emerging technology, the Air Force is attempting to divert the offshoring of development to countries like China. Whether the Agility Prime programs proves successful or not in its goals, it is reassuring to see the Air Force taking steps to secure supply chains that are essential for the development of emerging technologies like these.


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