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Heavy Lift Vertical Take-off and Landing; Heavy VTOL

Description:

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Trusted AI/Autonomy; Sustainment & Logistics

OBJECTIVE:

Design, Develop and Demonstrate Heavy-lift Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems to enhance the U.S. Army’s resupply capability.

 

DESCRIPTION:

Heavy Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems will provide unique capabilities over currently planned VTOL systems in that they will provide upward of 10X the lift capability. This ability is vital for future Army combat operations. Successful advancement of Heavy-Lift Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems would enhance U.S. Army modernization priorities by increasing the amount of equipment that can be carried by a single platform at one time. This will reduce the number of flights it takes to resupply a forward unit, allow for heavier modular mission payloads to be carried and ultimately take Soldiers out of harm’s way by utilizing an uncrewed platform.

  

Currently there are no uncrewed systems being fielded to US Army units. The Joint Tactical Autonomous Aerial Resupply System (JTAARS) is only requiring a lift capability of 125 lbs payload capability while other efforts are crewed cargo lift platforms at or above 3000lbs, on autonomous conversions utilizing full-sized helicopter platforms. Primary obstacles to overcome for successful operation of Heavy-Lift Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems is the balance of lift capability versus the distance a platform can fly to resupply units while displaying to Army units the time and effort saved by utilizing these platforms. 

 

The goals of this effort are the design, development, and demonstration of Heavy Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems that can lift a threshold or minimum of 800lbs and goal of 1400lbs while having the ability to fly 100 miles threshold/minimum and a goal of greater than 100 miles.    

These designs should be able to be loaded and unloaded in the field either by soldiers or autonomously, be able to fly autonomously or with human takeover, assist and fly routes while avoiding obstacles, select multiple routes, have an override system that allows soldiers to divert or modify resupply locations, autonomously select safe landing zones, have an override for human landing zone selection.  Systems should be able to utilize or integrate modular mission payloads moving forward and common attachment systems are of benefit. 

 

PHASE I:

This topic is accepting Direct to Phase II proposals only. Feasibility documentation should describe a design for a new or improved existing VTOL craft to achieve threshold or minimum of 800lbs and goal of 1400lbs payload capacity, while having the ability to fly 100 miles threshold/minimum and a goal of greater than 100 miles. The resulting design should include any relevant features or modifications to include air frame, propulsion, fuel/power systems, control, autonomy, navigation, hazardous cargo handling, and safety/loss of signal. 

 

PHASE II:

In this Direct to Phase II solicitation, companies should be able to clearly indicate progress beyond the goals outlined in phase I in their proposals. For Direct to Phase II, companies will Develop and Demonstrate Heavy-Lift Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HVTOL) Systems. The system should include navigation controls, obstacle avoidance, override systems, loading and unloading controls, instructions, and training and safety instructions. Required Phase 2 deliverables include all necessary components (hardware and software) to control the platform, attach payload to the platform (TBD), ability to select navigation route, route override, landing or delivery zone selection, zone selection override, lost link control, system safety, remote payload controls, ammo safe capability, soldier safety capable, a final report, and monthly progress reports. The system will be demonstrated in future Army experimentation or test events to evaluate performance. 

 

Phase II evaluation goals will include: 

  • Demonstrated lift capability at test ranges, with a stage-gate lift of 500lbs at an Army experimentation or test event in early-mid 2024, prior to completion of the period of performance (PoP). Success is required to become eligible for a sequential phase II. 
  • Full systems, plans, designs, or other documentation that clearly shows how this technology will progress to a demonstrated lift in the 800-1400lb range during a potential phase II sequential award. Companies that do not include these detailed plans will not be eligible for full technical consideration.

 

Phase II duration is not to exceed 12 months and a cost of $3 million.

 

This topic is planning for an immediate sequential phase II award to demonstrate lift/transport progress from the 500lb milestone to a demonstrated lift of 800 – 1400 lbs following the conclusion of the original PoP. Further requirements to be addressed in the sequential award will include ability to integrate with DoD’s Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA), control systems, spectrum management, hardening/security, etc. 

 

  • Preferred integration with an externally supplied autonomous payload (selected vendors will be informed following contracting) 
  • Final performance demonstration of minimum 800lb lift at an Army experimentation or test event in spring 2025, with external autonomous payload integration.  
  • Test reports detailing solution performance. 
  • Product documentation detailing operation of prototype. 
  • Monthly progress reports describing all technical challenges, technical risk, and progress against the schedule. 
  • Final technical report, to specifically include system cost. 

 

Sequential Phase II duration is not to exceed 12 months and a cost of $3 million.

 

In accordance with the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. §638, subsection (aa)(1)), no Federal agency may issue an award under the SBIR program or the STTR program if the size of the award exceeds the award guidelines established under this section by more than 50 percent without a waiver from the SBA. SBA shall adjust the maximum dollar amount every year for inflation. As of October 2022, agencies may issue a Phase I award (including modifications) up to $295,924 and a Phase II award (including modifications) up to $1,972,828 without seeking SBA approval. Any award above those levels will require a waiver.  Any award resulting from this solicitation that exceeds these amounts is subject to the SBA’s prior approval of such waiver as a pre-requisite to funds availability; this solicitation does not guarantee any award.

Army Applications Laboratory has secured a waiver to exceed the maximum phase II award amount for this solicitation as well as the follow-on sequential award.

 

PHASE III:

The objective of Phase III, where appropriate, is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives through the effort. Companies may develop a manufacturing-ready product design, capable of integration with the existing or future system, and demonstrate technology integration. Low-rate production will occur as required. Companies will engage in laboratory or operational testing as required. Phase III deliverables include system-level integration technical data package, installation documentation, and system-level prototype for demonstration and government-sponsored testing.

 

Additionally, Phase III goals will include: 

  • Additional capability developments 
  • Performance measurement in a variety of different operational test environments 
  • Test reports detailing solution performance. 
  • Operationally relevant demonstration of lift system integration with payload system 
  • Working toward further technology improvements, additional testing/modifications, and integration with Army stakeholders toward large scale adoption and commercialization.

 

KEYWORDS:

VTOL; Heavy UAS; Cargo UAS; Contested Logistics; Resupply; Autonomous UAS;

 

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.army.mil/article/219887/jtaars_concept_presented_to_industry 
  2. https://www.army.mil/article/265428/army_focuses_on_contested_logistics_a_threat_to_enemy 
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhambling/2021/03/16/us-army-pushes-ahead-with-battlefield-resupply-drones/?sh=b67f5796b94f 
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1570870522000178 (The introduction section gives good information on potential mission types and needs; the inclusion of this reference is not intended to endorse any of the article’s methods or conclusions) 
  5. https://warontherocks.com/2022/05/flying-dirty-unmanned-casualty-evacuation-on-the-contaminated-battlefield/ 
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