Bell showcases its High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HSVTOL) technology in a two-minute video. The footage demonstrates a ground test of the nacelle system used to elevate and land a VTOL X-plane before converting to jet flight. This is part of DARPA’s Speed and Runway Independent Technologies SPRINT X-plane program, and the tests were conducted at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
In the video, the turbine-powered rotors on a track-mounted test bed power up and apply thrust similar to a tiltrotor craft like the Osprey during takeoff. Once the aircraft reaches sufficient speed, the jet propulsion system takes over. As a result, the rotors are designed to feather and then fold back and lock into place to avoid becoming a liability.
When fully developed, the pilot-optional aircraft is anticipated to cruise at high subsonic speeds of up to 450 knots for a range of 200 nm at altitudes up to 30,000 ft while carrying payloads of up to 5,000 lb. The purpose of the craft is to provide runway independence for missions such as special forces insertion and disaster relief in inaccessible areas.
Jason Hurst, Executive Vice President, Engineering, stated that the successful completion of the sled test is a significant milestone for Bell’s HSVTOL research and technology development. The demonstration will inform the company’s X-plane development for DARPA’s SPRINT program and marks a pivotal step in creating the next generation of high-speed vertical lift aircraft for future war fighters.