O’Leary said that the Air Force prize won’t be enough to fund the creation of even a single full-scale prototype, but he was vague about where else the company will get the money.
“While our total funding is not public, we will have private investment and partners contributing to that,” he explained. U.S. Air Force officials believe that military tankers and cargo planes could benefit from the jet’s increased range and efficiency; therefore, the service is investing $235 million to help a startup manufacturer create a jet with a blended-wing body.
The Air Force and JetZero, who made the award public on Wednesday, expect the full-size demonstrator plane to be ready for flight by 2027.
Large aeroplanes are tubes with wings and tails. Planes with blended wings have their fuselage and wings integrated into a single structure. The end product is an aerodynamically superior plane to a conventional plane of the same size that looks sleek and futuristic.
According to JetZero, traditional planes have exhausted their fuel-saving options and need a new design to cut fuel consumption and emissions due to rising fuel prices.
The Future of Flight is Blended-Wing
It is a joint effort between the Air Force, the Defense Innovation Unit at the Pentagon, and NASA. The aerospace and defense company Northrup Grumman is a JetZero investor.
The concept of a hybridized body with wings is not novel. Boeing created and evaluated scaled-down versions of the X-48. Lockheed Martin tested a Hybrid Wing Body in the wind tunnel. The Air Force claimed that developments in materials and Production methods had allowed for the creation of larger-scale demonstrators.
Officials stated Wednesday at a briefing that the JetZero demonstrator might help the Air Force decide whether or not to adopt blended-wing bodies in future refueling tankers and cargo planes. They speculated that if the design increased seating volume or cargo volume while lessen fuel costs, it would be beneficial for both passenger and freight airlines.
“The commercial industry is thirsty for solutions that aren’t so thirsty for fuel,” said Tom O’Leary, CEO and Co-founder of Los Angeles-based JetZero.