coondoggie writes: DARPA took one step further in building a radically different VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft that can fly fast and carry a big load. Specifically, DARPA awarded Aurora Flight Sciences the $89 million prime contract for Phase 2 of the agency's VTOL X-Plane program which looks to: achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300-400 kt, raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60% to at least 75%, present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6, and carry a useful load of at least 40% of the vehicle's projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 lbs. DARPA said Aurora's Phase 2 design for the VTOL X-Plane envisions an unmanned aircraft with two large rear wings and two smaller front canards -- short winglets mounted near the nose of the aircraft. "A turboshaft engine -- one used in V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft -- mounted in the fuselage would provide 3 megawatts (4,000 horsepower) of electrical power, the equivalent of an average commercial wind turbine. The engine would drive 24 ducted fans, nine integrated into each wing and three inside each canard. Both the wings and the canards would rotate to direct fan thrust as needed: rearward for forward flight, downward for hovering and at angles during transition between the two," DARPA stated.