JetZero’s Innovative Blended-wing Aircraft Gets a Boost from USAF Contract

25 Aug, 2023 | Adagold Aviation, News, Technical and Safety

JetZero’s ambitious blended-wing body (BWB) aircraft design has received a significant endorsement with a $235 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. The California-based start-up is working in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and its Scaled Composites subsidiary on this project, aiming to drastically cut fuel burn and emissions in half.

Image credit : JetZero

Key Takeaways:

USAF Partnership: The Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit has entrusted JetZero with a four-year contract to develop and launch a full-scale technology demonstrator, planned to be airborne by Q1 2027. The Pentagon sees potential in the BWB design for military transport and refuelling applications, though other contenders, like Boeing’s NASA-backed Transonic Truss-braced Wing demonstrator, are also being evaluated.

Operational Efficiency: JetZero’s BWB aircraft boasts impressive operational metrics. When used as a fuel tanker, it promises to transport the same fuel amount as the existing KC-46 over double the distance. Alternatively, it can house double the fuel for the same distance covered by the KC-46.

Commercial Aviation Application: Committed to aiding the airline industry’s decarbonization goals, JetZero is pitching its BWB design as a replacement for popular Boeing and Airbus models, aiming to transport over 200 passengers.

Cutting-edge Aerodynamics Over New Propulsion: Instead of leaning into entirely new propulsion systems, JetZero plans to utilise Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines, aspiring for a 50% drop in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Future BWB designs might, however, incorporate hydrogen propulsion systems. Pratt & Whitney has pledged GTF engines for the demonstrator, and their Gatorworks division is aiding JetZero in powertrain design.

Background & Origins: JetZero isn’t entirely a new player. The company has roots in McDonnell Douglas’s 1990s BWB concepts, led by JetZero’s founder, Mark Page. His firm, Dzyne Technologies, championed BWB advancements via NASA-backed projects worth over $1 billion. JetZero holds the intellectual property which, according to them, is pivotal to the aviation industry’s mission to drastically cut emissions.

Aviation Industry Response & Funding: While leading aviation companies declined collaboration opportunities with JetZero, the company strengthened ties with Scaled Composites. JetZero is in the midst of a Series A funding round, targeting several hundred million dollars to bolster the demonstrator’s development and future prototypes. Investment has already poured in from Tony Fadell’s Build Collective venture capital group.

Progress & Development: Preliminary design work for the BWB demonstrator is in advanced stages. JetZero’s engineering team has tested multiple scale models and conducted simulator drills. They’re currently evaluating a 12.5% scale model with a flight test expected later this year.

JetZero’s commitment to revolutionising aviation space, both for military and commercial purposes, is evident. Their blended-wing body aircraft design holds promise for a more sustainable and efficient future of air travel.

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