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Air Force Taps LiquidPiston to Create Hybrid-Electric Solution for UAS, eVTOLs


Air Force Taps LiquidPiston to Create Hybrid-Electric Solution for UAS, eVTOLs

The Air Force has awarded LiquidPiston a $150,000 contract to create a hybrid-electric propulsion system to power unmanned aircraft systems and electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Using its proprietary X-Engine technology, LiquidPiston aims to develop a hybrid-electric solution that can address challenges associated with today’s power and energy options, Aviation Today reported Thursday.

According to LiquidPiston CEO Alec Shkolnik, current options like gasoline engines are inefficient while diesel engines are bulky. He added that batteries do not have the same energy density that fuel has.

“The X-Engine solves these challenges, and with this contract, we look forward to showcasing the value a hybrid-electric configuration can bring to unmanned flight,” Shkolnik said.

LiquidPiston notes that the X-Engine technology is 30 percent more fuel-efficient than a diesel engine. It is also said to be up to four times more fuel-efficient than a small turbine.

Size-wise, LiquidPiston said X-Engine is five to 10 times smaller and lighter than a diesel engine.

UAS and eVTOLs powered by the engine technology are expected to have better flight performance. According to the company, X-Engine would use fuel to power a generator and charge the aircraft’s batteries, resulting in extended flight time and range.

The contract is a Small Business Technology Transfer project awarded through AFWERX. It is meant to support Agility Prime, the Air Force’s flying car program.  

In December, LiquidPiston secured a similar Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop the X-Engine platform for small tactical generators.

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Category: Defense and Intelligence

Tags: Alec Shkolnik Aviation Today Defense and Intelligence eVTOL hybrid electric solution UAS US Air Force X-Engine