Two Utah composite materials companies recently won three Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants from the United States Air Force (USAF) for their innovative concepts which aim to solve defense-related problems.
The winning proposals were developed with the help of the Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) and focus on composite material innovations for drones and advanced air mobility aircraft that can benefit USAF and also be commercially developed.
Electrafly, a Utah-based company which is developing personal-flight-aircraft (advanced mobility aircraft), submitted two winning proposals. The first is the fabrication of aircraft parts using a Carbon-Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM) 3D printer provided by their partner Impossible Objects. The parts will then be tested by Weber State University’s composites lab.
ElectraFly’s second proposal is to use an infusion process to create carbon fiber aircraft parts that are too large for the CBAM 3D printer. These parts will be created with project partner Hexcel and tested at Brigham Young University’s composites lab.
The third winning proposal was submitted by Analyswift, a Utah multi-physics modeling company whose technology reduces engineering time and provides virtual testing of composite material structures, such as rotor blades, earlier in the design process. Their proposal is to develop an integrated computational blade engineering (ICBE) framework for rapid insertion of high-performance composite rotor blades into ElectraFly’s aircraft. The framework will lead to prototyped parts developed by project partner Hexcel and then tested by the Weber State University composites lab.UAMMI-Analyswift
“We congratulate these companies on their tremendous proposals and grant wins,” said Dr. Tulinda Larsen, Executive Director, UAMMI. “These wins position Utah as a leader in composites research for advanced mobility aircraft, which is the fastest growing market in aviation,” she added.
Each winning grant will be awarded a maximum of $150K in this first of a three-phase program. The objective of Phase 1 is to determine scientific, technical and commercial merit as well as feasibility of the innovations. Phase 1 projects are to be completed over the next six months with the possibility of follow-on funding for Phase 2 and 3 up to an additional $750K.
The grant program is a result of a 2014 review of the United States’ national defense strategy, in which it was determined that the US’ military advantage over its adversaries and peer competitors was steadily eroding and that innovation would be a key tactic to correcting this. Accordingly, under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congress authorized the Defense Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) program allowing defense contracting officers to acquire innovative commercial items, technologies, or services which could close capability gaps.
The objective of the program is to provide potential technological advancements to the Department of Defense, incentivize small business commercialization of cutting-edge research, strengthen small businesses’ role in meeting DoD research and development needs and fortify the United States’ industrial base.