The U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX innovation arm, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have made 11 awards out of an initial field of 218 entrants in the High Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) competition, which began last year.

Collaboration.Ai, a Minneapolis-based software and services company, won a possibly four-year $10 million SOCOM contract last April to help scout out innovative organizations that could meet military needs and to manage AFWERX Challenge efforts, including the HSVTOL crowdsourcing effort.

HSVTOL would permit time critical insertion and extraction of special operations forces (SOF) and equipment; personnel recovery; aeromedical evacuation; and tactical mobility.

While AFRL did not provide a list of the 11 awardees by press time on Feb. 17, online company statements and reports indicate that the awardees include Dallas-based Jaunt Air Mobility, Bell [TXT], Reno-based Valkyrie Systems Aerospace (VSA), Washington-based Jetoptera, Inc., Florida-based VerdeGo Aero, and Massachusetts-based Transcend Air.

VSA bills itself as a company begun in 2015 by former special operations leaders. “Each year, countless soldiers die needlessly in combat because of situations where there is no safe means to extract them,” the company’s co-founder, Glenn Dawson, writes on his LinkedIn page. “Even if it has been deemed ‘safe’ for extraction by helicopter, it puts at risk the lives of up to 14 additional service personnel to rescue one wounded soldier. In addition, difficult terrain and weather conditions further limit recovery capabilities.”

Valkyrie says its optionally piloted Guardian HoverJet, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada [RTX] 545C engines, is able to land autonomously on solid surfaces or or on water and will deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo at speeds up to 450 miles per hour. The Guardian is to have an endurance of 15 hours and a ceiling of 40,000 feet above ground level.

Jaunt Air Mobility said on Feb. 8 that its new award for HSVTOL will permit the company to develop two concepts over the next six months for its Multi-Mission Air Vehicle (MAV 55), “which brings the speed and capabilities of a fixed-wing aircraft combined with VTOL through Jaunt’s highly efficient patented SRC (slowed rotor compound) technologies.”

“Benefits of these unique technologies also include minimal aircraft downwash for operations where actual aircraft landing is prohibitive and overall acoustic signature reductions,” Jaunt Air Mobility said.

Jetoptera CEO Andrei Evulet said in a Feb. 7 statement that Jetoptera is working with Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Pratt & Whitney to offer an HSVTOL aircraft with Adaptive Fluidic Propulsion.

“The proposed FY25 demonstrators can perform vertical take-offs and landings, hover in ground and out of ground effect, transitioning using unique aerodynamics relying on the Fluidic Propulsive System (FPS),” Jetoptera said. Northrop Grumman is to aid in the “design of the demonstrator’s novel airframe for range, speed, survivability, payload, and propulsor integration.”

“The key technology enabling the FY25 performance is Jetoptera’s Adaptive Fluidic Propulsive System which employs COTS turboshaft engines provided by Pratt & Whitney, driving newly designed air compressor/fans rated for the flows and pressure ratios required by Jetoptera’s thrusters,” Jetoptera said.

Bell said in a Feb. 16 statement that the company’s HSVTOL aircraft  “blend the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of fighter aircraft.”

“This family of scalable aircraft concepts is designed to support a range of missions, including personnel recovery, autonomous ISR/Strike, and tactical mobility, with low downwash hover capability and jet-like speeds of more than 400 kts,” the company said.

In a Feb. 16 email, Jeff Nissen, the manager of advanced technology at Bell, wrote that “Bell has explored high-speed vertical lift aircraft technology for more than 85 years, developing and managing risk reduction for innovative VTOL configurations like the X-14, X-22, XV-3 and XV-15 for NASA, the U.S Army and U.S. Air Force.”

“Bell is leveraging these past experiences and expertise used to develop the Bell V-280 Valor and Bell 360 Invictus,” he wrote. “The vehicle concepts are scalable, multi-mission capable and survivable, offering a wide range of gross weights from 5,000 – 100,000 lbs. with a low downwash hover capability.”