The AFWERX Agility Prime program, launched by the Air Force in April 2020, is partnering with the electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, commercial industry to develop a new class of air mobility systems.
The program aims to test and accelerate the development of eVTOL aircraft, which can move people and things around in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way.
One of the challenges of eVTOL aircraft is the battery management. To address this, the program recently received a demonstration of a mobile battery care station developed by Arctech Charge, a Utah-based company.
The station, which was specifically designed to support eVTOL aircraft testing and operations, can provide fast and safe charging for up to 36 batteries at a time. The station’s battery charging bays are climate controlled and can offer two battery care profiles: one for extending battery life cycles and one for charging as quickly and safely as possible.
Manti Gleason, the co-founder/CEO of Arctech Charge, said they focused on “mobility and safety” when developing the battery charging station, which is something the Agility Prime program managers insisted on with the project.
“We can either prioritize faster battery turnover or focus on longevity for our battery fleet,” he said. “Our battery care profiles use dynamic charging to optimize the battery’s charge condition, ensuring that it meets mission operational needs while also extending its lifespan.”
The station’s ability to provide optimal care for each battery will reduce the need for frequent battery replacements, which has the potential to save time and money for end users.
Additionally, the two battery care profiles will allow users to choose the best battery care option based on their specific needs, which will help test and operate eVTOL aircraft more efficiently and effectively.
Pat Candelaria, an Agility Prime program manager, said he was impressed by the demonstration of Arctech Charge’s mobile battery charging station and the progress of the eVTOL industry.
“This is a great example of how the Air Force is collaborating with the industrial base and the small business community to foster innovation and accelerate the development of transformative vertical lift capabilities,” he said. “We are excited to see the potential applications of eVTOL aircraft for both military and civilian missions, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with this community in the future.”
The Agility Prime program collaborates with the small business community through the Department of the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transition programs to advance the eVTOL industry.
It has already achieved several successes in collaborating with small businesses such as Arctech Charge.
Last year, AFWERX and BETA Technologies broke ground on the first electric aircraft charging station on a military installation at Duke Field, Florida, 19 September. Then on 26 October, AFWERX officials and several local media outlets witnessed one of the quietest Air Force aircraft flyovers, when BETA Technologies’ ALIA electric aircraft made several low passes over the airfield at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Candelaria said the Air Force’s interest in eVTOL aircraft has several applications including medical evacuation, firefighting, civil and military disaster relief, search and rescue, and humanitarian relief.
He also mentioned other benefits such as zero-emission aviation, quiet noise profiles and eventually cost savings to operate and maintain its fleet without dependency on traditional fossil fuels.