The Air Force Research Laboratory hopes a someone working in a garage or an academic research lab might create a small turbine engine to collect $2 million in prize money in the first-ever Air Force Prize competition.
Inspired in part by the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million contest that launched interest in private space travel, AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate will kick-off the Air Force Prize contest in May and award the entire $2 million to the winning competitor, officials said Tuesday.
“It’s the first time we’re doing it, as far as we’re aware of, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” said Col. Art Huber, deputy director of the aerospace directorate.
The Air Force was interested in “bending the cost curve” and motivating entrepreneurs to find answers to technical hurdles, according to Lt. Col. Aaron Tucker, competition program manager.
“This is well within the capability of a guy out of a garage” to meet the challenge of the contest, Tucker said.
The goal is to create a small, lightweight and fuel-efficient, turbine engine for commercial use. It could be put into small planes, medium-sized unmanned aerial vehicles or work as a source of power generation for troops in the field.
“If we can make (the engines) more lightweight and fuel efficient that would be very useful for the Air Force mission,” Huber said.
Another goal: An engine powered by Jet-A fuel, which would drop reliance on special and expensive fuels among some UAVs, Huber said.
The engine will be tested at AFRL to judge if it meets the criteria. The competition has a sunset date of Sept. 30, 2018.
A “Discovery” meeting for the competition is set March 24 and 25 at the Wright Brothers Institute Tec^Edge Innovation and Collaboration Center in Dayton. A second meeting will be held in the Los Angeles region in April, but no dates have been announced. For information on how to participate, log onto airforceprize.com.