Hermeus Expands Operations, Shapes Flight-test Plan

 - May 16, 2023, 11:03 AM
Hermeus plans to fly its Quarterhorse remotely-piloted vehicle initially without the hypersonic Chimera engine early next year and then equip a prototype with the Chimera later in 2024. (Photo: Hermeus)

Hermeus is de-risking the technical development of its hypersonic Quarterhorse remotely-piloted small vehicle and is expanding with new hires and offices as it prepares for flight in 2024, according to analyst Jefferies.

Recently hosting Hermeus CEO  A.J. Piplica in a discussion, Jefferies said the hypersonic developer is evolving, increasing from 60 employees to 100 already this year with plans to be at between 160 to 170 by year-end. In addition to its Atlanta headquarters, Hermeus has opened an office in Los Angeles and intends to open another in Washington, D.C.

These moves come thanks to a strategic investment that was announced last year from Raytheon’s RTX Ventures, joining a $100 million Series B financing it had secured. Jefferies reported that Hermeus has been able to take advantage of RTX’s perspective and synergies between the companies.

Meanwhile, Jefferies noted that Hermeus de-risked technical development “substantially” with a test campaign involving the Chimera engine that culminated in the transition from a turbojet to a pure ramjet operating at Mach 3. The Chimera uses a GE J85 that was modified to reach Mach 4. “The Chimera engine was the single largest risk for the company’s development program,” Jefferies said, adding that the company is now focused on building initial Quarterhorse prototypes this year with the first flight early next year and ongoing wind-tunnel testing.

However, Hermeus plans for further de-risking by initially testing at subsonic speeds without the Chimera. “Hermeus had to compromise on a design that makes it suboptimal at subsonic and high speeds, but it’s necessary to achieve the full range from on the ground to Mach 5,” Jefferies reported. The second aircraft is anticipated to be equipped with Chimera later in 2024, the analyst said, noting, “Hermeus is taking an iterative approach to building the best possible hardware for speed.”

Hermeus also is prepping for the development of the next aircraft, the larger Darkhorse UAV that will roll out later in the decade and be used to mature technologies. Hermeus anticipates that Darkhorse will eventually drive defense capabilities such as ISR and strike for Department of Defense and intelligence customers.

On that program, Hermeus has struck a deal with Pratt & Whitney to integrate the F100 turbofan for Chimera 2, a larger variant of Chimera that will power Darkhorse.

Meanwhile, while also targeting defense applications, Hermeus envisions eventually bringing a commercial 4,000-nm, 20-passenger Halycon to market to airline and business aviation customers.