The Rebirth of the Flying Car

The Rebirth of the Flying Car

October 29, 2010

DARPA put out a call for proposals seeking a vehicle with some thought-provoking features; a capacity of one to four passengers, enough sturdiness to go off-road, and – most intriguingly – full flight capabilities with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL).

Called Transformer, the program sought “terrain-independent mobility,” not just so soldiers could get around physical obstructions, but also to help them avoid ambushes and that most pervasive threat in America’s current military engagements: IEDs.

Some DARPA initiatives die quiet deaths. Others become NASA or the internet. Transformer lay quiet for a few months, but then the proposals started coming in, complete with futuristic but feasible-looking concept drawings: Humvees fitted with collapsible helicopter rotors or huge ducted fans or folding wings (or a combination of the above) sweeping over rugged terrain or sloping third-world cities, gunners hanging out the side door. You could almost hear Ride of the Valkyries playing over some unseen loudspeaker.



But these designs were different from the fanciful schematics that spring up in garages and on Web sites from time to time. Not in spirit or mechanics necessarily, but in the fact that they sought a concrete prize beyond the satisfaction of flight itself: millions of potential defense dollars to develop the prototypes, and perhaps many millions more in contracts should they succeed.

Lockheed Martin’s Ducted Fan Powered Transformer Concept:  Lockheed Martin

Last month, Maryland-based AAI Corp. landed a $3.05 million DARPA grant to develop its hybrid wing/rotor Transformer vehicle (above). Then Lockheed Martin scored a similar study contract to develop its own alternative Transformer design (right), employing a huge ducted fan on each wing to provide lift and thrust. Shortly thereafter, jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne received $1 million to develop a lightweight diesel engine to power the vehicle. The three companies have already put their heads together on the project. With economic incentives and a strategic imperative in mind, it appears the flying car is finally getting off the ground.

Some DARPA initiatives die quiet deaths. Others become NASA or the internet. Transformer lay quiet for a few months, but then the proposals started coming in, complete with futuristic but feasible-looking concept drawings: Humvees fitted with collapsible helicopter rotors or huge ducted fans or folding wings (or a combination of the above) sweeping over rugged terrain or sloping third-world cities, gunners hanging out the side door. You could almost hear Ride of the Valkyries playing over some unseen loudspeaker.

via popsci

By | 2014-11-21T21:41:21+00:00 Oct 29, 2010|Categories: Aviation, Vehicles|

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