DARPA didn't reveal much at first about its "Transformer TX" program aimed at developing a flying car for the military. But now the full proposal has been published, and shows that the Pentagon agency hopes to get a prototype airborne by 2015, The Register reports.
The mad scientists want a vertical-takeoff vehicle that handles like an off-road-capable SUV on the ground, and can cruise like a light single-engine aircraft at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet.
Size limits for the design come to about two nose-to-tail Hummers, The Register calculates. That's roomy enough for four fully-equipped troops, or one stretcher and one medic.
DARPA also wants its dream vehicle to have the ability to cover 250 miles before filling up on gas. It suggests incorporating technologies such as a hybrid electric drive, adaptive wing structures, or ducted tilt-rotor fans similar to what the Avatar gunships use.
The flying car marvel should also be able to do its own unmanned operations, like any other good robotic helicopter or vehicle in the U.S. military's service. And flight controls should allow for any enlisted man or woman capable of driving a Humvee to pilot the vehicle.
We're just mildly surprised that DARPA stopped shy of ordering up a prototype of giant robot Transformers such as Optimus Prime or Starscream, because that list constitutes a very tall order. But perhaps the $43 million budget put some limits on the brainstorming sessions. Expect to see this vehicle come out when cars fly.
[via The Register]
It's about time our real life technology started to catch up to the transformer fantasy! Those were always one of my favorite toys as a kid. I think a 43 million dollar hit on our budget would probably be worth it. I love the fact that this vehicle will have a very easy to use interface as well as begin able to perform unmanned missions. The other day i was watching a video all about how the military is designing some of these new technologies for these types of, possibly, unmanned vehicles. I'll post a link if you would like to see more for yourself. Can't wait to this robot to come to life! Move over Prime!
It's all about design choices and mission parameters.
I don't see much technical risk here. Not really enough money for a new prototype.
Historically we've decided to build bigger, heavier, faster, higher stuff.
Shifting from WWII assumptions to Asymmetric war and Nation Building requires a lot of fresh thinking v
@Craigboy Oh? It's about the DARPA "Transformer TX" program, which specifically aims to build a flying car more or less ripped from "Bladerunner."
I hope that the push from them will help with the development of commercially available versions.
(mind you smaller lighter and cheaper than the military version will be.
This is great news to sci-fi Geeks (like me)
interesting that they want something by 2015. they may already have a design in mind/working and will simply make it public by 2015.
seriously?!?! $43m for a prototype. the amount of money we waste on defense projects is not only maddening, it's ridiculous. a flying f*!king car that looks like a transformer. seriously? it's like we have a bunch of prepubes playing funny money with our tax dollars. how bout we put that money into greentech or education...or providing comprehensive health care and treatment for veterans?
Guys, guys. It is not really a Transformer like the toys or movie. That's just the name. And the picture at the top of the page is just a PopSci joke. $43M is actually on the cheap. The U.S. spent an astronomical sum to create our last helicopter, and then canceled it. This is just really to see if anyone can get close.
I was at the Transformer meeting. It was an amazing collection of the biggest helicopter and aerospace firms. Everyone was there, even Skunkworks. Paul Moller made the pilgrimage, looking a bit sheepish I must say. Perhaps due to his recent chapter 11.
The truth is: the specifications aren’t really feasible, but they are close. If this money helps define what is needed to really get it done, after all this time dreaming, then it is very well spent.
@Jeremy Hsu - Is that how you picture it - a rotor/hovercraft? Impossible - as was proven over and over and over again since the AF's Avrocar. The vehicle will most likely be a heftier (read armored) version the Terrafugia Transition.
@PhillinYork - I read "VTOV" to mean less Avatar and more Marine Corps Osprey in terms of practicality. I suspect DARPA to be more pragmatic and less pie-in-the-sky, utilizing technologies and proven airframes that already exist. Something akin to the aforementioned Terrafugia Transition could, in my mind, be beefed up to accommodate a larger power package (jet assist) allowing it a shorter take-off requirement in combat situations.
Darpa is pie in the sky though for percisely the reason that it is the US scientific development branch until recently. Now we have some separate energy branches.
@nicholasjh1 - You know, I should have clicked on The Register link. I see that they have, at least on the surface, already distanced themselves from the Terrafugia type aircraft. However, the same article notes the CarterCopter. Interesting.
It also notes the US Marine Corps fascination with, IMO, extremely vulnerable tilt rotor air designs - Avatar notwithstanding. The design specifications, as outlined in the open bid, does indeed suggest proposals to include such.
Also interesting was the concept in theater based around a Marine rifle team as an example. What I had in mind was more along the lines of "one-of" use with special operation forces and/or discreet medical extractions, not a day-in-day-out work vehicle. Aren't helicopters better suited for that? Seems an extravagant use; not to mention the dangers exposing our troops to what amounts to a battlefield Prius. Would you want to go to war in a Prius?
I pictured an entirely different vehicle that would be airdropped, possibly multiple units into several locations, inserted to assist a spec ops exit. Allowing them a (more efficient) self-extraction instead of waiting/coordinating with a standby bird to get them out of Dodge. Once done - they're gone.
Terrafugia does not meet the spec. TX has to jump into the sky, out of ground effect, and THEN transition to forward flight. Zero takeoff distance.
Osprey/Avatar with side rotors will not meet spec, as they are too wide. It must drive on a road like a long truck. 9'foot tall, but it must fit into a lane of traffic. NO exposed rotors. It will not have armor, which is way too heavy. They said body armor is enough. Four guys and gear, in and out, 1100 pounds. The spec is a serious bitch. Any ideas?
@PhilInYork - Totally agree, the Osprey - even reduced - will not fit the profile. No tilt rotor design with the power needed can be this size, unless they want to sacrifice the four-man lift requirement.
Flat out - DARPA will never find a VTOL capability to those specs. The power plant alone will be larger/heavier than the parameters allows.
Which is why I honestly believe the TX has to be a flex wing design similar to the Terrafugia with a JATO assist. That's the only way it could be that small, still carry all that weight - men, mission specific equipment, body armor, weapons, water, rations, ammo, it all adds up - drive away as a road vehicle and/or take off and fly 200 miles.
This isn't an ingress/egress vehicle. It's strictly egress.
And if so - then it's airdropped, camouflaged with a scrambled GPS locator for the exiting team. Multiple drops means they have alternates to choose from and the same beacons become targeting missions for air forces, destroying the TX units not used/selected by the exiting team.
This vehicle already exists as the Moller Volantor
@grampydavey - Not to rain on anyone's parade, but 60 Minutes pointedly asked Moll to demonstrate his vehicle in flight - he refused.
The Volantor is nothing more than a shaped shell. And unless someone - anyone - can prove otherwise it's nothing more than a pipedream.
BTW, anyone who has this on his opening webpage has GOT to hitting the bong pretty hard:
"New Technology goes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed by those ignorant of its potential
Next, it is subverted by those threatened by its potential
Finally, it is considered self-evident.
It's 'unknown'! Yeah, 'cept by Moll himself.
And finally here's something from Wikipedia:
In 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Moller for civil fraud (Securities And Exchange Commission v. Moller International, Inc., and Paul S. Moller, Defendants) in connection with the sale of unregistered stock, and for making unsubstantiated claims about the performance of the Skycar. Moller settled this lawsuit by agreeing to a permanent injunction and paying $50,000. In the words of the SEC complaint, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years' [sic] of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground."
Sorry Grampydavey - nothing personal - but you're just advocated the modern Spruce Goose.
There are very good comments here & particularly from
cwolf88 & PhillnYork. But I am still wondering if America is
ready the same way it was at the turn of the 20th century
when Wright brothers invented the first flyer. That is, what
they did was extraordinary in terms of combining long
existing Newton's Laws and at that time relatively recent
Bernoulli's Principle to arrive at mechanical means to
convert them to Roll-Pitch-Yaw of a vehicle. I guess we see
this as science applied to arrive at technological solutions.
It is 21st Century now. Nothing has changed since then to
this exact lines of translating science into technology.
So the question would be: What basic science or what change in
basic science that the DARPA is seeking to achieve this?
My simple answer, however irritating, is quite simple:
Nothing. DARPA is not seeking approach from basics. It is
simply saying, in many different words, that "we want this".
I am sorry; that is not the way problem is defined. That is,
DARPA itself may not have clarity to define this problem
& hence, it is approaching science & technology community
to help "somewhat" propose solutions.
Fundamentals have not changed:
Such points usually, draws 2 fundamental things into
attention - (1) dealing with unknowns (2) abstractions.
I think this exactly was the genius of Wright brothers
that America let linger for 25+ years of their
Conglomeration of contraptions:
So, coming back to the point: What does DARPA want?
Quite simple. According to what I gather, a contraption
of technologies. Believe me, contraption of technologies
is NOT Science….period! That is, converting basic science
into technological solutions addressing the exact need that
DARPA has in mind is what is required.
Flying car is a very difficult problem. It requires simple &
honest basic science. Is the U.S. ready? I doubt very
much... because, some of the best brains America (has/had)
have gone into MBA stream chasing easy money...
So, one may ask what is the end result? Yes, America is
lagging about minimum 2 decades in this space! …and
unfortunately DARPA has to scramble in an urgent way.
…and America does not need this solution BY 2015. BTW,
America will need it much earlier…
I attended the Transformer workshop and developed a concept to meet DARAPA desiderata, based on my StrongMobile designs.
You can see it at on the web as StrongMobile Flying Car Project.