Yesterday Advanced Tactics announced the successful first flight of their Black Knight Transformer, a hybrid truck helicopter designed for military missions. In December, the truck completed driving tests.
One of the more modern features of the transformer, besides being a freaking flying truck, is that pilots can fly it either while sitting inside it, or remotely. For this first test, it obtained an altitude of less than 10 feet off the ground and was remotely piloted. While it’s still a long way from entering military service, the successful flight and drive tests mean the concept at least works at a human scale. Its transformation between the two modes is subtle—eight rotors, four on each side, spring out for takeoff, fold in for driving through tighter streets, and tilt forward in the air for faster flight.
In the future, the Pentagon may want the Black Knight Transformer (or its smaller sibling, the Panther Transformer) to carry and retrieve troops from difficult to reach places. Sometimes flying is the better way to do that, getting the Transformer over canyons and clear of landmines. Once past obstacles, the Transformer can drive out to where it needs to be, letting troops evacuate their wounded right from the site of battle. There are other ways to accomplish this, like trucks carried inside V-22 Ospreys, but the Transformer combines that usefulness into one body, and a remotely pilotable one at that.