Intelligent Energy

DARPA challenge to America: build flying car

DARPA challenge to America: build flying car

Posting in Design

The Pentagon research agency sets a deadline to fulfill its George Jetson-like dreams.

What do you get when you cross an all-terrain vehicle with a helicopter? A flying car, duh.

How would it work?

We may know come 2015. That year the creative military minds at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) hope to test a prototype for the Transformer TX. The Pentagon agency solicited proposals from companies, universities, and other institutions this week to develop the design and technology for the military air/land craft.

On a single tank of JP-8 fuel, the hypothetical war machine will switch between flying and off-roading and execute combat maneuvers within a 250-mile range. The proposal envisioned technology along the lines of hybrid electric drive, advanced batteries, ducted fan propulsion systems and lightweight heavy fuel engines.

Among the vehicle's other requirements are the abilities to quickly (and relatively quietly) lift off and land vertically, fly up to 10,000 feet, carry four people and their combat gear (maximum payload capability 1,000 pounds), and be no more than 9 feet high, 8.5 feet wide and 30 feet long.

Jeremy Hsu reports for PopSci:

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.

DARPA mentions some of the reasons (besides being cool) for the ambitious project:

  • Current transport systems present operational limitations where the warfighter is either anchored to the ground with Highly Mobile Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and thus vulnerable to ambush, or reliant on helicopters, which are limited inavailability.
  • TX provides unprecedented options to avoid traditional and asymmetrical threats while avoiding road obstructions.
  • Transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable.
  • The TX vehicle can avoid Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes, while also allowing the warfighter to approach targets from directions that give our warfighters the advantage in mobile ground operations.

Image: Flickr/creative location

Share this

Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure