Thinking Tech

DARPA's flying Humvee: Transformer concept

DARPA's flying Humvee: Transformer concept

Posting in Design

The agency wants to combine a humvee and a helicopter to make soldiers safer.

DARPA's Transformer project is a humvee with wings that, if it gets built, will be able to leap into the sky when it hits obstacles on the road, DARPA said this week.

(How many of us have dreamed of leaping into the air when we see a threat, or when something is chasing us?)

It will have vertical take-off and landing capabilities, can travel 250 miles by land and/or air, and can carry up to 1,000 pounds -- that's four soldiers and their gear.

It will also have sophisticated guidance and flight control systems so that someone who's not a pilot could fly it -- performing vertical leaps, transitioning into forward flight and updating the flight path as mission requirements change, according to DARPA.

Transformer can also be used in "(a) strike and raid, intervention, interdiction, insurgency/counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and logistical supply," DARPA says.

Six companies got contracts for the first phase, which lasts for 12 months, including AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin Company, which are the prime system integrators; Carnegie Mellon University and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which will develop critical enabling technology; and Aurora Flight Sciences partnered with two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) recipients -- ThinGap, and Metis Design Corp.

They will develop "propulsion systems, adaptable wing structures, advanced lightweight materials, the advanced flight control system, the air/ground configuration designs, and energy distribution systems." Then maybe there will be a phase two.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure