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Aerospace companies study flying carAerospace companies study flying car

After a century of efforts to solve the problem of a flying car, military contractors working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will now take a look. Six teams will study for a year whether a land-based military vehicle can transform into a helicopter.

The six teams chosen are AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin Company, prime system integrators; Carnegie Mellon University and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, developers of critical enabling technology; and Aurora Flight Sciences partnered with ThinGap, and Metis Design Corp, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) recipients.

DARPA’s Transformer (TX) program seeks to combine the advantages of ground vehicles and helicopters into a single vehicle equipped with flexibility of movement. The concept is to provide options to avoid traditional and asymmetrical threats while avoiding road obstructions.

The capabilities TX plans to provide may allow for improved resupply operations, fire-team insertion and extraction, and reduced time for medical evacuation—increasing probability of survival. Key to the success of this technology is the ability for guidance, navigation and control of the TX to be conducted without a dedicated pilot—increasing flexibility.

The TX program aims to develop a robust ground vehicle that can transform into an air vehicle with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, while offering significant operational flexibility with the ability to efficiently travel 250 nautical miles on land and in the air, or any combination, while carrying up to 1,000 pounds.

During the program’s first phase, performers will conduct trade studies to develop and mature propulsion systems, adaptable wing structures, advanced lightweight materials, the advanced flight control system, the air/ground configuration designs, and energy distribution systems. The developers of critical enabling technologies will work with the prime system integrators, incorporating their technology for a possible second phase.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.

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