The swanky beach town of El Segundo, California might not be the first place you'd think of when imagining the birth place of new military technology. Then again, this suburb is home to the Los Angeles Air Force Base. But the newest whirlybird to hit El Segundo's airspace isn't a secret Air Force project: It's the brain child of the small, independent aerospace company known as Advanced Tactics, and what these folks have come up with is nothing short of awesome.
The AT Black Knight Transformer is a road-worthy troop transport that just also happens to be a flying octocopter. Capable of autonomous flight, the AT Transformer is designed to drop in on embedded troops where even a traditional helicopter couldn't. Whether its being used to bolster troop numbers or to evacuate casualties, the AT Transformer can pilot itself into combat zones, land autonomously, and be driven right into the heart of the action.
Each of the eight rotors are driven by separate motors, which safeguards against component failure or enemy fire. Even with a damaged or non-functional engine, the AT Transformer is still capable of controlled flight. On the ground, an independent engine kicks in, driving the vehicle at speeds of up to 70 MPH. Airborne, it will be capable of speeds up to 150 MPH while carrying 1000 pounds of cargo, a number which can be boosted up to 1600 pounds when the ground drivetrain is removed.
Both the interior and exterior of the vehicle are modular, enabling to AT Transformer complete a diverse array of missions. Life-support modules can be swapped out for cargo containers, and the wheels can pop to be replaced with an amphibious hull for water landings.
A smaller version of the AT Transformer, The AT Panther, has already flown, and the Black Knight itself has just completed road tests, with a flight test to be performed early this year. There's no word just yet as to what the military thinks of this flying, floating, road-worthy transport, but as for us, we think that the AT Transformer is pretty dang awesome.