Back in 2010, DARPA was looking for a few good engineers to design a sort of "flying humvee." Among the many that answered the call was a small, Southern California-based firm called Advanced Tactics. Though their Black Knight design was ultimately passed over in favor of a competitor, Advanced Tactics pressed on. Now, ahead of schedule, the little transformer that could has taken to the air for the first time.
In a series of hover tests, the Black Knight's autopilot brought its rotors up to speed and lifted off, maintaining a maximum height of 10 feet for safety. Though a remote human pilot was present, the autopilot did the lion's share of the work on its own. With the military paring down flight crews and relying on advanced autopilots, we could certainly see the Black Knight fitting into the future U.S. armed forces landscape.
While the Black Knight itself is capable of transporting 1,000 pounds of cargo and can be outfitted with an amphibious hull, a still more-advanced, heavier transport version of the vehicle is also in development. That version will be autonomous and capable of carrying payloads of up to 3,500 pounds. It will also be able to sustain flight for up to 19 hours at a time.
Advanced Tactics states that versions of the Black Knight Transformer can meet or exceed every aspect of DARPA's ever-changing goal for Project ARES. DARPA likes to keep the details of its own projects a bit more under wraps, however, so we'll have to wait and see just how advanced the Black Knight's technology really ends up being when all is said and done.
Via Advanced Tactics