DARPA is no stranger to ambitious projects, but a flying car — let alone one that can haul up to a ton into the air and perform every kind of military operation under the sun — sounds kind of crazy. That, and the agency wants to have a working prototype by 2015.
So here's the plan for what's currently called the "Transformer TX." It'd be like a Humvee, but one with VTOL (or Vertical Take-Off and Landing) capabilities. That'd allow it to lift into the air and hover around in addition to the Humvee's usual off-road capabilities, which means that it could do everything from deploying troops and medical services from a base or a ship, to ferrying supplies.
The plan right now calls for something that could be quite a bit larger than a regular Humvee, no larger than 30 feet in length and about nine feet wide, with the ability to travel 250 miles on a single tank of gas and reach altitudes of 10,000 feet. It's also supposed to be "at least as quiet as a conventional automobile" and no louder than "a single engine helicopter in flight mode," which would, according to DARPA, allow the TX to fly to a location and then proceed on the ground if it needed to be stealthy. As if that all wasn't enough, it's also supposed to be capable of autonomous or remote flight, depending on what a situation called for. (For a resupply operation, for instance, the TX could simply follow a path programmed in advance, eliminating the need for a pilot.)
It's a mind-boggling proposition to be sure, and one that evokes images of the Pelicans from Halo or that massive Dragon assault carrier from Avatar.
You can see the full plans here (warning: PDF download).
Via The Register