Remember that crazy flying Humvee we showed you? You know, the one the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (also lovingly referred to as DARPA) is so interested in? Well, the design marches forth, this time with a new way to avoid danger: soaring up out of trouble.
At least, that's one plan. The design would allow for the lightweight materials needed for the craft to fly, while still (in theory) offer it protection. In the face of an obstructed road or a known improvised explosive device, for instance, the vehicle could just hop over it.
Known as the Transformer (though it really doesn't do much transforming at all, it does fill a variety of roles like one would), it's DARPA's pet project that's all about coming up with a new troop transport that would do what a helicopter and a Humvee can, just at the same time.
According to Wired, DARPA is pretty serious about figuring it out, too:
For fuel efficiency, it uses a ducted fan in the back to propel the Transformer forward. According to Weinberger's account of AAI's design, the fuel supply is in its wings — which might be an enticing target for an insurgent hoisting a rocket-propelled grenade or a shoulder-mounted missile.
And speaking of: Darpa's "desirable" design considerations only specify that the Transformer carry a load of 1,000 pounds and be "capable of handling small arms fire." What kind of armor should it have to protect the troops inside? A soldier in Afghanistan recently e-mailed to quip that as cool as flying cars are, he doesn't have any desire to travel in a flying casket.
Lets hope both DARPA and that soldier can get their wish: a flying car that works. The project is still in its early stages as DARPA's contractor, Maryland-based aerospace AAI, is working through an initial grant to sort out the design and materials.