The web aviation blog has pointed out that Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute had received US$988 000 late last year to develop an autonomous flight system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) military flying car concept called the Transformer. According to DARPA’s plans, the Transformer is intended to be a four-wheeled military vehicle that can also turn into a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Specifically, it will seat four and have a range of 250 nautical miles on a single tank of fuel plus a payload of 1 000 pounds.
The Transformer concept is designed to improve ground troop mobility – especially over difficult or hostile terrain. However, the flight system will be one of the many challenges with the Transformer’s development as ordinary soldiers will not be able to fly the vehicle. Hence, the flight system will largely need to be automatic – which is where Carnegie Mellon steps in as their robotics team won DARPA’s Urban Challenge in 2007 to design an automatic car.
Also taking part in the development of the Transformer will be AAI and Lockheed Martin who will create the overall design concept plus Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne who will develop the engines.