The objective of the Transformer (TX) program is to demonstrate a 1 to 4 person transportation vehicle that can drive and fly, thus enabling the warfighter to avoid water, difficult terrain, and road obstructions as well as IED and ambush threats. The vehicle will be capable of driving on prepared surface and light off-road conditions, while flight functionality will require Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL). In addition, range and speed efficiencies will allow for tactically relevant missions to be performed on a single tank of fuel. The ability to provide the warfighter a platform that enables terrain-independent mobility would significantly affect how distributed operations are performed today. Current transport systems present operational limitations where the warfighter is either anchored to the ground with HMMWVs and thus vulnerable to ambush, or reliant on helicopters, which are limited in flight speed and availability. TX provides the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats by providing the operator unimpeded movement over difficult terrain. In addition, transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable. This enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.
Within the TX program, DARPA seeks to: 1) Develop a robust vehicle design that maximizes military utility at a reasonable cost, 2) Identify and mature the critical enabling technologies necessary to vehicle development, and 3) Build a single prototype vehicle that demonstrates the program goals through ground and flight tests. Technologies relevant to the objectives of the TX program can be found in numerous disciplines and areas of research including: adaptive wing structures, ducted fan propulsion, lightweight composite materials, advanced flight control technology for stable transition from vertical to horizontal flight, hybrid electric drive, advanced batteries, and others.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will host a Proposers’ Day Workshop in support of a planned Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Transformer (TX) program. The workshop will occur at 0700-1500 EST on January 14, 2010, at Westin Arlington Gateway.
The “Transformer project,” launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, would create a vehicle that can travel on land or through the air.
The vehicle would be able to fly like a helicopter, drive off-road and carry up to four people, according to DARPA’s Dec. 23 announcement. The ability to fly would help escape ambushes and land mines and cross rivers.
In DARPA’s terminology, flying and driving, “enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.”
The Transformer also must get good gas mileage, because it’s able to conduct “tactically relevant missions” on a single tank of fuel.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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