The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project is studying the feasibility of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), road-worthy vehicle capable of carrying four troops on road and for distances in the air. Textron Systems is looking to take advantage of a slowed-rotor compound aircraft design developed by Carter Aviation as it pursues the Transformer (TX) programme. AAI is the Textron subsidiary that produced the Shadow UAV.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is in talks with Lockheed Martin and AAI Corp., a unit of Textron Systems for its flying army jeep (Humvee) version called Transformer, or TX which can move on the land like any vehicle and also fly like an aircraft to avoid especially landmines, said unconfirmed reports.
The DARPA’s $40 million Transformer project has selected AAI’s concept of a flying car that does not have a shrouded rotor, but it is based on “the slowed-rotor/compound concept, a technology that uses rotor blades heavily weighted in the tips, or high inertia. Lockheed Martin’s concept was reportedly based on its Phantom Works project that combines aspects its Joint Tactical Light Vehicle, a follow-on to the Humvee, with a ducted fan propulsion system to fly.
The first prototype will have a 45′ diameter rotor and wingspan, with a 300 HP Lycomin IO-540 engine. It will normally operate at 3500 lb max gross weight with a 2000 lb empty weight, but will be able to operate at heavier weights with a rolling takeoff. This engine will provide cruise speeds to an estimated 180 mph at 7,500 ft. After initial flight-testing, Carter plans to upgrade to the 350 HP, twin turbo-charged TIO 540 engine – the turbo version will provide an estimated 210 mph at full power at 7,500 ft, 223 mph at 12,500 ft or 242 mph at 20,000ft. Ultimately, Carter plans to integrate Lycoming’s new, multi-fuel, IE2engine when it is available
Several other variants are being designed to use the same basic airframe, while maintaining as many common parts as practical. The lightweight version will have a 34-ft diameter rotor and wingspan, and will utilize a 100 HP Rotax 914 engine. It will have an expected empty weight of around 1000 lbs, and a max gross weight of 1600 lbs. A 200 HP diesel version will have an estimated empty weight of 1200 lbs, and a max gross weight of 2400 lbs. Larger versions will use the 45-ft rotor and wingspan. The first prototype being built, as described above, will be used as a Personal Air Vehicle, while a heavier version with a 5000 lb max gross weight will be used as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), having an endurance exceeding 24 hours. With a 1200 HP gas turbine engine, the aircraft will have an expected empty weight of 2000 lbs, and will operate at a maximum of 5000 lbs, with a 300 mph cruise speed. For all versions, the aircraft will perform either a vertical take-off or short rolling takeoff, depending on the density altitude, gross weight, and available horsepower.