Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DARPA - dreams of flying Humvees!

DARPA funds numerous research projects and some of them sound like science fiction more than a product that could see reality. One of the more interesting projects that DARPA has talked about in the past year or so is the Transformer flying car. The idea behind the Transformer is that the soldiers could fly the vehicle over IEDs and rough terrain to make insertions into combat zones.

DARPA expects the flying Humvee to be piloted by troops with about the same amount of training that it takes to drive an armored vehicle. The basic premise of the vehicle is to take a Humvee that is lightened for flight and equip it with a rotor system to allow quick vertical takeoff and landings. Defense News reports that in the weeks to come, DARPA will turn the Transformer idea over to several defense contractors for research.

The Transformer would have to be able to carry four combat ready soldiers and over 1,000 pounds of gear into battle. The car is expected to have a range of 250 miles when flying or driving on a single tank of fuel. One interesting aspect of the vehicle is that it would have automated flight capabilities as well. Using the automated flight capability, the flying Humvee could be sent to remote field locations with supplies offering the soldiers the gear and transportation they need for an objective.

The need to lighten the vehicle for flight would mean less armor. DARPA states that the vehicle would be able to stop most small arms fire and the reduction in armor would be offset by the ability to fly over IEDs and bombs.

Officials with the U.S. Marine core state that they are more interested in how the research into a flying Humvee might help unmanned helicopters they are developing more than they are interested in the flying car. James Lasswell, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said, "The idea of having a flying car is interesting, but that is kind of a gee-whiz kind of thing."
DARPA first announced the Transformer program in January 2010.

Related : Farnborough 2010: Textron pursues 'flying Humvee' programme

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.

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.
DARPA recently issued a broad agency announcement (BAA) solicitation, which a number of companies are known to have responded to, including Textron.

The multi-phase $54 million programme is looking to develop a concept vehicle as well as key enabling technologies for a ‘robust ground vehicle’ capable of converting into a VTOL aircraft with a maximum payload of 1000lbs.

Speaking to Rotorhub.com at the Farnborough Internatiobnal Air Show, Textron representatives said the company’s design leveraged a 40-year deal giving AAI, a Textron subsidiary, exclusive use of the slowed-rotor technology developed by Carter Aviation.

AAI vice president for unmanned aircraft systems, Steve Reid, said the company was looking at slowed rotors for unmanned applications, such as the US Marine Corps’ unmanned cargo aircraft requyirement, but the Transformer programme was also seen as an ideal use for the technology.
Reid said the engine was able to retain enough ‘optimise stored energy’ to provide a vertical take off while landings were performed similar to a helicopter autorotation.

‘Then in forward flight when it is flying like a traditional fixed-wing aircraft, the rotor blades are free wheeling for minimal drag,’ Reid said.
Carter Aviation has demonstrated the slowed rotor concept as part of the CarterCopter Technology Demonstrator (CCTD) and claim the design could allow a compound aircraft to reach high speed flight up to 500 mph but with less complexity than a tilt-rotor or other vectored thrust vehicle.
DARPA is dividing the Transformer programme into two disparate tasks.

Task A will develop and integrate a full vehicle and Task B will develop individual critical technologies components for the full vehicle. Multiple awards are envisioned for the first two phases with DARPA settling on a final design at the end of Phase II.

Other companies that are known to have responded to the BAA include AVX Aircraft, with a design similar to its proposal for the US Army’s Armed Aerial Scout programme, and Logi AeroSpace with a ‘shrouded propellor’ design.

The TX vehicle would be designed for military scouting, personnel transport, and logistics missions.
According to the BAA, technical areas to be explored include: hybrid electric drive ducted fan propulsion system, ring motors, energy storage methods such as batteries and ultra capacitors, morphing vehicle bodies, and advanced flight controls and flight management systems.

‘The TX vehicle is intended to make roads irrelevant for military small unit maneuvers. These units can use TX air vehicles to fly over obstacles or impassible terrain, avoid ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Personal TX vehicles could be dispatched for downed airman recovery or for evacuating injured personnel from difficult to access locations, or to resupply isolated small units,’ the BAA stated.

In news from the future: Al Qaeda training pigeons to carry IEDs to counter flying Humvee threat. ; )


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