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  • AAI Wins DARPA Flying-Jeep Study
    Posted by Graham Warwick 6:10 PM on Sep 28, 2010

    blog post photo
    Images: AAI

    AAI has received a $3.05 million contract for Phase 1 of DARPA's Transformer Vehicle (TX) program to demonstrate a "fly-drive" tactical vehicle. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works is also expected to receive a contract.

    DARPA wants a four-seat vehicle that will drive like an SUV, but avoid IEDs, rivers and other hazards and obstacles by converting rapidly to an aircraft, taking off vertically, cruising like a light aircraft and landing vertically - with the takeoff and landing automated so the driver does not have to be trained as a pilot.

    AAI's design is based on the slowed-rotor/compound (SR/C) helicopter technology being developed jointly with Cartercopter. SR/C is essentially an autogyro in which the rotor can be slowed as forward speed increases, offloading lift to the wing to allow the vehicle to fly faster than a conventional helicopter.

    blog post photo

    In AAI's concept, the TX converts from vehicle to aircraft by raising the rotor mast, unfolding the blades and deploying the wing. The turboprop engine spools up the high-inertia rotor for a jump takeoff then drives a ducted propulsor for forward flight. Thrust deflectors, stabilators and ailerons provide flight control. On the ground, the turboprop generates electricity to drive in-wheel motors.

    Takeoff and landing would be automated, using AAI's unmanned-aircraft experience. In the cruise, the driver would use the wheel, pedals and gear lever to follow "highway-in-the-sky" guidance cues.

    AAI's team includes flying-car developer Terrafugia, Textron sister company Bell helicopter, Cartercopter and Textron Marine & Land Systems, which has experience developing lightweight armored vehicles.

    Tags: ar99, DARPA

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