Forget your flying car, the flying jeep is coming. Maybe. DARPA hopes to kick off a program in fiscal 2010 called the Transformer (TX) Vehicle. It's only seeking $2 million for trade studies, but if it gets off the ground, the TX program could be a boon for those trying to develop flying cars, sorry, roadable aircraft.
Transition. (Photo: Terrafugia)
Looking most promising so far is the Terrafugia Transition, which has just finished proof of concept flight testing, with deliveries planned to begin in 2011. But while it's designed to drive on the highway, the folding-wing Transition is intended to fly between airports. DARPA is looking for a vehicle than lifts off from a road to fly over obstacles, terrain, ambushes and roadside bombs.
The trade studies will look at things like hybrid electric ducted-fan propulsion, ring motors, ultra-capacitors, morphing vehicle bodies, and flight controls that allow a "typical soldier", rather than a trained pilot, to fly the TX. The goal is a road-going vehicle that can fly for 2 hours on a tank of fuel, carrying one to four people.
There have been attempts to develop a flying jeep before, but most were not designed also to be roadgoing vehicles. Examples include the ducted-rotor Chrysler VZ-6 and Piasecki VZ-8 AirGeep, flying-saucer Avro VZ-9 Avrocar, even the highly dubious Moller Skycar. And a quick Google search for "roadable aircraft" shows the dream - if not the reality - of a flying-driving car is alive and well. I rather like this one, from Samson Motorworks...
Switchblade. (Concept: Samson Motorworks)