DARPA Seeks "Transformer" Roadable Aircraft By 2015

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DARPA is seeking "innovative solutions" and is offering financial rewards for work that would by 2015 lead to a roadable/flyable VTOL vehicle prototype capable of carrying up to four persons and their gear. Dubbed the "Transformer (TX)" program, the end result may not lead to production of such a vehicle, but DARPA intends to "at a minimum" create the technologies necessary to build the prototype. Multiple awards are anticipated, with $9 million set to support Phase 1 development. The vehicle is intended for military use, to provide combatants with "terrain-independent mobility" that better avoids improvised explosive devices and ambushes, while offering operators more options for approaching targets. Key ingredients include easy operation by a non-certified pilot, a combat range of at least 250 nm, a maximum payload of about 1,000 pounds, and flight capability to 10,000 feet MSL.

DARPA's full list of requirements is included in its Vertical Takeoff and Landing Roadable Air Vehicle broad agency announcement solicitation, dated April 12. In the announcement, DARPA details possible roles like ship to shore insertion, out and back resupply missions, and medical evacuation. A successful product will demonstrate capability in those roles along with affordability in both production and operation. The TX timetable lays ground and flight demonstrations for such a flying car-like product in early 2015. Find DARPA's announcement, here (PDF).