Transformer First Flight Video Released

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The Black Knight Transformer is not a pretty aircraft -- it looks like a mashup of a trailer truck, four rubber tires off a go-kart, and a swarm of quadcopters -- but it flies and drives, as Advanced Tactics proved with a video posted online this week. The optionally-piloted vehicle aims to combine the capabilities of a helicopter with a modular payload system, the company said. The drivetrain can be detached from the flying parts and be replaced with an amphibious boat hull, a cargo pod or surveillance gear. The design was proposed to DARPA's Transformer (TX) program in 2010, the company said, but lost out to the ARES design. Since then they have forged on anyway, working with less than $2 million in government funding. The company is now looking for investors and customers.

The flight test was performed in Southern California and a remote backup pilot was present for safety, the company said. The stability and attitude of the aircraft was controlled entirely by the autopilot. The only commands from the remote backup pilot were to increase or decrease overall power. The aircraft completed multiple short hover flights at altitudes of less than 10 feet, although the company said it's capable of hovering at thousands of feet above the ground. The aircraft was stable, controllable, and performed as expected, Advanced Tactics said. The company said it is also developing an autonomous modular version of the Transformer that will be capable of delivering payloads up to 3,500 pounds in a detachable cargo pod, at speeds up to 200 knots, and capable of hovering for over 19 hours.

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