Skycar And The Military Of Tomorrow

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The Defense Advanced Research Project Administration is apparently savvy to the fact that mainstream car bloggers regularly Google search the term “Transformers,” in search of vaguely car-related (or, in some cases, not) filler. DARPA’s masterstroke? Using the one-time traffic boost title for a project:

to demonstrate a 1 to 4 person transportation vehicle that can drive and fly, thus enabling the warfighter to avoid water, difficult terrain, and road obstructions as well as IED and ambush threats.

Flying cars, and an opportunity for Transformers references? Who can resist?

Not Inside Line. They note helpfully:

The problem with the current Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles is that they have trouble safely traversing demanding battlefields like Afghanistan with such variable landscapes. A flying car would allow the military to dominate in an asymmetric warfare environment — they would have the ability to vertically take off and land anywhere as well as go over varying terrain with very few hiccups in altitude or velocity.

IL goes on to suggest a trio of companies as possible government partners, including Moller (which is well-covered at DavisWiki), Terrafugia and someone named Jeff Allen Case. None of which have produced vehicles for sale. In fact, this is about as good as it gets right now. DARPA’s announcement for Project Transformer doesn’t mention a budget, but you’ve gotta guess that the firms singled out by IL see this as the break they’ve been hoping (or paying lobbyists) for. What does DARPA think it will get out of the flying car ether (or is that vapor?) that it can’t get from say, helicopters?

Current transport systems present operational limitations where the warfighter is either anchored to the ground with HMMWVs and thus vulnerable to ambush, or reliant on helicopters, which are limited in flight speed and availability. TX provides the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats by providing the operator unimpeded movement over difficult terrain. In addition, transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable. This enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.

Or, maybe the Pentagon just bet Treasury it could find a worse auto industry investment than GM and Chrysler.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • ChuckR ChuckR on Jan 04, 2010
    None of which have produced vehicles for sale...... DARPA specializes in lunatic-sounding ideas that pan out often enough to justify their approach. If anything were remotely close to being for sale, then by its charter, DARPA would have no interest. The intartubes are a DARPA production..... Starship Troopers powered armor isn't here yet, but there are at least two competing exoskeleton lifters, a la Aliens, that are competing for further development. Snicker if you will, and I too would bet against any DARPA development sight unseen, but damned if you wouldn't lose that bet from time to time. And you gain knowledge and insight from the unsuccessful efforts in the bargain.
  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Jan 04, 2010

    Many years ago in Afganistan the Mujihadeen figured out how to fuse RPG's so they could shoot down Russian heliocopters. The Taliban are quite adept at peppering low slow flying aircraft with small arms fire. If there were such a thing as a working flying car it wouldn't solve the problem of roadside IED' fatalities, it would only make it easier to kill a few American infidels. Moller has been peddling this technoligical snake-oil for decades. He has yet to solve the main problems that enable any heavier than air vehicle to fly. He uses multiple ducted fans, which means the thrust is uneven and unequal, causing huge stability problems. He has yet to get his creations to transition from vertical flight to horizontal flight. If you look at the video you'll see a large crane in the background to which his 'saucer' is tethered-that's in case it veers off out of control, or worse tries to flip over. All Mr. Moller has is an overpowered hovercraft without a skirt. He might be able to sell it as a self-propelled leaf blower, but as a military vehicle? I don't think so.

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