Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Half-car, half-plane, all funny looking

So apparently our favorite weapons experimenter DARPA is trying to develop a new light, armored ground vehicle for U.S. troops. But this project has an unusual requirement, too: it must fly.

As Aviation Week puts it,
Transformer is not simply a roadable aircraft - it is a four-seat vehicle that must be able to drive off-road, survive small-arms fire, and rapidly reconfigure into an aircraft that can take off and land vertically and be flown without pilot training.
Yep, that's a tall order, making a flying machine that literally any grunt can get into and flutter away in. Oh, and it also has to be bulletproof. That might be the hardest part, actually. If you shoot up a Humvee door, it will be dinged and dented, but the people inside will be safe, and that's the important bit. If you shoot up a folded-up wing (as in the picture below), the people on the other side might be safe, but good luck getting any lift with that deformed airfoil.

The results, as you might imagine, are a little funny-lookin':

Like an Apache mated with a Pinto.

But hey, if it gets the job done, who cares? The A-10 isn't exactly glamorous, but it makes up for it by being indestructible and indispensable. As with many DARPA projects, it will be fascinating to see how this one turns out. Unlike what you may have seen in the newsreels of the '50s, though, it is unlikely even a successful vehicle will ever make its way onto civilian roads.

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