The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working to develop a “flying Humvee” that could be piloted by troops with about the same amount of training it takes to drive an armored truck.
A working prototype could be ready by 2015. In the weeks to come, DARPA is expected to turn to several defense companies for research, and some have already created conceptual designs. The Transformer would carry four combat-ready troops and equipment, totaling more than 1,000 pounds, according to DARPA. It would be able to fly and drive about 250 miles on a single tank and could take off and land vertically. It would also be capable of flying autonomously to a designated location.
The research could result in improvements to unmanned helicopters the Marine Corps is already developing. DARPA’s call for enclosed rotor blades could protect troops from rotors placed at human-height. Enclosed rotors also enhance the craft’s tilt-rotor capabilities making it more maneuverable.
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