Transformer Concept Art from Textron Systems
Marine Corps are more interested in advances research might bring in unmanned helicopter design

DARPA funds numerous research projects and some of them sound like science fiction more than a product that could see reality. One of the more interesting projects that DARPA has talked about in the past year or so is the Transformer flying car. The idea behind the Transformer is that the soldiers could fly the vehicle over IEDs and rough terrain to make insertions into combat zones.

DARPA expects the flying Humvee to be piloted by troops with about the same amount of training that it takes to drive an armored vehicle. The basic premise of the vehicle is to take a Humvee that is lightened for flight and equip it with a rotor system to allow quick vertical takeoff and landings.
Defense News reports that in the weeks to come, DARPA will turn the Transformer idea over to several defense contractors for research.

The Transformer would have to be able to carry four combat ready soldiers and over 1,000 pounds of gear into battle. The car is expected to have a range of 250 miles when flying or driving on a single tank of fuel. One interesting aspect of the vehicle is that it would have automated flight capabilities as well. Using the automated flight capability, the flying Humvee could be sent to remote field locations with supplies offering the soldiers the gear and transportation they need for an objective.

The need to lighten the vehicle for flight would mean less armor. DARPA states that the vehicle would be able to stop most small arms fire and the reduction in armor would be offset by the ability to fly over IEDs and bombs.

Officials with the U.S. Marine core state that they are more interested in how the research into a flying Humvee might help unmanned helicopters they are developing more than they are interested in the flying car. James Lasswell, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said, "The idea of having a flying car is interesting, but that is kind of a gee-whiz kind of thing."

DARPA first announced the Transformer program in January 2010.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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