How Flying Humvees Will Work

The AVX TX on the ground
The AVX TX on the ground

The project name for the flying Humvee is Transformer, and some of the capabilities of the flying Humvee sound like they came out of the Transformer universe.

The most startling thing about the flying Humvee is the pilot: There won't be one. DARPA specifies that the flying Humvee be robotic. The Transformer will have wings that fold out of the roof and a foldable center rotor as well. A ductable fan on the back provides forward propulsion. Fuel for the Transformer will be stored in the wings.

Three main contractors are working on the flying Humvee: Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin and AAI Corp. Rocketdyne will create the engines and already makes jet and transport plane engines for the Airforce. Lockheed Martin is the largest defense contractor in the country. The main design comes from AAI.

Right now, designs are in the first phases. AAI has a $3 million contract from DARPA to cover feasibility studies, wing studies, propulsion, materials and flight controls. The first prototypes aren't expected until 2013 -- and those prototypes are expected to be partial prototypes. The full development phase is expected to cost $9 million. That's a pretty steep total for just the first phase of the project, which is has a total budget of $40 million.

Retractable wings, robot pilot, ability to fly 250 nautical miles (287.7 miles/463 kilometers) and drive on the ground like any other military vehicle. It sounds like science fiction, but if DARPA has its way, flying Humvees will be hitting war zones soon.

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