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Transformer Flying Car Program Takes Off

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On: Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 6:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Transformer Flying Car Program Takes Off

Is our long wait finally coming to an end? Will we really get a glimpse at a genuine practical flying car? If the United States Department of Defense has their way we certainly will. Yes, that would be the U.S. Department of Defense, or more specifically, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, who would like nothing more than to have a flying car in their arsenal of combat vehicles. Last April, DARPA put out the call for a sturdy off-road type of vehicle that can carry up to four passengers and, oh, by the way, it has to fly. They referred to their mission as “terrain-independent mobility with full flight capabilities for a vertical takeoff and landing,” translated: “Give us a flying Humvee.”

Many fanciful out-of-the-box designers answered the call. First out of the gate was the Maryland-based AAI Corporation which was awarded a $3.05 million DARPA grant to bring its hybrid wing/rotor Transformer vehicle from the drawing board to the driveway. That award opened the proverbial flying car floodgates. Lockheed Martin got into the act and won its own grant to work up an alternative Transformer design. Then jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne got a $1 million check to develop a lightweight diesel engine that can provide the power for the Transformers. Right now, DARPA has a development budget of $54 million they are willing to sink into these off-off road vehicles. Yes, they are serious and, yes, they are calling them Transformers.

Every since Jules Verne began writing stories of wild inventions, the idea of flying cars latched on to the imagination. “Today events in the realm of aviation are tumbling along at such a pace that we can almost imagine ourselves spending next summer’s vacation touring the air roads.” That came from a 1926 issue of Popular Science magazine.

Movies and television came along and decided that any type of future would mean there would be flying cars. Basically, flying cars have been a part of our reality for some time, at least, in the world of fantasy. That was then.

Now, with the attention on the development of DARPA’s Transformer, could we really be on the verge of seeing flying cars hovering over our highways and byways. Just remember where the Humvee came from. That sturdy SUV was built for combat. Once American consumers got their first look, they just had to have one. Adaptations were made and the commercial version of the Humvee began popping up everywhere. Bottom line: keep your eyes on the sky!


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