DoD building "flying Humvee" dubbed Transformer

The United States Department of Defense has commissioned development of two possible flying transport vehicles intended to avoid roadside bombs.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us, conventional approaches to transportation are no longer going to cut it for our brave men and women.

The Department of Defense has already spent years researching and funding the development of vehicles aimed at replacing Humvees with much safer, specially designed transport vehicles that pay particular attention to minimizing the damage from roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices.

Now, as Fox News reports, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has chosen two companies based on the prototypes they submitted to be fully automated four-person transportation vehicles with the ability to take off and fly in an effort to avoid roadside bombs.

Before DARPA made any decisions, it welcome submissions from several companies to create a very forward thinking transport vehicle with vertical takeoff abilities. Interestingly, DARPA specifically stated going into the competition that it did not want rotary-wing aircraft, with only the slight chance it might accept one with a shrouded rotor. Despite that suggestion, one of the two prototypes it selected for further testing was in fact a rotor-based aircraft - without a shroud.

AAI, which produced Shadow, the concept vehicle utilizing an un-shrouded rotor, points out that it utilized a slowed-rotor concept instead of a conventional rotor. The idea of a slowed rotor is that the tips of the rotor are heavily weighted, which provides for the necessary lift during takeoff, but then relies on inertia once it gains speed - allowing for the lift creation to be transferred to the wings, and reducing fuel consumption.

The other creator chosen was Lockheed Martin, which has decided to stay mum about its submission, but according to Fox News, speculators believe the vehicle may combine aspects of the Joint Tactical Light Vehicle (one of the potential Humvee replacements mentioned earlier), along with a ducted propulsion system for flight capabilities.

Neither company has produced a full, working example as the project is still in its first stage, but the $40 million of available funding is expected to help development continue towards the creation of fully functional prototypes.

1.'Pentagon chooses two...' view