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The Military Transportation Technology

DARPA Kick-Starts Flying Car Program 136

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the finally-someone-makes-good dept.
coondoggie writes to share that DARPA is finally trying to make good on the promise of flying cars for our future with the new "Transformer" (TX) project. "DARPA said the vehicle will need to be able to drive on prepared surface and light off-road conditions, as well as support Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) features. The TX will also support range and speed efficiencies that will allow for missions to be performed on a single tank of fuel. DARPA said the TX will 'provide the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats by providing the operator unimpeded movement over difficult terrain. In addition, transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable.'"
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DARPA Kick-Starts Flying Car Program

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  • by migla (1099771) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:13PM (#30647160)

    Darpa schmarpa!

    Whatever happened to that DARPANET they used to have? Losers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162)

      This will probably be something that's only for military use of some kind.

      But I doubt that they can get decent economy from it. The fuel consumption of air cars is one big disadvantage - and the ability to carry a decent payload another.

      They would better research antigravity first.

      • by GooberToo (74388) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:38PM (#30647506)

        Many small aircraft get as good, if not better, than many SUVs and at 2-3 times the speed while carrying one to four people and a small amount of luggage.

        The only hard part of the requirements is that it be a VTOL aircraft which will significantly affect the design, performance, and practicality. If they changed their requirements from VTOL to STOL of less than 1000 feet, the designs are likely to offer vastly superior capabilities.

        • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:37PM (#30648232) Journal
          No kidding. The KR2 [fly-kr.com] can do 180 mph at 50 miles per gallon. Of course, it does this by having the internal volume of a refrigerator rather than a bathroom, like most SUV's.

          The ADI Stallion homebuilt [aircraftdesigns.com] is more efficient than a 747, as regards fuel spent per person carried, and if you're willing to only carry 2 people rather than 6, you can take along a motorcycle as well, at 230mph, while still using less gas than many larger SUV's.

          However, for the VTOL demands, maybe they should consider an autogyro with a prerotator like the Carter Copter [wikipedia.org] or several others, that can manage vertical takeoff and landing (and has the happy side-effect that it flies the same after an engine failure as before, except its climbing capability is severely limited.)

          • by yabos (719499)
            Of course, that Stallion costs $220,800.00 before you even consider the cost of putting it together such as your time and tools required. Don't get me wrong, it looks pretty nice and I'm a pilot myself but aviation has a long way to come down in price to where it's affordable to replace your car with new plane.
            • The military can spend that much money on a single missile [wikipedia.org] so I guess that would not be a problem.
              • by GooberToo (74388)

                How about the Phoenix Missile [wikipedia.org] which most recently had a unit cost of $477,131. When it was first introduced, its unit cost was ~$1,000,000 per and that was in 1974 dollars. It was quite the technological marvel when first introduced. The missile is no longer manufactured.

        • Many small aircraft get as good, if not better, than many SUVs and at 2-3 times the speed while carrying one to four people and a small amount of luggage.

          And comparing an auto from the edge of the bell curve is useful how? (Doubly so when the aircraft compared to has a fraction of the capacity and capability.)

          • by GooberToo (74388)

            And comparing an auto from the edge of the bell curve is useful how

            When a vehicle represents the majority of vehicles on the road in regards to fuel economy, its far, far from being at the edge. Furthermore, you failed to read the 2-3 times the speed. Which means, at the same speeds, you get drastically better economy. As for "a fraction of the capacity and and capability", is actually very funny as the VAST majority of SUVs carry a single occupant, never leave paved roads, never tow anything, and never come close to filling their cargo capacity. Meaning they are themselve

            • I stopped reading when it became obvious that your comparison is based on bias, handwaving, and smokescreens. Thus plainly, though indirectly, answering my question.

              • by GooberToo (74388)

                Now stating facts constitutes, "comparison based on bias, handwaving, and smokescreens." Holy shit are you stupid.

                The sad fact is, which was plainly obvious from your initial post, you're incredibly ignorant and closed minded of the world around you. Go bother to learn some more about anything before you post further. Seriously. Hell, almost everything I stated has been covered multiple times on slashdot alone over the last many years.

                Are you even aware car companies have recently gone out of business? You

        • I would think that an SUV would get way better gas mileage than a typical 747.
      • by sentientbeing (688713) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:38PM (#30647514)
        Youre right. These flying cars will never take off.
        • by Megane (129182)

          Just wait until we get a Mr. Fusion.

          (posting because I fumbled my moderation from Funny to Overrated - one chance pop-up menus suck)

          • (posting because I fumbled my moderation from Funny to Overrated - one chance pop-up menus suck)

            Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the mods you make only take effect once you scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and click "Moderate?" I've seen folks post to undo erroneous moderation like the parent has done and always wondered about this. Do they choose to mod something "informative," scroll down, click "moderate," and then realize they should have modded the post "troll?"

            Or is it as
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              No, if you set the right clickees in preferences, mods take effect as soon as you slide off the mod menu.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              I sometimes find I select something - and the drop-down box is still selected as I try to scroll down with my mouse wheel - which scrolls the drop down box instead of the screen. I don't always notice that that is what happened until I have confirmed it.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        An "aircar" version of a HMMWV (aka "Humvee" or "Hummer") might be an interesting vehicle, and would have some tactical applications in terms of inserting some soldiers or marines at a critical location or to redistribute firepower during critical situations. Flying over improvised bombs and landmines might also have a practical side effect of rendering those kinds of attacks as an obsolete tactic.

        So yeah, I can see a legitimate military application for this kind of vehicle.

        As for civilian versions, I don'

      • Arpanet was slow, incredibly laggy, incapable of supporting a huge userbase, and as a result, impractical except in limited military and large-scale academic applications. It was largely ignored by the general public, and was of little value to society at large. It became the internet.

        The original GPS system was horrifically expensive, and had a large enough margin of error that it was mainly used for coordinating naval fleets, where being a few hundred feet off course generally wasn't an issue in the middl

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arancaytar (966377)

        This will probably be something that's only for military use of some kind.

        Unlike cryptology, digital computers and the internet? Steel? Military applications have driven innovation for--- well, forever really.

        The depressing thing about human nature is that if we weren't always busy coming up with more efficient ways to kill each other, technology might be advancing far more slowly.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Actually, any large RnD effort will produce new items. Many new technologies came uout of Apollo, and many came out of Xerox.
          You need a goal and cash.

          Medical technology has jump considerably in the civilian side. The military is NOT the only force driving innovation, there just a powerful one.

    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      Whatever happened to that DARPANET they used to have? Losers.

      Offtopic? That's funny, and the mod wouldn't be able to moderate it if it wasn't on topic.

      • It's off topic because there was no such thing as DARPANET. There used to be an ARPANET, which was one of the first networks that was connected to the fledgling Internet a little while after ARPA was renamed DARPA (for the first time, they were then renamed ARPA and then DARPA again).
  • Or is it still Real Soon Now?

    ObXKCD [xkcd.com]

    • Moller has faced some health issues in the past few years that slowed down development, the company was facing financial crises and they were shifting to selling their rotary engine as a power supply for hybrid vehicles...

      At least that was what the scoop when I got curious last summer.

      From what I se there is a new web site and (maybe) some movement on financing, anybody out there got the real story?

      • by Rei (128717)

        Past few years?

        I was a fan of them back when I was in college in the late 90s. I stopped paying attention when they proved themselves incapable of moving beyond the prototype stage. Neat concept, but not a very capable company.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:18PM (#30647226) Journal

    Can't they put a starter motor in the thing? I'd hate to have to get out, kick-start the thing, and have it fly away; that'd be almost as bad as having an old crank-start car trying to run you over.

  • They want a fast roadable vehicle that does VTOL and long-distance all on a single tank of gas?

    How much does the grant include for the development of unobtanium-powered engines?

    Or have they finally waterboarded the Little Green Men at Area 51 sufficiently to reveal how to distill two-headed Martial Elvis babies into flying saucer fuel, and this is just the setup for the cover story preceding the public unveiling?

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Welcome to civilization, where "unsolvable" problems are tackled with technology, ingenuity, and a desire for human progress.

      Oh, never mind. This is 21st Century America, where nothing is possible, and every dollar not spent on weapons technology, luxury goods, or puerile entertainment is "wasted." I keep forgetting.

      This nonsense from the same bastards that said we could build a worldwide computer network that may change the world as we know it, and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars developing it. Moro

      • You miss my point.

        I’m all for advancements and the research necessary to bring them about.

        At least TFS, though, describes a vehicle that is physically impossible with modern engine technology.

        VTOL takes vast amounts of energy. High-speed and long-range travel takes lots of energy. Roadable vehicles, flyable vehicles, and VTOL vehicles all demand significantly different efficiency compromises.

        Demanding a single vehicle that meets all their requirements means coming up with something that will need a p

        • by rwa2 (4391) *

          Heh, TFA mentions that they're looking for hybrid electric engines and advanced batteries, among other things.

          My prediction is that the group that wins the competition will use some sort of deployable hot-air balloon to achieve "VTOL".

          I only have until January 7th to register for their poster session? Aw, nuts :P

        • The description really is for a flying saucer, and it will — of necessity — need an equally-fantastic motor. Without that motor, nobody’ll even make it out of the parking lot.

          Actually, I thought that most of the requirements mentioned in the summary could probably be met by a hovercraft...

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Unobtanium is gotten from Big Blue Men [imdb.com] not Little Green Men. (BTW, it comes from a group of Big Blue Men, not the Blue Man Group [blueman.com].)

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The want computers to be interconnected across the world and information shared? Crazy talk.
      You lack imagination.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:37PM (#30647498)

    One of the first tags on this story was "fixtheeconomyfirst"... but the core problem in our economy is that the dichotomy between wealthy investors and owner calss, and the mass of stagnant income earner class who mostly provide service to eachother and the wealthy. Flashy inefficient technology like these are about all we can do at this point to get anything out of the currently rather sheepish investors/owners. Our political system will NOT be fixing this situation anytime soon - not when money spent on campaigns is considered "political speech", and corporations are counted as people for those related rights.

    Still, if most golden-parachute equipped managers can be convinced to sign a bankruptcy inducing contract just because one of these things are SO flying-car-smexy, and they can only get it through these government channels fully equipped to extract that money - then there's a chance to reduce their political power. And that WOULD fix the economy, in a roundabout way.

    Not going to happen - but like with cheap flying cars, one can always dream.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by Tsar (536185) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:39PM (#30647520) Homepage Journal
    HumVTOL.
  • From the Project Conference Description [fbo.gov]:

    The workshop will: (a) Introduce the research community (industry, academia, and Government) to the TX program vision and objectives;

    So who wants to start a pool on which agencies/industry power hitters make the biggest contributions? Lockheed Martin has a great military aircraft record but Boeing seems to work magic in the advanced controls systems. Personally I would put my money on Northrop Gruman or some university coming up with the most significant design contributions. Both of those sources have quite the tenacity for half-crazed cutting edge ideas that the government loves to gobble up.

    • by radtea (464814)

      Both of those sources have quite the tenacity for half-crazed cutting edge ideas that the government loves to gobble up.

      Cutting edge? Apparently the flying car has been "promised" by someone for fifty years, although I'm damned if I can figure out who made this promise or when or to whom.

      No one ever promised me a flying car, so I guess I'm just not special!

  • no, no no (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kehren77 (814078)

    We don't need flying cars. Flying cars = Falling cars. Add in volatile fuel and you have bombs. What they need to work on is a car that will hover about 2-3 feet above the ground. A hover car would eliminate the need for paved roads, road maintenance, bridges, bridge maintenance, etc... You just need lane guides and median dividers.

    • Throw in the idiot/jerk factor too. With how people drive today on roads, some drivers can't stay within 2 dimensions of the road. Imagine what craziness will ensue when another dimension is added for them to recklessly traverse.
    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:55PM (#30647748)

      We don't need flying cars. Flying cars = Falling cars. Add in volatile fuel and you have bombs.

      So, who is going to perform the security search before I leave for work in a flying car? Does the TSA come to my house every morning, or does my wife get to strip search me? And can I be checked before I put on my shoes, or do I have to put them on, then take them off, and then put them on again?

      And if I bring a cup of coffee, does it have to be smaller than 3.4 ounces??

      • So, who is going to perform the security search before I leave for work in a flying car?

        Who does the security search before you fly an airplane that you own, instead of a commercial airliner?

        I suspect the answer will be the same.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Does the TSA come to my house every morning, or does my wife get to strip search me?

        Well, your wife already strip searches me after you leave for work.

      • Will you be able to take box cutters and mercury thermometers on your own aircraft? I would think not carrying the latter would fall under "self preservation" but I'm unlikely to hijack my own skycar and redirect myself to a destination I don't want to go to.

        Unless I'm forced into another Christmas at my mother-in-law's...
    • We don't need flying cars. Flying cars = Falling cars. Add in volatile fuel and you have bombs. What they need to work on is a car that will hover about 2-3 feet above the ground. A hover car would eliminate the need for paved roads, road maintenance, bridges, bridge maintenance, etc...

      Assuming the car actually moves parallel to the ground while above it, that's a low-altitude flying car. Hovering doesn't get you anywhere except off the ground.

      • Hovercars would be immune to icy roads too....

        But they would always drive as if they were on an icy road all of the time.....

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      I don't think so. Hover cars are by necessity going to be supported on a pillar of high pressure air. That will turn a dirt road into a dust storm, water into spray and gravel into high speed projectiles. Add to that, the difficulty in steering and braking when you don't have contact with the surface and you will see that hover cars are a no go.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:49PM (#30647648) Homepage

    It's all fun and games till numb-nuts ram flying crafts into a buildings. Oh wait...

  • No real military use for this thing.

    If you see it, you can kill it, with RPGs or whatever, so hovering in the air merely increases the range from which it can be struck.

    Then there are no current levitation systems that don't involve massive airflow, making a huge dust cloud (also ingesting all kinds of junk into the engines)

    Then they mention "asymmetric threats" because everyone knows that guarantees grant money, but in my opinion using a levitating APC or whatever in the middle east would be fairly suicida

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      If you can't see the military use for a humvee that can jump a ditch you've got the worst case of failure of imagination ever known. Please report to IBM for recruitment.

    • No real military use for this thing.

      If you see it, you can kill it, with RPGs or whatever, so hovering in the air merely increases the range from which it can be struck.

      Being able to easily pop up from the ground is better, from that respect, from being able to pop up from NOE flight, so there is a respect that a VTOL craft that can move well on roads and do light off-road work could be better than, say, a helicopter (which is very poor at moving on the ground.)

      On the other hand, being able to move at high

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Huh? Helicopters are already in wide use in Afghanistan, in fact there's been quite a flap in the UK recently over the shortage of helicopters [defensenews.com] there.

      IMHO whatever comes from this DARPA program will inevitably be a more roadworthy helicopter, which may or may not end up having enough advantages over existing helicopters. But to slam it simply because it won't be invisible is just silly.

    • If you see it, you can kill it, with RPGs or whatever, so hovering in the air merely increases the range from which it can be struck.

      Then there are no current levitation systems that don't involve massive airflow, making a huge dust cloud (also ingesting all kinds of junk into the engines)

      Seems to me all that dust would make it kinda hard to see!

    • I'd venture a guess that the whole reason this is being researched by DARPA is because of the high number of casualties caused by roadside bombs. If an insurgent enemy knows that you must transport personnel and materiel via existing roads, it makes it easy to target you without being seen. The US wants an engagement where they know where the enemy is. The US doesn't want an engagement where the enemy knows where they are (i.e., on the road) but the enemy can himself remain hidden while inflicting damage.

      If

  • Want to bet that this will lead to a whole new section of Darwin Awards?

  • If it's a VTOL vehicle, why the need for roads?
    • Doc Brown said they wouldn't need roads where they were going, but if they had been going somewhere else they would have needed roads.

  • Concrete puts out a lot of CO2, both making it, mixing it and hauling it, and as it decomposes. If we had flying cars we would not need concrete for roads so we could factor that in to the flying cars carbon footprint. I can't wait to get mine.

  • Flying cars are a really bad idea.
    The vast majority of drivers are failing in 2D.
    Add another dimension to fail in and the problem explodes.
    I also don't want them over my house, land, pastures.
    Costs and fuel consumption will hopefully kill this dead.

    • The vast majority of drivers are failing in 2D.

      Please explain the sense of "failing" for which this is true even for a bare majority of drivers, much less a "vast" majority.

  • I recommend not living or working in any high rise buildings after flying cars are mainstreamed....

    Here comes Mr. Alluh Fubar in an Aerial Audi.

    Duck and Cover

  • I say just slap a 6 wheel chassis under an Osprey. I mean that conversion will cost less than converting a HUMVEE right? And the wings and blades of the Osprey fold down anyway. I can't imagine the Osprey being any bigger and bulkier than an MRAP or another one of those mine resistant vehicles.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      I say just slap a 6 wheel chassis under an Osprey.

      The problem with that is that highly trained Marine pilots struggle to fly the Osprey. How do you expect the average redneck to do it whilst on their mobile phone and fiddling with their stereo.

  • by sc0p3 (972992)
    There is no way a flying car can use a reasonable amount of energy. Giving this to all the civilians in the US will cripple the environment for certain. The US should give money to DARPA - but why not instead something a little more holistic, low cost energy (limit the need for resource-competition, avoid the "war" problems in the first place)
  • Unless you are wearing camos with bars on the shoulders, I don't think DARPA is funding this for YOUR future!
  • by mugnyte (203225)

    The initial momentum vertically is the highest energy requirement, which severely limits payload as energy storage becomes a huge issue. Large fan blades are probably not possible as well.

        Perhaps a spring or hydraulic based jump-start system (undercarriage paddles?) could enable a vehicle to begin large hops while engaging a ducted fan system that doesn't give full lift, but can slow a landing. For full flight, I suspect a folded wing system of some kind will be necessary.

  • ... provide the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats ...

    Excellent, it's being prepared to handle South Australian drivers then. Sweet.

  • TFA also reported they're building a submersible airplane. I suppose that'll be useful to visit our underwater cities. (No, I don't mean New Orleans!)

    --Greg

  • "Only thirty-nine, nine-ninety-nine, ninety-five."

    Remember when that sounded like a lot of money for a flying car?

  • Are flying cars even feasible? The energy required to push a car forward is nothing compared to the energy needed to keep it in the air. Even if flying cars are developed, their not going to be economical until we get past the energy crisis.

  • That's a quote from and the theme of "Flying Platforms and Jeeps" http://www.vectorsite.net/avplatfm.html [vectorsite.net] all PD and referenced material on VTOL air/ground craft from 1950s to present. No, these weren't just a 50s and 60s fad. The last military oriented program was running in 2002. There have been greater and lesser successes within the class, but none have been successful compared to other vehicle types. When they compete with say, helos or hovercraft, they're just too inefficient. The amount of power it t

  • by kenp2002 (545495)

    If I run out of gas in my car, it stalls and slows down to a stop which I can pull off to the side of the road.

    When I run out of gas in my sky car and it stalls... err wait...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Wheh you are low on gas it starts an automated decent.

      • by kenp2002 (545495)

        Wheh you are low on gas it starts an automated decent.

        The problem is what is below you may not be convienent to land on like, other cars, people, houses, lakes, small churches, zoos, methodists, and forests. A road tends to physically constrain a vechicles options to the road, a shoulder, and occasionally a ditch...

        Flying has too many issues for it to ever become a reality. There is a reason we train pilots to such a degree compared to a driver's license.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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