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The Military Transportation Technology

Roadable, Vertical-Takeoff Aircraft Is Eager To Hit the Battlefield 87

Zothecula writes "When someone mentions flying cars, it conjures up images of a sporty little number that takes to the air like something out of the Jetsons. But what about one that's a cross between a 4x4, an octocopter, and a blackhawk helicopter? That's what Advanced Tactics of El Segundo, California is seeing with its ambitions to produce a roadable VTOL aircraft capable of unmanned autonomous operations as a more flexible way to recover casualties, move supplies, and support special forces."
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Roadable, Vertical-Takeoff Aircraft Is Eager To Hit the Battlefield

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Your flying minivan isn't going to Afghanistan, sorry kid.

  • Quick impressions:
    first of all it's so butt ugly that nobody is going to keep a crosshair on it for long: good.
    I also notice that the rear wheels denote a higher load than the front wheels, either it's the engine department, or, more likely, a young official have invited another of the opposite sex there, eager to test "some aspects of the seating".

    • More amazing value from our taxpayer dollars...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Doesn't say anything about tax dollars. This looks like it's being privately developed, and all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.
        • all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.

          ie. They're after tax dollars.

        • all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.

          Nuh nuh! [advancedtacticsinc.com]

          • Weird how some of the props have a belt drive, and some look like they have a gearbox drive. The front and rear on the observers left in that picture are both big honkin' belt drive, but the two middle props have a gearbox.

            The crazy thing is, it's not even symmetrical... the front prop on the right is gearbox!

    • Just like helicoptors don't generate lift to fly but are actually repelled by the ground because they are so butt ugly.
    • Actually, "Damn that's ugly" was my first impression, but "That'd be easy to shoot down" was my second. Not so good.
    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      Um, yeah, that would be a proof of concept model, if you scroll past the first image the operational version will (if built) look a lot more "normal".

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      first of all it's so butt ugly that nobody is going to keep a crosshair on it for long: good

      I said the same thing about the Hummer, but those big, expensive, ugly as sin things are on the road. As well as the almost as ugly Jeep, which also was first a military vehicle.

      There's no accounting for taste.

  • Our enemies may claim disdain for death, but — with our technology — we can beat them to pulp despite being soft-bellied wussies. And some of us aren't quite so soft-bellied either...

  • Why not take an existing - proven - helicopter platform and attach features that would make the aircraft "roadable"?

    Most helicopters already have wheels & a steering mechanism. All they're missing is a small engine to drive the aircraft, upgraded suspension and a few other standard features that can probably be borrowed from an existing truck design.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because the rotors on traditional aircraft are just too darn big to work on a road.

      This thing will have the flyability of a hush puppy in a city. I've ridden in just about all of our military's heliocopters and this one is the one I'd least rather try out when bullets are flying.

      • Wide rotor = stability. Like track width on your car. This thing looks TIPPY!

        • We have computers these days. A helicopter is barely humanly flyable as it is, this is of course much more complicated, but we don't need people to control it with Bowden wires. If stability were an actual issue, the Nighthawk would never have gotten off the ground!
        • Only when you're talking rotor(s) on a single longitudinal axis. The side-by-side design of the octo-rotor should eliminate at least that problem.

          That being said, you might get me to ride in it for a demonstration flight. You'd never get me in it going into a live fire situation.
    • by Kelbear ( 870538 )

      I think that's mainly because that'd be someone else's platform. These guys can't sell it.

      Looks like they're trying to make a very small helicopter, with a very small overhead outline to avoid getting blades stuck on things when they land, and when they drive in farther to the position of the wounded.

      Does anyone know if folding blades would have worked just as well as using 6 smaller rotors? What is the trade-off in reliability & performance between folding blades vs. multiple small rotors?

      • by Kelbear ( 870538 )

        I looked at the image gallery, it's actually 8 rotors.

      • Folding blades or aligning blades along the center axis takes time. Since this is touted for medevac uses you want something that can get in and out of small spaces quickly. I'm interested to see its flying stability.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        The reason why most of the drones are multi-rotor is that it's easier to keep them stable.

      • If they use this concept for a vehicle that can occasionally 'hop' over obstructions in its path, then it might be useful in certain scenarios. Its less intriguing as a copter that can drive on the ground.
    • They're likely top-heavy, and poorly balanced, especially for off-road operations.

      • You forgot with no Armor. That thing won't stop more than five bullets before it comes crash down to earth.

        • Well, it's not like helicopters have the resilience of battleships, either. I'd imagine this device is designed to operate as a connection between the front and the rear, not for continuous operation ON the front. In many scenarios, the vulnerability may well be limited. (Also, I recall the early medevac helicopters having no armor as well. Did anyone reject them from service for that reason?)
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      skids dont taxi on the ground, but 3-7 feet up.
      but even among the wheeled variety many of them lack actual direct steering control of the nose/tail wheel, and instead rely on the tail rotor for ground steering. a few do have a steerable wheel, but they are the exception; for many types the wheel simply casters, especially in taildraggers. youll find it more on the larger birds, like the CH53 and Chinook, though in the Chinooks case, IIRC, only one tail wheel is steerable, and the other casters, though I don

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        addendum: forgot to add that sometimes the bird is simply steered on the ground through differential braking of the main wheels rather than direct control of the nose/tail wheel.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Keeping eight engines up to spec per vehicle, sounds like one big headache

    • On the other hand, the engines seem to be more accessible than on an ordinary helicopter, and with identical units, perhaps replacements could be much faster.
      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        With eight motors, if the control software is done correctly they should be able to compensate for the failure/destruction of one or two as long as they aren't next to each other.

  • by fructose ( 948996 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:42PM (#45918455) Homepage
    This is the first roadable aircraft that looks like it could work. No fancy linkages to have one motor run it all, or spiffy folding wings or anything that hasn't been created yet. This actually has demonstrated technologies behind it and looks like it's much further along that a pretty 3D rendering. Even if the UAV portion doesn't work, this application could be useful in more than just the battlefield. This could be used for civilian medivac or other urgent situation where a suitable landing location is easily accessible.
    • I was thinking it would be the perfect platform for Google's self-driving vehicle technology.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lol, what a joke. You have no idea what is useful in a battlefield, these would be expensive wreckage after 1-2 rounds from a kalashnikov.

      • Lol, what a joke. You have no idea what is useful in a battlefield, these would be expensive wreckage after 1-2 rounds from a kalashnikov.

        Guess what? The sad truth is that already applies to most helicopters, yet we still use lots of them. We just don't use them in the thick of combat, one or two aside. They serve support roles, where they don't have to try to dodge a lot of bullets.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:43PM (#45918471)

    All the speed, agility and quite of a large, fully-laden truck combined with speed, agility and quiet of a large, fully-laden helio...

  • Change this to use dual, counter-rotating ducted fans around the perimeter, aerodynamicize the shape, and you've got the Moller Air-Car!

    Well, except that this one appears to be something that could actually become airborne in the foreseeable future.

  • ..its a drone on PEDs!

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:56PM (#45918581) Homepage

    I stopped reading not too far in when I encountered this little gem of stupidity; The trouble is, helicopters can only land in nice, big open areas that can be miles from where they're needed..

    Um, not quite. Military helicopter pilots are trained to land in spaces much smaller than you might think possible. Military helicopters are also equipped with winches - they don't need to land.

    This [youtube.com] is an extreme example - but it should give you the general idea. Sadly, the video is missing the most interesting part - the helicopter flying blind and *backwards* out of the narrow part of the canyon.

    • Hey, I think I've probably as much experience behind the stick as the article's author. Therefore, I can speak on this subject with internet levels of authority. In my experience, if you don't have a big, open area to land, you've just got to tell your crew to bail out and then do so yourself. The helo generally has enough momentum to avoid landing on you and all you need to do is deploy your parachute and you'll land safely.

      At that point, you've destroyed your ride but a new one will spawn at base. The i

    • This one is pretty good too:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08K_aEajzNA [youtube.com]

      No landing but it is still pretty impressive.
  • If the priority is evacuating injured soldiers from the front line, I would be concerned about this vehicle's ability to navigate narrow roads. We have a lot of warfare taking place in urban environments and your evacuation technology is only as good as its ability to get out of a given situation.
  • For the life of me I can't imagine any situation where a VTOL would need to be roadable. Maybe for Taco Bell?
    • For the life of me I can't imagine any situation where a VTOL would need to be roadable.

      Well, did you read the whole 3rd sentence of the summary?

      as a more flexible way to recover casualties, move supplies, and support special forces.

      Nobody is asking you to imagine anything.

      Surprisingly, there's even more in the actual article.

      • It's NOT more flexible, except in hairball wacko scenarios that never happen in reality.

        A UH-60 or a OH-6 have better range, better speed, much better maneuverability, and either higher cargo capacity or radically more nimble. And saying these things could be used as a UAV is completely brain-dead - they're so slow and vulnerable that they'd never survive in a hostile environment. At least helicopters have the speed and maneuverability for quick insert and retrieval missions.

        And if you think helicopters

        • It's NOT more flexible, except in hairball wacko scenarios that never happen in reality.

          I never said it was, nor am I defending the notion of this.

          GP expressed an inability to imagine what this was for. I pointed out that TFS explicitly stated what it was for.

          I have no idea about the practicality of this or how often these scenarios come up. I've never had to evac wounded under fire, because, thankfully, it's not in my job description. :-P

          Me, I figure you shoot big, and aim for what they had in Aliens --

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Harrier VTOL Jet as used by the USMC can only take off vertically with a reduced fuel and weapons payload. The aircraft was deployed in a forward support role using roads as runways. It could land vertically with it's nose pointing in the right direction for takeoff after refuelling and re-arming.
      I would imagine that this device would fulfill a similar role.

      I worked on the USMC Harrier flight testing in the UK back in the 1970's. I also saw it in operation in W. Germany.

  • I'm thinking mauve. Definitely mauve. All leather interiors too. Because, freedom!
  • A terrible idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:08PM (#45918701)

    These mish-mash flying cars always offer nothing but the worst of both worlds. This thing, like other similar concepts in the past, is not robust enough to make a proper ground vehicle. This is worse because it's intended to go off-road and needs to be armored. But it's inescapable that those two aspects will be compromised to ensure it can get airborne. And the compromises go in both directions, because as an aircraft it will be slow and clumsy.

    What does purpose does this thing even serve that isn't already better filled by a helicopter? If a ground vehicle is necessary for a mission there are already numerous ways to deliver and retrieve them using a variety of aircraft. I also recall reading that someone is working on a sort of airframe that mates up to an armored vehicle for transport and separates upon delivery. That seems like a far smarter idea than this.

    And since when is "roadable" a word? It always comes off as a pathetic attempt to legitimize a concept; the idea that something is so new and so awesome they had to make up a new term.

  • Matching a naturally slowing moving, low agile ground system (it's a large brick) to a naturally unstable, lots of moving parts flight system.

    I'm in!

    (There's a reason by single bladed copters are still the best choice... they are naturally stable).

    • (There's a reason by single bladed copters are still the best choice... they are naturally stable).

      You're a lot better off landing on 2/4 engines (if one fails, you'll have at least one opposing pair) in a quad than on 0/1 engines in a heli. Or better yet, you could have eight engines, and still function on six. And quads are very stable.

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    OK it's not April 1st, so....

  • I see 8 turbines on a vehicle about the size of a large pickup truck. I'm guessing its range might be length of a football field...
  • A child of the V-22 Osprey with horrible birth defects.
  • by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @02:41AM (#45924571) Journal
    This is pretty much the future of where helicopter technology is going to go, I think. Eight small propellers are way cheaper and simpler than one huge complex rotor system. The main downside is no autorotation in the case of engine failure (maybe a back-up parachute will be the solution).

    Also the eight engines will probably be replaced by a single or pair of turbines driving generators and then eight small motors will used to drive the propellers/rotors. That reduces complexity and allows the rotors to be controlled electrically/electronically for precise control.
  • Fuck war, fuck the people that start wars.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun