AAI Wins DARPA Flying-Jeep Study

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

It’s hard to imagine a more preposterous vehicle than the flying-jeep AAI has proposed to build for DARPA’s Transformer Vehicle (TX) program — but the technical details sound borderline plausible:

AAI’s design is based on the slowed-rotor/compound (SR/C) helicopter technology being developed jointly with Cartercopter. SR/C is essentially an autogyro in which the rotor can be slowed as forward speed increases, offloading lift to the wing to allow the vehicle to fly faster than a conventional helicopter.

In AAI’s concept, the TX converts from vehicle to aircraft by raising the rotor mast, unfolding the blades and deploying the wing. The turboprop engine spools up the high-inertia rotor for a jump takeoff then drives a ducted propulsor for forward flight. Thrust deflectors, stabilators and ailerons provide flight control. On the ground, the turboprop generates electricity to drive in-wheel motors.

Takeoff and landing would be automated, using AAI’s unmanned-aircraft experience. In the cruise, the driver would use the wheel, pedals and gear lever to follow “highway-in-the-sky” guidance cues.

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