The US Army is working on a flying car. It wants a vehicle that's as rugged as a four-wheel-drive Humvee when on the ground, but as agile and flexible as a helicopter when in the air.
The concept, known as the Transformer or TX, is the brainchild of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who will invest £41m and enlist the help of a variety of military hardware firms to bring it to life.
The most interesting of these partners is, arguably, Terrafugia, makers of the Transition flying car. Unlike the Transition, however, the Transformer won't need a runway to get airborne. It'll use a set of rotor blades for vertical take-off and landing, as well as fold-out wings for stability, meaning it'll work very much like a helicopter. It'll be powered in flight by a Turboshaft engine.
The advantage the TX has over a chopper, is that it'll also work like a proper armoured vehicle when on the road. Like Humvees, it uses composite armour to protect against gunfire, blasts from improvised explosive devices and missile strikes. Unlike Humvees, though, it'll be powered by four in-wheel motors and a battery pack that allows it to cruise over a variety of hostile terrain in near silence. A long-stroke, high-energy suspension system enables it to go off the beaten track.
The Transformer should provide numerous benefits over existing vehicles. Most notably, it could make the Army's movements less predictable, as transportation will no longer be restricted to existing car-friendly terrain. It could also reduce the need to transport ground vehicles to remote locations via helicopter. The Transformer could fly over chasms and other previously impassable areas before resuming ground mission on the other side.
The Transformer is said to have a 27-foot wingspan, maximum ground and air speeds of 65mph and 150mph respectively, a range of 280 miles and can be armed with machine guns and cannons. It's estimated to cost in the region of £130,000 and is said to be on track for a 2015 launch.
Click 'next' to see another image in our photo gallery.