DARPA unveils details of Transformer TX flying car

mines, booby-traps, and roadside bombs which typically encircle such bases. It would then carry out a 100-mile patrol on the ground, enabling its occupants to stop and talk to people, set up checkpoints, etc., before hopping back across the minefields to its base.


Other mission plans would see TXs flying themselves ashore from ships at sea, carrying out medical evacuations, or stealthily re-supplying covert special-operations teams by landing and driving the last part of the route. DARPA specifies that the TX should be “at least as quiet as a conventional automobile” when driven on the ground and as quiet as “a single engine helicopter in flight mode.”

Page writes that DARPA projects need to be at least nominally aimed at fulfilling a military task for one of the U.S. armed forces, and in this case the need for which TX is said to be an answer is the U.S. Marines’ recent concept of Enhanced Company Operations, or ECO. The Marines are typically more open-minded about innovative hover aircraft concepts than the other U.S. services — they have been a major force in the development of jump jets like the Harrier and the F-35B, and are the primary users of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor — so they are probably a good fit for this, Page notes.

The idea of ECO is to let rifle companies (see below) operate more independently by giving them more of the tools normally found attached to larger formations like battalions and above. This can make sense in modern wars in which a company commander and his people may find themselves far from their battalion/battle-group HQ and its specialist supporting units, yet responsible for a big area.

Page notes that previous ECO initiatives have given U.S. Marine company commanders their own intelligence cells, and let units as small as squads have over-the-horizon communications, close air support, and other things which would normally be found only at bigger headquarters.

ECO proponents would also like a Marine company to be able to have its own air mobility, in particular for logistics and casualty handling and for such purposes as moving from ships to shore. “So far this sort of thing has always been done using helicopters and Ospreys, but by their nature these machines can’t really be company-level equipment: they are huge and manpower-intensive, such that a detachment of a few choppers would often be accompanied by more personnel than