The Transformer TX



Recent conflicts have highlighted the need to move troops, supplies and vehicles rapidly in difficult terrain where threats exist on roads or other conventional transport routes. To address this, DARPA has begun the Transformer programme, aimed at producing a high speed, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) delivery system. Initially intended to produce an air and ground vehicle that could carry four personnel by road or by air, the project has been redefined to develop a common compact lift and flight element able to carry different payload modules for use in a variety of missions. These modules can be cargo or medical pods, a ground vehicle, a troop carrier or an armed scout with reconnaissance and strike capabilities. Using rotating ducted fans, the vehicle will be faster than a helicopter and require smaller landing areas, as well as being safer to operate. The lifting element of the system is to be able to fly automatically to deliver its pod or vehicle to where they are needed and then return to base. The small size of the system was originally dictated by the need to be able to drive the vehicle element on a one lane road, but this also means it can fit into a C-130. To develop the system, the Skunk Works teamed with the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation and Ricardo, Inc in 2010, winning a contract for the third phase of the design project in 2012. After an assessment, the decision to go ahead with a prototype will be made with a view to flying it in 2015.



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