Military-style flying car venture geared for take off

One week those daring DARPA know-it-alls want a submersible airplane, the next, a car that can fly. That's right, taking another page from the James Bond wannabe files, DARPA this week said they are looking to develop what it called a personal air vehicle that could transport 2 to 4 personnel either by driving on roads or flying. The agency said such a craft would be ideal for military scouting and personnel transport missions.

To add a little more pizzazz to the project, DARPA said the machine should also have a vertical take-off capability and that it would need a "morphing wing" that could rapidly retract or deploy. The main idea being that the machine wouldn't be restricted to prepared surfaces for the most military utility.

DARPA went on to say the personal air vehicle needs to be able to fly for 2 hours, carry 2 to 4 , be no wider than 8.5 feet and no longer than 24 feet, and no higher than 7 feet when in the road configuration and drive at up to 60 MPH or fly at up to 150 MPH..

"Vehicle control must support manually driving the vehicle on the ground and fully automated flight with manual flight control inputs that can override the fully automatic system. The challenge is to define the major components of such a vehicle that would be suitable for military scouting and personnel transport missions, yet are small enough, inexpensive enough, and easy enough to operate that it can be widely used," DARPA said. No kidding.

DARPA went on to say the flying car's flight controls should include human interfaces to autopilot, flight director, and/or auto-navigation systems, automated navigation/ positioning, automated sensors, automated fight planning and de-confliction with other users of the airspace. Size, weight, and power must be paramount as well as redundancy and reliability suitable for human passengers, the agency said.

NASA has extensively explored the concept of a personal aircraft - not exactly the type DARPA is now procuring mind you. Earlier this year it held one of its Centennial Challenges that focused on Personal Air Vehicles. NASA aeronautics developed the PAV concept with the idea of transporting people to within just a few miles of their doorstep destination at trip speeds three to four times faster than airlines or cars. NASA predicts that up to 45% of all miles traveled in the future may be in PAVs. This will relieve congestion at metropolitan hub airports and the freeways that surround them, reduce the need to build new highways and save much of the 6.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted in surface gridlock each year, NASA said.

Private companies are also on the road to developing flying cars. Terrafugia for one could have its Transition vehicle on the market next year.

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