back to article Flying gyrocopter jump-jeep gets $3m from DARPA

More news out of the US military's "Transformer TX" flying car project today, as an alliance of aviation firms is awarded initial funds to start work on a combination of 4x4 Chelsea tractor and autogyro jump-copter. SR/C concept for DARPA Transformer TX programme, in flight mode. Credit: AAI Corp If they shoot the wings off …


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  1. M. Burns

    Only 1,000lb of passengers and payload?

    Why bother? That's not even 4 soldiers in full gear.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    How silly

    This design looks fairly stupid...

  3. Andus McCoatover

    Not, therefore, a highly skilled pilot?

    "the Transformer TX is also intended to be fully automated, capable of flying itself with only the most basic guidance from its human operator - who would not, therefore, need to be a highly trained pilot"

    Er, maybe not even there, but on a nice comfy beach-side office somewhere in Sunny USA.

    Wonder how the 'grunts' on board would feel about that...?

    I'd use the chopper icon, but the machine aint even black...

    Brings a modern meaning to the expressions:

    "Armchair Generals", and

    "Lack Of Moral Fibre" (justifying the non-issue of parachutes for WW1 pilots.)

  4. Stratman


    It'll replace the Hummer as the vehicle of choice of professional footballers.

  5. Chizo Ejindu
    Black Helicopters

    A.N. Other DARPA death-trap

    Gotta love the death-tech boffinry's attempts to make killing american soliders even eaiser. Well, unless you're the poor sap in the back of that thing when it gets shot at. They just don't get it - flying cars will never work if you just tape a mini to a cessna and camo paint it. Ducted fans are getting there but still not right. A flying car should look like a car, not a frankenstein monster, and that will only happen when some genius cracks true anti-grav tech.

    So never then. Damn :(

  6. Magnus_Pym

    action pics.

    Was that first picture from the box of the soon to be release Airfix kit?

    1. Anonymous Bastard

      James May's Top Toys

      That's the original artwork before the censors get their hands on it and sanitise out all the cool explosions and gunfire and shit.

  7. D@v3


    I thought that was in reference to their heads, being devoid of the brains necessary to avoid the situations that they find themselves in, were like empty jars.

    just what i heard, could well be wrong.

  8. Kev99

    Another name for Marines & autogyro

    First, another, more endearing name for US Marines is "Devil Dogs", a name given them courtesy the Kaiser's finest in WW1.

    During the 1930's, several companies made autogyros. One even starred in a W C Fields movie. One manufacturer developed a way to "preload" the rotors so the pilot could lift off vertically or nearly so. As the saying says, what goes around goes around.

    1. Sweep

      @ Devil Dog


      Teufel Hunden- which the US marines allege was a nickname given to them by Zie Germans, meaning "Devil Dog"

      Almost certainly made up by either the marines or a US reporter. There are no references to the term in German language sources (even today). It isn't even in grammatically correct German as any schoolkid will tell you.

  9. Bob Wheeler

    Hmm, Let's think about this.

    OK, so your in the middle of a war zone, A number of different ways of thinking about this.

    1) The folks on the other side are shoting at you. So you call out "Hey, can ya stop shoting for five minutes while I put the wings on?"

    2) You already have your wings & rotors in place and need to drive though a narrow gap. So you call out, "Hay can ya stop shoting for five minutes while I take the wings off?"

    3) Driving at speed on rough/hilly gound - and the added weight of the rotors/wings do what to the centra of gravtity of the jeep?

    1. TheRealRoland
      Thumb Down


      Don't call this a Jeep. Insult to what was truly one of the work horses for the infantry during WW2 and later. Don't see that happening with this one.

      But I do agree with the poster's comments about the wings. And about the choice vehicle for football players / football players*

      *yes, that what is called 'American Football' anywhere else in the world...

  10. Mike Bell

    I'd buy one long as Megan Fox comes as an optional accessory.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge


      Given what this thing's likely to cost I'd expect Ms Fox to come bundled.

  11. Mima
    Paris Hilton

    Those are never going to work well...

    Can't we just skip ahead to anti-grav tanks? I've these things on Garry's Mod and they never worked that well...

  12. Blitz

    Combine it with...

    The Nazi uber-U-boot technology and you've got an aqau-amphi-flying-hummabab!

    Come on - you know it makes sense!

    Mines the coat with the over inflated research bill in the pocket...

  13. Big Al

    ... "aimed at US Marines"

    Inbuilt friendly fire capability then?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mix n Match

    Jump start - Juan de la Cierva with the autogyro

    Flying jeep - Raoul Hafner with the Rotabuggy

  15. Anonymous Coward


    The S-300 missile delivers 100Gs of acceleration. So if the "thing" weighs 5000kgs, all you need is to attach 50kgs of Rockets to make a nice jump into the air. Then deploy the wings and turn on the prop. Some of the rocket thrust will be used to accelerate into the forward direction until the motor spins up.

    Some kind of serious control and thrust vectoring engineering required, though. And an even bigger supply problem created. But that's the price of flying anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Google for "Credible Sport".

      They didn't worry about "serious control and thrust vectoring engineering", they just strapped on a bunch more rockets....

      1. Anonymous Coward


        ..from the Wiki page it seems they actually had a computerized control system. Just not enough time to work out all the problems. The objective was to deliver a RAVTOL C130 in 90 days to rescue hostages from Tehran. They resorted to manual control and had a crash.

        I think the specialist term for that kind of objective is either "Tall Order" or (better) "Mission Impossible".

        If they had two years and a team of experienced engineers (russian, preferrably), I am sure RAVTOL would be feasible. Just include a copious amount of replacement rocket airdrops in the concept of operations. I guess the B-52 fleet would be very handy for this.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Learn some physics. The statement "The S-300 missile delivers 100Gs of acceleration." is meaningless. Rockets produce thrust, which is a force. How much acceleration they impart depends on the total mass that thrust is propelling and the length of time the thrust is applied.

      I won't even get into the fact that your "S-300" also reduces the payload by over 10%.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @AC: Maybe You Could Post Some Formulae

        The S-300 indeed burns off a large amount of fuel per second. It weighs several tons, judging from the size of the launcher and the airframe. It has more than 200kms range. a==1000m/s^2

        If I were to burn off the same amount of fuel per second I should be able to generate the same amount of thrust. But I don't need to have to burn 100 seconds to just kick the Humvee into the air and accelerate it to 150km/h (ie 50m/s), so that wings can be deployed and some forward speed exists for gliding until the prop kicks in.

        Maybe you could provide some formulae ?

        m(fuel_burned)*v(fuel_burned) == m(humvee)*v(humvee_in_the_air)

        is probably one of them. But what's with gravity ?


        F(rocket)>=F(gravity_humvee) ??

        Can I say F(rocket)==m(burned_per_second)*1000m/s^2 for rockets burning at 1000m/s ??

        That would yield F(gravity_humvee)==5000*10m/s^2==50kN


        50kN<=1000m/s^2*m(fuel_burned), yielding

        m(burned_per_second)>=50kg ???

        That would be quite a lot, but maybe some people more knowledgeable could correct me...

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Nearly Correct Reasoning


          I conclude that my reasoning was actually conservative. We can get 2993m/s from Nitrogen Tetroxide/Hydrazine (NTO) used as propellant. Nasty stuff, but ain't wars nasty stuff, anyways ?

          So 50kN <= 2993m/s^2*m(fuel_burned)

          -> m(fuel_burned/s)==50000n/2993m/s^2==16,7 kg/s

          So we need to burn 16,7 kg/s of NTO. If we want to accelerate with 1G, we need twice that, 33kg/s.

          We want to jump 150m into the air:


          -> t=2*s/a=sqrt(2*150m/10m/s^2)=sqrt(30s^2)=5.5s.

          So we need 5.5*33kgs == 181kg of NTO.

          To get some forward thrust of 150km/h==42m/s


          Assuming the same rockets for forward thrust (20m/s acceleration)


          -> t=42m/s/20m/s^2=2.1 s

          So we need 70kg of NTO for foward thrust.

          Bottom line: 251kg of NTO should do the trick.

          Concept of Operations is to supply troops by airdrop with NTO. Platforms like the B52 are idle anyway and could drop around 10000kg (==40 RAVTOL Humvee launches) per sortie. When they are at it, deliver some unbreakable keymat (but that's another story).

          Other delivery platforms are C17, C130, A400M, B-2 and even fighters like the F15E, F16 or Tornado, or surplus Mig23s could deliver the RAVTOL rockets to the grunts.

  16. Eduard Coli


    Excluding how open and slow moving these are sure to be I'm sure the Tali-whomever will like these more then the grunts.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Are you kidding? Game on!

    Lets really "hit the fan" then now! Letting it loose! Prepare yourselves!

    - A hovercraft-skirted A10 - Thunderbolt with tilt turbofans and folding wings.

    - An Apache Longbow with wheels instead of skis and telescopic blades a la James Bond.

    - Watertight-floating ATVs (that one is real) with an autogyro. Note that, the real part is either an waterproof ATV or a jet-ski with retractable wheels, pick one.

    Do I get funding for any of those?

  18. xj25vm


    As others said:

    1. Plenty of top weight and wobbly bids high up - unsuitable for a rough terrain vehicle.

    2. Looks like it will take ages to transition from drive mode to flight mode. I wouldn't want to be under fire, trying to fly away quickly.


    1. So it has a gas turbine, driving an electric generator, which powers an electric motor(s), which then drives the wheels. First of all, lots of different bits (and weight). Secondly, last time I've seen gas turbines, they made a heck of a racket. When on ground, you should be able to hear this thing from much further away then a petrol (gas) or diesel engine. I think.

    2. All those foldable rotors and wings don't look like such a sturdy and robust idea. I would be curious how they last in real life usage - and how soon the various joints, inter-loocking bits and other parts involved start giving up and creating problems.

    3. Gas turbines generate quite a lot of temperature behind. Not exactly usable anywhere such as on normal streets then, where space is confined - without frying civilians or anything else in the way. See Jay Leno's work on creating a street legal (ish) type turbine gas car.

    1. Nexox Enigma


      """Secondly, last time I've seen gas turbines, they made a heck of a racket."""

      I've seen gas turbine electric generators w/ active noise canceling that I couldn't hear at all from 1 meter. Seems like that'd be the first thing they'd try.

      """Gas turbines generate quite a lot of temperature behind."""

      There are also ways of dealing with that - aiming the exhaust out the top, mixing it with air, etc. Remember that they'll want to protect against heat-seeking missiles, so a low thermal signature is more important than just avoiding melting nearby cars.

      """See Jay Leno's work on creating a street legal (ish) type turbine gas car."""

      You're probably thinking of his turbine-powered motorcycle, which was too small to do much exhaust cooling. There have been a number of perfectly fine (heat-wise) gas turbine powered cars proposed over the years. Most didn't make it to production because they lacked an electric transmission, and a gas turbine doesn't play nicely with direct-drive on a ground vehicle. IE idle speed at 60% of redline, 70% of max torque available at idle, very slow spin up.

      1. yeehaw.... Silver badge

        M! Abrams

        The M1 Abrams main battle tank uses a gas turbine engine with a huge automatic transmission directly bolted to it - had to remove and install them back in the day.

        Several interesting things with the M1. you don't hear the engine coming, you hear the track first and then they are right on top on you. Sound is no issue. Navigating around northern Germany, we didn't melt things - if a car got too close, at most it would take out the windshield and bubble paint lol. We heated up our MRE's on the exhaust. Did more damage with the tracks than anything else (except for that Monastery I hit (Brit command post) the archway and looked up and it was built in 1272- I still feel bad about it.)

        Anyway, you can have a direct drive gas turbine and they are quiet enough considering it's essentially a helicopter engine.

    2. Affian

      Get 'em

      I think that one of these in mid transformation would pull a lot of enemy fire onto itself.

  19. Steve Evans


    Whereas the UK are now withdrawing the lightly armoured Landrovers, and replacing them with things which resemble the taxis from the Judge Dread movie (incidentally built on a Landrover for the film), the US are going to use vehicles which are light enough to fly... Best they give them some serious flying range (like one of those helicopter things for example) or the first time they touch down an IED is going to reduce them to shrapnel.

    1. Heff
      Black Helicopters

      a title is required, and must contain Sara Bee nudes.

      built on forward-control 101s, actually. not landrovers. Originally made by the same firm, but not, repeat NOT the same thing at all.

      cant help but feel the most practical application would be a disposable chassis and some form of coupling. picture a tractors UC slung under an apache, plugged into a skidpan with monster truck tires on. failing that, rocket motors up and then glide-autorotor away.

      black helicopters because ....well, you know

  20. John Dougald McCallum


    ...nice try but lets not get too excited about this as it will not be a great flyer probibly only do about 60MPH and unless it is ridiculusly wide it will roll over the first time that a jarhead or pongo asks it to do a rapid turn in ground effect mode.Bring on the BOLOS.

    Flames cos this will only crash and burn.

  21. Joe User

    Great name

    The "Transformer TX"? From the looks of things, a few 12.7mm rounds will "transform" one into burning wreckage on the ground....

  22. Anonymous Coward

    A great thing about flying armoured cars

    is that you can take them out using ordinary SAMs, rather than having to mess about improvising explosive devices at the roadside

  23. Andus McCoatover

    Lovely piccie

    ..with the uppermost 'thingy' about to dive into the lowermost 'thingy'.

    "IF they shoot the rotors off, we've still got the wings. er, plural? If they shoot A wing off, where does it go? Floats harmlessly to the ground? Think the broken wing bits'd give the rotors a bit of a shake-up. "Kenwood 'soldier' Blender" springs to mind, somehow...

  24. E 2


    The evil-doers can just put a few rounds into the tuck-away rotor blades and BANG no more flying vehicle.

  25. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up


    I want one.

  26. cor


    Who made those crap 3d images? Or was that before they got their $3.5 Mill to pay an artist instead of someones' nephew who downloaded AutoCAD from a torrent site?

    I'm not saying I'm the Leonardo da Vinci of CGM, but there are some very talented artists out there whom I'm sure would gladly do the job properly (just Google 3d gallery, Blender 3d, Maya, 3D Max etc).

    Anyway, the thing will never work. At 10k feet you start to need oxygen and it's pretty cold. Even 'normal' choppers have difficulty at that altitude and need to be modified (check out alpine rescue choppers).

    With a take-off weight of 5 tons, they will need two turbines which in turn will be most likely mounted atop. As someone already pointed out, this makes the device extremely topheavy and prone to fall over (as big helicopters are wont to do when 'landing' on water).

    I also miss one fundamental element in the illustration : where's the tail rotor? What will stop the thing from spinning like a rabid ferret trying to catch it's tail? Or do the two rotors counter rotate? That would be funny to see ;)

    Hey...? Where's the Black Choppers icon gone?

    1. James Hughes 1

      Tail rotor?

      It's not a helicopter, it's an autogyro. Would need minor side thrust from the ducted fan on take off but that's it.

      1. cor
        Black Helicopters


        You are quite right. It is an autogyro. I saw rotors and got on my heli-horse. Do-oh!

    2. Matt 33


      Assuming you're not trolling, please re-read the read the article in its entirety. Whilst you're at it, have a look at the Wikipedia article on Autogyros – the design featured in this article is NOT a helicopter.

      Where do you get a MTOW of 5 tons from? And who said the turbines will be mounted on the roof? And moreover how do you know that these turbines will be incapable of lifting said 5 tons into the air? The turbine (singular) in this design powers the ‘pusher fan’ or the generator (for drive in ground mode). Yes at ’10 k feet’ you ‘start’ to need oxygen, but you can still breathe – most helicopter cabins are not pressurised.

      @ Andus McCoatover

      In the earlier article, Lewis talks about flight computers doing most of the flying, while the jarhead ‘steering’ points in it the direction it needs to go. This isn’t UAV remote-flyboy tech, though admittedly, it wouldn’t be difficult add this capability in.

      @ xj25vm

      Actually, a gas turbine driving a generator, which in turn could power, say, four in-wheel motors potentially could be a lot lighter, or at least comparable in weight to, a conventional four-wheel drive system. Don’t forget, this consists of an engine, gearbox, transfer box, centre-diff, forward axle/diff, rear axle/diff – that’s an awful lot of weight. Ask anyone who has, say, restored a Land Rover…

      1. cor
        Black Helicopters

        See comment above

        My comments were entirely based on my misconception that it was chopper-based.

        "most helicopter cabins are not pressurised."

        Correct. Nor are they heated. Nor do they have oxygen available.

        (I have over 1400 flight hours in various choppers around the world).

  27. VeganVegan

    Assuming that

    the contraption gets off the ground, that's when the duck shoot commences. Even a jarhead would refuse to go along for the ride.

  28. Michael 91

    Rover = Gas Turbine car FC101 is a Landrover

    Rover built a working gas turbine car, not great for the reasons pointed out above but has been done. You can see it in the Science Museum.

    Petty note, A Forward Control 101 is a LandRover as in its made by the one and same.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Can't see this, er, flying...

    Given that an infantryman may carry anything up to 100ibs of gear I can't see this vehicle being able to lift a weight significant enough to be worthwhile. Also looking at the design of it I'd imagine your opponent could probably shoot it down with a catapult.

  30. Maty

    just get the damn thing to jump

    Flying is already done well by planes and helicopters. But driving in 'challenging' terrain is really frustrating when you need a 200-mile detour because a bridge is down. Or you need to get off a ridge and can see the road below but can't get there. Or you need to get over a landslip, or to hop past that bit of road where it looks like someone has been digging.

    Sod 10k feet and hundreds of miles of range. There were times I'd have sold my soul to Satan to be able to get 100 yards at ten feet.

  31. westlake

    The autogyro as bit player

    The autogyro can be seen in the "It Happened One Night" (1934) Frank Capra, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. What more needs to be said?

    "The Big Broadcast of 1938" with W.C. Fields is a sprawling variety show with a touching performance of "Thanks For The Memories" by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.

    The first performance of what would become Hope's signature on air.

    The lush art deco sets, model work and special effects by Gordon Jennings ("The War of the Worlds,") are well worth a look.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Don't Forget The Prop Engine

    Just add 750kg for a suitable engine:

    Anything less than an engine of this class will make the "flying humvee" more a kind of slow-flying-duck-attracting-bullets.

    The only positive aspect being that it would make the Humvee a racecar (if you have the proper gearbox and wheels to suffer all the Merlin torque at 1200kW ....).

    A real aircraft of less size is this, see the engine power:

  33. jai


    if it doesn't end up looking exactly like it does in those pictures i will be sorely disapointed - that looks awesome and i want one!!!!

  34. bugalugs
    Paris Hilton

    " Title ? ", " No thanks, I'm having a leek "

    Bruce Spence " flew " an autogyro in Mad Max 2 ( 1981 ) too. Looked like it used a motor-mower engine but was definitely VSTOL . And saved the day ! ( but Max got the girl )

    201009301609@Maty is seeing this from an infantryman's POV. Could *simple* vectored-thrust be used to enable short jumps ? ( Jet platforms have been built of course ) With neither wings nor rotor, weight savings could allow increased load/armour. The engine could be mounted at a nice low COG. Tyres would need armouring of course. An engine with enough thrust to lift vehicle+load could certainly produce enough electricity to make it a real goer on the ground !

    Paris, because girls like her increase my load...

  35. Hooch181
    Thumb Up

    All I have to say is...

    MASK, the 80's cartoon is becoming a reality!

  36. Graham Marsden

    "Transformer TX"?

    I can hear a couple of companies of Trademark Lawyers firing up their word processors...

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