Updated: Friday, 03 Dec 2010, 8:28 PM MST
Published : Friday, 03 Dec 2010, 8:28 PM MST
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It is a common desire of troops traveling in vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq. To be able to fly over roads often infested with improvised explosive devices.
IEDs are the No. 1 killer of allied troops in combat zones overseas.
The most commonly used vehicle, the Humvee, cannot carry enough armor to protect its occupants in all situations.
So, the Defense Department's research arm, DARPA, has chosen six companies to work for a year developing a concept flying road vehicle it is calling the "Transformer".
The lightweight vehicle would fly as far as 250 miles and carry four soldiers.
AAI Corporation, one of the six firms in the quest, is proposing collapsible rotors and wings for its version of the Transformer.
According to, Tom Bachman, AAI vice president of new products and technologies, key elements are automation and versatility.
"You know, there's some places you can't fly a rotorcraft," he says.
"The goal is really to get a vehicle that is automated enough that you don't need a trained rotorcraft pilot to fly."
Transformer project participant Lockheed Martin proposes ducted fans for thrust and lift.
Lt. Col Kenneth Nava, New Mexico Army National Guard spokesman, sees promise in the concept for some situations.
"Not being limited to roads," he said. "Being able to evacuate an injured soldier quickly, re-supplying quicker.
"These are definitely advantages of being able to fly as opposed to being stuck on the ground."
Another industry participant already has a flying car to its credit.
Terrafugia will share its expertise in lightweight composites and making any flying tactical road vehicle actually roadworthy.
If DARPA sees promise in the concept after a year, it may move ahead with supporting a prototype.