Terrafugia, builder of the Transition roadable aircraft, has received a five-year contract from Textron Systems subsidiary AAI to provide expertise in developing a "flying Humvee" for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Called the Transformer, the four-person vehicle is envisaged to be driveable on roads, but with "helicopter-like mobility" to "increase access to difficult terrain". With a range of 250nm (465km) either on the road or in the air, the vehicle is also to have automated flight controls "to enable operations by non-pilots", according to Terrafugia.
The company says the contract is a perfect segue for its 12 engineers who have completed the design work on the prototype Transition flying car, a two-place roadable aircraft Terrafugia is building to meet both ASTM light sport aircraft and US Department of Transportation automobile rules. First deliveries are set for late 2011.
Terrafugia is building two prototype Transitions in its Woburn, Massachusetts low-volume production facility. The company retired a proof-of-concept vehicle after 28 short-duration flights over the test runway.
The three-phase Transformer programme for AAI begins with an 18-month conceptual design effort, which will be followed by design and manufacturing of a prototype that could fly as early as 2015.
Specifically, Terrafugia says it was tapped for its expertise in drive and flight integration, deployable flight surfaces and automotive crash safety for an aircraft.