With Transformer (TX), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is giving ‘off-road’ an entirely new meaning. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works® is leading a team with Piasecki Aircraft to develop the next generation of compact, high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned payload delivery systems under the Transformer programme.
Transformer’s unique design could adapt to multiple missions with interchangeable payloads, including cargo pods, medical evacuation units, a tactical ground vehicle, armed scouts, and reconnaissance and strike capabilities. This flexibility combined with emerging autonomous unmanned air vehicle control systems could provide terrain-independent transportation and cargo supply capability to dispersed ground combat units.
When compared to a standard helicopter, Transformer’s tilting ducted fans allow for a safer operating environment in smaller landing zones with faster transit speeds of up to 200 knots.
Transformer TX is currently in “Phase 3,” of the development process. This means that Lockheed Martin is now finalizing the design before manufacturing a working prototype. DARPA will then evaluate the prototype to see if it meets requirements, if it does, Lockheed Martin may receive a contract to produce Transformer TX for flight in 2015. Lockheed will start testing a one-third sized model in wind tunnels soon.
Source: Web Site