Darpa has done some incredible things—Internet, hayyy! But they also have a knack for the ridiculous. Case in point: approving these two designs for a flying car, which look like they were drawn by 2nd graders.
The GI Joe concepts, entrants into Darpa's request for a flying, transforming humvee, are up against some pretty tough requirements from the Pentagon, Aviation Week reports:
DARPA's vision for TX is a vehicle that can deliver a four-person squad from ship to shore, where it will be manually driven until the terrain becomes impassable, or IEDs too threatening, when it will transform within a minute into an aircraft, take off automatically, overfly the obstacle, land vertically and continue. The same vehicle could be used to insert and extract special forces, evacuate injured troops or - in automated mode - as an unmanned resupply truck.
That requires efficient propulsion for flight and ground travel, a way to vector thrust for VTOL while minimizing brownout, an off-road capability in a vehicle light enough for VTOL, and a way to stow any aerodynamic surfaces and propulsion systems not needed on the ground.
Basically, the flying humvee has to be able to drive, fly, and transform reliably. Nevermind that humvees have a hard enough time not getting blown up, VTOL birds like the Osprey have a history of crashing all the time, and both of these goofy mockups look like they could be shot out of the sky with a Super Soaker. Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman hits the real question: why the hell do we need a flying humvee to begin with? "Assuming that the U.S. is even involved in a land conflict after Afghanistan to make that problem salient, why wouldn't insurgents plant those bombs to lure the Transformer into the air and then hit it with a rocket-propelled grenade or anti-tank missile?" The answer: we don't. Conceptually, it just doesn't make sense. Unless I'm missing some sort of implied force field from this CGI lunacy, a vehicle like this would combine all the inherent weaknesses of cars and helicopters. And it's supposed to run without anyone driving it?
It's easy to just mock and dismiss something this loony—but Darpa has a budget of $3 billion. That's $3 billion of our dollars. And part of those $3 billion are being spent to take this seriously, giving Boeing and AAI a chance to compete in this clown college food fight of a design competition. [Aviation Week via Danger Room]