back to article DARPA at work on 'Transformer TX', a proper flying car

Those splendid brainboxes at DARPA, the Pentagon paradigm-punishment powerhouse, have administered what may be the kiss of life or death to a treasured idea - that of the flying car. True flying cars, as all regular followers of the Reg's coverage will know, remain well beyond humanity's grasp at present. A credible "roadable …


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  1. DZ-Jay


    Wake me up when DARPA takes on the personal Jet-Pack.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Useful for crowd control.

    And scaring the crap out of people. just what the police need.

  3. stu

    fah! expensive training my 4r$e

    As a pilot of a 'powered paraglider' (we prefer the term paramotor in the UK don't u know).. I can tell you that no expensive training is necessary.

    In fact.. no training is necessary at all.

    granted, you would probably be long for this world without some, but plenty of my fellow aeronauts self train or get help from mates (including me!)

    This is not to say it is easy, but within a few days any fit, non-muppet can be in the air.. sort of falling from the nest so to speak....

    comander stu

    p.s. see me flying at a spanish paramotor festival a few months back here:

    HD of course... only the best for El Reg readers.

    p.p.s. It is one of Gilo's parajets (of flying car, and everest flight) that I fly bty.

  4. Mike Flugennock
    Black Helicopters

    oh, jeez, not the ducted fans again...

    This would be, I think, maybe the hundredth time that some ducted-fan-driven beast was supposed to be moving our flying cars since at least the end of WW2. Besides, wasn't Moller's infamous non-flying flying car driven by ducted fans? Didn't it turn out to not so much fly as drift and hover in the ground effect? Stop me if I'm wrong.

    This was studied to death outside the military as well; check out

    ...especially , and .

    Granted, these were designed for use on the Moon, but it was basically a lot of the same stuff: flying pogo sticks and little two-man flying jeeps. As we all know, they ended up going with a regular old rolling-on-the-ground jeep for Apollo, at least partially because if something goes south on you, you don't plummet to the ground at a fair rate of speed, and -- shall we say -- leave a fresh "impact feature". They want to make roads "irrelevant"? Let's see how irrelevant the roads and terrain are when the engine gags in some grunt's flying jeep, or said grunt has his flying jeep shot out from under him, and manages to survive without any broken bones.

    I wish I could remember where the links were to some of the buttload of previous concepts for military personal flying gear; one of my favorites is a light personal jetpack device designed in conjunction with a ballistic sub/orbital troop-transport system circa mid-1960s by Philip Bono, noted far-out concept engineer type at Boeing back then. My favorite concept painting of this project shows US grunts harnessed into jetpacks geronimo'ing out of this absurdly huge re-entry vehicle just after braking out of orbit and making a pinpoint landing on the power of its own exhaust in the middle of friggin' nowhere: . I mean, jeeeezus, man; that picture really looks like it needs some James Bond music playing under it... come to think of it, didn't Bond fly one himself now and again?

    Black helicopter, because, well... it's a helicopter. A really really teeeeeny helicopter.

  5. Charles
    Thumb Down


    No offense meant, but wouldn't the necessary thrust of air ducts needed to get a one-tonne device off the ground necessarily be noisy JUST from pure wind noise? Take a helicopter. Helicopters near ground level make noise, yes, but they also generate lots of wind which is itself noisy. I frankly can't see how one can mitigate wind noise and yet make the vehicle both air- and roadworthy. There seem to be too many problems physics-wise (which thus cannot be mitigated) for the concept to be practical anymore. And there's always the inevitable question of safety--not just above the ground, but consider above another vehicle.

  6. Geeks and Lies

    Puddle Jumper Time :-)

    For all those who dont watch Stargate:

    Though technically not powered by ducted fans it has 2 "drive pods" and its completely fictional but it does sound exactly like the sort of thing DARPA are after :)

    I want one, i want one, i want one.

  7. weirdcult


    I hate you...but that might be the jealousy talking?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I see...

    ...a hover car overhead, I'll know that the ROTM has started. TX? Don't the people at DARPA watch films?

    While you're at it, don't go sending people into space either. I can do without being enslaved by monkies from the future at the moment.

    I can't believe I need to point these things out.

  9. Michael

    Ring motors?

    Harry Potter going day-tripping to Mordor in the Anglia then??

  10. Sillyfellow

    ring motors?

    ...well they would have no need for hover-fans and all that other rubbish if they had a proper ring motor like this one:

    someone's not being honest here, and my money would be on our 'authorities' being the dishonest ones regarding this type of technology.

  11. Emo
    Black Helicopters

    Most importantly

    Will they be available in black?

  12. TonyZ
    Thumb Down

    All I'm gonna say is...

    "Electric plane" + "Soldier" + "No Armor" = "Dead Soldier"


    "Electric Plane" + "Armor" = "Brick"

    Wish DARPA would quit wasting our money.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    "morphing vehicle bodies"

    Nah, not wings.

    Since it's a military push, what they're obviously aiming at here is the ability for the thing to transform into a huge, arse-kicking battle robot / exoskeleton / land mate / guymelef / labor / whatever at the push of a button.

    Gatling cannon, flechette weapons, rocket launchers, a sodding great sword and, of course, frikkin' lasers should be taken as read on the accessory list here.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    ring motors?


    Try looking at the discussion on Thikipedia:

    "someone's not being honest here, and my money would be on our 'authorities' being the dishonest ones regarding this type of technology."

    I think that when it comes to dishonesty, private enterprise has got public sector fiddling knocked into a cocked hat. This is a classic pseudo-science scam.

    < Check out the magic ring on this guy too.

  15. Graham Bartlett


    Minor notes from a stiffie pilot. (For non-pilots, hang-gliders and paragliders are often referred to as "stiffies" and "floppies" respectively, because a hang-glider is inherently rigid whatever happens, whereas a paraglider can - and will - deflate and turn into an expensive bag of washing if it doesn't like the wind/pilot/tone of voice.)

    Foot-launched paramotors (paraglider plus motor) and powered hang-gliders in the UK are currently occupying a grey area where no training is legally required. But you'd be a bit of a twit to try flying one without proper training, and likely a dead twit too. That said though, Stu is right that they're the cheapest way to get airborne, both in terms of cost to buy and in terms of training to fly safely.

    Downside is that they *must* be foot-launched. The moment you use wheels for take-off and landing, you're officially a microlight and all the rules for those now apply to you. You're also limited on weight and the amount of fuel you can carry.

    And your airspeed isn't that great. For combat purposes, a powered paraglider is essentially a stationary target - and a large target at that. A powered hang-glider is faster and more manoeverable, so might be better at zooming into the dropzone at low altitude. That said, it's still not incredibly speedy unless there's a good following wind. Oh yes, and the ones powered by petrol engines are *seriously* noisy - there are a few people experimenting with electric ones, but everyone knows that current battery technology sucks, so you won't get very far with those.

    The penguin, because even those could fly if you strapped a large enough engine to them...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    sub-orbital.... hmm...

    The previous comments here remind me of the Quake 2 version of leaving an orbital vehicle and crash-landing on a battlefield while inside a 7-foot coffin....

    ...with just a pea-shooter on your hand. And no armor.

    However, when civilian vehicles pilot themselves, all the parking lots problems are solved, since we use them to get to wherever we want, and send them back home to recharge their batteries. And when we want to go home, just dial their number, issuing a "pick me up at position XYZ" code.

    BH because, well... they don´t need to be black... or have propeller blades of any sort, they should just hover like them, in complete silence.

  17. john


    Its all been done before...just look at the Voljet.

    I recommend looking from 6 mins 48 secs for the real action. It may well make your tits/balls ache with its vtol capability

  18. john
    Thumb Up

    voljets rule

    For an back aching vertical take off try

    Its like wot those black helicopters in the USA are doing...bouncing up and down as on a piece of elastic. I recommed looking at the section beginning at 6 mins and 40 seconds....

    I want one ...pleeeese

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