UAS & Robotics

A flying car, of sorts: Helicopter/ground vehicle hybrid takes flight

The Black Knight Transformer, made by Advanced Tactics, recently made its video debut, demonstrating how a transforming helicopter and ground vehicle hybrid might operate.

Combining the vertical takeoff capabilities of a helicopter with the off-road capabilities of a ground vehicle, the Black Knight is designed to conduct casualty evacuation and cargo resupply missions. In addition to having a ground drivetrain for off-road capabilities, the Black Knight allows for an amphibious hull, cargo pod, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pod to be swapped in for modular capabilities. Weighing in at 4,400 pounds, the vehicle is expected to be able to reach a ground driving speed of 70 mph and an air cruising speed of 150 mph.

The aircraft can be controlled remotely or operate autonomously. For the test flight, the aircraft was completely controlled by autopilot with a remote backup pilot providing power commands.

Originally designed for the Army, the concept was proposed to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Transformer (TX) Program, which was seeking a vehicle that could operate on ground and in the air. The program ultimately chose a Lockheed Martin design, and was changed into the current Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program.   

Despite not being selected for the program, the Black Knight has been incorporated into the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Enhanced MAGTF Operations Aerial Delivery program. According to the video, the concept has also been sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab and the Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.

The design successfully completed its first flight test in March 2014, having already conducted driving tests in December 2013. The technology demonstrated in these tests has cost less than $2 million in government funding.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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