13 July 2010

Another Entry in DARPA's Flying HumVee Competition

Just after the new year, DARPA put out a broad agency announcement requesting a flying car, specifically a one-to four-person, vertical takeoff and landing-capable vehicle that can negotiate off-road conditions as well as take to the skies. Today, Fort Worth-based AVX Aircraft has responded with a proposal, releasing some mock-ups of a dual-rotor, ducted-fan driven aircraft that’s also road-ready.

AVX says the four-seater will be able to carry a 1,040-lb. payload 250 miles on a single tank of fuel, peaking at 80 miles per hour over land and 140 miles per hour in the air. It’s coaxial rotor design would certainly satisfy the vertical take-off and landing requirement, and at least the sketches make it look off-road rugged. Unfolding the rotor blades for flight should convert the vehicle from road warrior to aircraft in just one minute. _PopSci
The Fort Worth-based company says the four-seat vehicle will carry a 1,040lb payload, reach 80mph on the road (using the ducted fans to augment electric wheel drive) and 140mph in the air, take off and land vertically, cruise at 10,000ft altitude at max gross weight and travel 250 miles on one tank of fuel.

Conversion from road to flight mode will take 60 seconds, says AVX - basically unfolding the rotor blades. The design certainly looks simpler than Logi AeroSpace's Tyrannos, which has a foldable wing and tilting shrouded propellers. _AviationWeek

The AVX design is competing with the Logi Aerospace Tyrannos design pictured below. The Logi design relies entirely upon relatively unproven ducted fan propulsion units, whereas the AVX design is based upon a more conventional counter-rotating helicopter prop design.
The Tyrannos is a four-seat vertical take-off and landing roadable aircraft powered by a supercharged racing engine driving a generator and a battery pack. These drive electric motors on the wheels for road use and four variable-pitch shrouded propellers for flight. On the road, the wings fold back against the tail booms. The ducted prop in the nose is fixed at -12deg incidence while the other three pivot from horizontal for vertical flight to vertical for forward flight. _AviationWeek

Roadable aircraft and flying cars (or HumVees) provide a more versatile mobility for sportsmen and survivalists, in addition to their potential military applications. Adding the ability to land and take off on water as well as land, provides an even greater mobility.

Some of the competitors for the DARPA contract may eventually decide to build a civilian model, once they prove the concept and establish that a market exists. The likely success of Terrafugia should provide a positive example on that account.

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