Remember that fantastical-sounding flying car that DARPA proposed earlier this year? It isn’t just a pipe dream anymore–the defense agency has released a 58-page announcement (pdf) detailing the military’s vision of “a robust ground vehicle that is capable of configuring into a VTOL air vehicle with a maximum payload capability of approximately 1,000 lb”. In other words, the military wants a flying Humvee.
The UK Register points us to the lengthy Pentagon announcement, which lists requirements for the vehicle prototype: It should have a flying/driving range of 250 miles, measure no more than 30 feet long by 8.5′ wide and 9′ high, perform vertical take-off and landing, carry four people, perform unmanned operations, and be easy enough to control that anyone who can drive a Humvee can also pilot the vehicle. DARPA imagines that the vehicle could use any number of advanced technologies, including hybrid electric drive, adaptive wing structures, ducted fan propulsion systems (like in the Avatar ships), and lightweight heavy fuel engines. There is also a laundry list of technical requirements–and $43 million in available funds–for any contractors that want to help build the flying car.
If all goes well, DARPA expects to have a prototype ready by 2015. While the vehicle will initially be restricted to military use (what better way to creep up on your enemies?), we can envision the Jetsons-like day when civilians zoom around in hybrid electric flying cars.