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DARPA, US Marines team on proper flying car project

Blade Runner style sky-buggy Humvee/Jeep/Prius combo

Intelligent flash storage arrays

It'll be no good telling the girls 'I'm a pilot' any more.

Blade Runner 'Spinner' flying car blueprints, co-opted for the US military

Something a bit more like this is what we want

The TX would be different, though. DARPA specifies that it should be capable of completely unmanned flight operations, much like the robotic supply choppers also being examined by the Marines right now. While the TX would generally fly with personnel aboard, they wouldn't be highly-trained officer-class pilots: any lance-corporal with the right tick in his personnel file would be able to pilot one, just as he might drive a Humvee.

In most cases, making a flight would call for nothing more demanding than selecting a destination from a preprogrammed menu or keying in some coordinates, though DARPA says that a "range of operation from fully autonomous to being able to have the operator make flight steering commands in real time" is "desirable".

But how is all this to be achieved?

DARPA have some suggestions:

Technologies of interest may include: hybrid electric drive, advanced batteries, adaptive wing structures, ducted fan propulsion systems, advanced lightweight heavy fuel engines, lightweight materials, advanced sensors, and flight controls for stable transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

It's also specified that "contained propulsion (no exposed rotors) is highly recommended" and that "disk loading should be minimized to maximize VTOL operational capability".

This would seem to point to large, low-disc-loaded ducted fans as the VTOL propulsion, perhaps swivelling tiltrotor-style to provide thrust for forward flight or using venetian-blind slats as in the Israeli "AirMule" vehicle. Something along the same general lines as the human hover-gunships from Avatar, maybe, though hopefully rather more effective.

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