Lockheed Martin Developing Flying Robotic Car Carrier

This flying robot will carry anything you want, including a car with you inside

2 min read
Lockheed Martin Developing Flying Robotic Car Carrier

At the AUVSI trade show last week, we spent most of our time wandering around looking for robots that weren't just slightly different flavors of quadrotors, or little airplanes with cameras on them. Things weren't as wacky and awesome as they have been in past years (possibly because the market is maturing a bit), but we still managed to dig up some very cool stuff. And one of the very coolest things was Lockheed Martin's Transformer TX, a DARPA project that'll result in an unmanned payload transport system that can deliver just about anything. Even a car, with you in it.

Originally, DARPA's Transformer program was going to be an actual flying car, like this:

It evolved from a helicopter-ish design into a vehicle with a pair of swiveling ducted fans, like this:

So that would have been fun, but Lockheed Martin Skunk Works had the clever idea of decoupling the car from the flying system entirely, and turning the VTOL bit on top into an autonomous robotic delivery system, like this:

The idea is that you can throw just about anything pod-sized underneath the UAV, including (potentially) a vehicle, as Lockheed's models show:

The best part is that Lockheed, along with partner Piasacki Aircraft, is actually going to build a flying Transformer TX. They're not going to do the car bit, at least not yet, but they'll put together a full-size version of the UAV along with one cargo pod and have it flying by 2015. The final test will involve a mock pod delivery mission; you might be thinking to yourself that you'd love to see a pod pick up mission, but Lockheed quite rightly points out that trying to engineer that level of precision would be a ridiculous amount of effort when odds are you'll just have a soldier there to hook it up anyway.

The production version of Transformer will boast a 250 mile range and a top speed of 200 knots. Thanks to the ducted fans, it'll be both safer and more efficient than a helicopter, and will be able to land in an area half the size that a helicopter with a similar payload would require. It's also small enough that you can stick it on a trailer a drive it down a single lane road, making transportation relatively easy.

Ultimately, Transformer will be autonomous enough that flying off with a manned vehicle underneath may actually happen. We may also see surveillance and strike packages, although at least initially, the focus will be on cargo. We'll be checking back in a year or two to see this thing get off the ground.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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