Sunday, 5 December 2010


Maybe if I've been a good enough girl, Santa will leave one of these under the tree...
A prototype of the vehicle, dubbed the Transformer, or TX, could be ready by 2015...
Oh, well. Not this Christmas then.


Mark Wadsworth said...

How do they manage without a tail rotor to stop it spinning round?

Angry Exile said...

Santa's back, and this time he's not taking prisoners.

MTG said...

The man is dead so the misery you slowly grill and serve here, is a hateful dish destined for the doorstep of the grieving Collister family.

A Merry Family Xmas to you, JuliaM.

NickM said...

It's got a drive rotor at the back. That will produce torque which if cleverly balanced should counter the torque of the lift rotor.

It pains me to say this but... I don't think you'd be happy. We don't have flying cars for a very simple reason - they're a daft idea. Inevitably they wind-up being very expensive and not much good either as a car or a flying machine. Moreover what exactly is the point of this? Essentially if you have something that can fly why bother driving it on the ground? The only conceivable use for a flying car is a "roadable" non-VTOL aircraft which enables the pilot/driver to travel door-to-door but if you got VTOL you can land pretty much anywhere.

Other points: You are pootling along in this thing and somebody in a bush shouts "Admiral Ackbar!" and starts launching RPGs at you. How long does this take to get airbourne and up to a sufficient speed and altitude to be safe? Too long is my guess.

In short the flying car is, like the jetpack, conceptually flawed and the reason we don't live in Bladerunner land is not that the tech or the will or whatever isn't there but there are certain inventions that are ultimately impractical. Arthur C Clarke thought we'd replaced wheeled vehicles with hover craft. This would mean roads would not need to be maintained. Indeed Clarke thought the biggest issue would be trespassing. Clarke clearly had never thought this through. Problems with hovercraft include a hellishly large turning circle and tremendous noise and fuel consumption.

Or take tilt-rotors. After a staggeringly protracted (and awesomely expensive development) the USMC has their Ospreys. Great! Now at the time it was thought a commercial derivative would be ideal for city-centre to city-centre trips. Better range, higher speed and less fuel used than a 'copter. But there are problems. Noise precludes them from civilian operation and you can't operate them from just any pad. In VTOL mode the turboprop exhaust gases would set ordinary asphalt aflame.

Or VTOL/STOVL jets. This is the kicker. Great feature but is it worth it? The F-35B (STOVL) sacrifices a lot in terms of range, G-holding, internal weapon load compared to the F-35A (CTOL) and F-35C (CATOBAR).

I have been saying for some time the F-35B is for the chop and so it should be. I will bet it's going to be cancelled. The RN are going with the F-35C and the USMC having it's own fighters is an extravagance too far.

Sorry Julia but this is a similarly daft idea. It really is as simple as... You can have a flying car which is crap for driving and crap for flying or a decent light plane and a very nice car for the same money. It's not a difficult choice.

Now a cheap VTOL vehicle that dosn't pretend to be driveable on the surface... Now we are talking. This is potentially possible. Indeed a British guy did have a potential air-taxi which was essentially a ducted-fan tilt-rotor (to avoid the noise issues) and he was killed in an accident a couple of years ago. I think he was in talks with Singapore over it being used there. I forget the details. If anyone can enlighten me I would be happy.

Back to Mark's point. The current standard 'copter lay-out is the result of pork in the '40s. Lots of folks had all sorts of VTOL ideas but the helicopter we know and grudgingly like was essentially set in stone because of the location of plants building the Sikorsky design in the US. All sorts of cooler ideas that didn't need the tail rotor (which adds both mechanical complexity (=cost both capital and operational)) and reduces efficiency (a tail rotor can take up to a third of engine power) suffered infanticide. In short the likes of Lockheed had all sorts of whizz-bang ideas but the US Gov was already shoving enough cash to California aerospace...

RAB said...

And a couple of these in the gun rack...

and we should be sorted. said...

I seem to have lost a comment. Oh, well. It was too long I guess.

Short version:

The flying Humvee is a work of Bloody Stupid Johnson.

Mark. It has a forward propelling rotor at the back. That will generate enough torque to offset the lift rotor. Also it has fixed wings which will contribute to stability.

JuliaM said...

"How do they manage without a tail rotor to stop it spinning round?"

Same way my local police chopper manages it - NOTAR.

"The man is dead so..."

Wrong post to comment under, I'm guessing?

"And a couple of these in the gun rack..."

Now that's REALLY sci-fi!

"Short version:

The flying Humvee is a work of Bloody Stupid Johnson. "

But looks totally cool in the mock-up shots, which is all that really counts... ;)

Nick2 said...

The Register's military correspondent has been following the Transformer TX as well as competing concept vehicles for a while. The Transformer TX's flying modes are described here.