The company behind the first FAA approved "roadable aircraft" – the Terrafugia Transition – has been selected to contribute to DARPA's Transformer (TX) Project, a program that aims to bring flying car technology to the battlefield. Terrafugia will subcontract to one of two winning teams under phase one of the program which focuses on creating a conceptual design for a four person cross between a Humvee and a helicopter for use in insurgency, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and logistical supply.

DARPA’s US$65M Transformer (TX) program calls for a vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle that can travel 280 miles by land or air, carry up to 1,000 pounds and offer control to non-pilots through the use of semi-automated flight-control systems.

The first phase of the program will run over the next 12 months with the aim of creating a design for both a prototype and a production vehicle. A working prototype is expected to materialize as early as 2015.

DARPA has selected AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin as the prime system integrators, while Carnegie Mellon University and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne will look at critical enabling technology.

Terrafugia's role is as a sub-contractor to AAI (an operating unit of Textron Systems). The company's design incorporates Slowed Rotor/Compound (SR/C™) technology originally developed by Carter Aviation Technologies which uses a rotor for vertical takeoff and landing and a small wing for high speed cruising.

Terrafugia will contribute expertise in "drive and flight integration, deployable flight surfaces, and automotive crash safety for an aircraft."

"This DARPA program effectively leverages Terrafugia's core competencies and enables us to grow from a pure GA company to an emerging aerospace company with both general aviation and defense development programs," said Chief Executive Officer Carl Dietrich. "Our strong team of Terrafugia engineers with recent experience designing and building a dual purpose vehicle will bring a unique perspective to the TX program that is highly valued by DARPA and the other contractors on our TX team."

Via Terrafugia / DARPA.