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Project Transformer: More than Meets the Eye

To say that DARPA's been busy this year would be a gross understatement. The guys who co-created the Internet with Al Gore have given us sneak peeks into some of their more interesting projects, like coffee robot arms and human batteries. Well prepare for their latest, and possibly greatest idea yet, dubbed Project Transformer.

No, it's not some secret government plot to create military-grade mecha that turn into cassette players; nor is it a plan to roboticize firearms. Project Transformer aims to bring the future one step closer to the present. The goal is to create a land-based vehicle, such as a Humvee, and give it the ability to transform into a vertical take-off/landing craft.

So far, two companies are shortlisted: AAI Corp., whose mecha-morphosing chopper reminds one of M.A.S.K., and Lockheed-Martin, who came up with a jeep attached to two giant turbofans. Each company received multimillion dollar grants to develop their respective concepts, while jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne got $1 million to come up with a lightweight propulsion system.

While both Helo-Humvees are a far cry from the anti-gravity automobiles of Back to the Future or Fifth Element, it's still nice to know that someone at DARPA believes the flying car is long overdue.

[source: Popular Science]