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Roadable, Vertical-Takeoff Aircraft Is Eager To Hit the Battlefield

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the or-deliver-pizzas dept.

The Military 87

Zothecula writes "When someone mentions flying cars, it conjures up images of a sporty little number that takes to the air like something out of the Jetsons. But what about one that's a cross between a 4x4, an octocopter, and a blackhawk helicopter? That's what Advanced Tactics of El Segundo, California is seeing with its ambitions to produce a roadable VTOL aircraft capable of unmanned autonomous operations as a more flexible way to recover casualties, move supplies, and support special forces."

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87 comments

Slashvertising or just boredom (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918315)

Your flying minivan isn't going to Afghanistan, sorry kid.

And here's your flying car. (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 7 months ago | (#45918335)

Quick impressions:
first of all it's so butt ugly that nobody is going to keep a crosshair on it for long: good.
I also notice that the rear wheels denote a higher load than the front wheels, either it's the engine department, or, more likely, a young official have invited another of the opposite sex there, eager to test "some aspects of the seating".

Re:And here's your flying car. (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#45918499)

More amazing value from our taxpayer dollars...

Re:And here's your flying car. (2, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#45918593)

Doesn't say anything about tax dollars. This looks like it's being privately developed, and all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#45919151)

all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.

ie. They're after tax dollars.

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#45920937)

all the pictures appear to be 'shopped.

Nuh nuh! [advancedtacticsinc.com]

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

samwichse (1056268) | about 6 months ago | (#45951331)

Weird how some of the props have a belt drive, and some look like they have a gearbox drive. The front and rear on the observers left in that picture are both big honkin' belt drive, but the two middle props have a gearbox.

The crazy thing is, it's not even symmetrical... the front prop on the right is gearbox!

Re:And here's your flying car. (2)

BullInChina (3376331) | about 7 months ago | (#45920027)

Just like helicoptors don't generate lift to fly but are actually repelled by the ground because they are so butt ugly.

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 7 months ago | (#45921333)

Actually, "Damn that's ugly" was my first impression, but "That'd be easy to shoot down" was my second. Not so good.

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 7 months ago | (#45921967)

Um, yeah, that would be a proof of concept model, if you scroll past the first image the operational version will (if built) look a lot more "normal".

Re:And here's your flying car. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 7 months ago | (#45922241)

first of all it's so butt ugly that nobody is going to keep a crosshair on it for long: good

I said the same thing about the Hummer, but those big, expensive, ugly as sin things are on the road. As well as the almost as ugly Jeep, which also was first a military vehicle.

There's no accounting for taste.

Ready to compete in darpa contest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918357)

Looks like it was put together by a bunch of grad students.

Re:Ready to compete in darpa contest (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 7 months ago | (#45919787)

Bill Murray is interested in taking it for a test drive.

Take that, ancient warriors (2)

mi (197448) | about 7 months ago | (#45918405)

Our enemies may claim disdain for death, but — with our technology — we can beat them to pulp despite being soft-bellied wussies. And some of us aren't quite so soft-bellied either...

Wave that flag hard enough and maybe you can blow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45923817)

away the stench of a dying republic.

May I propose an alternative? (1)

sourceholder (1478387) | about 7 months ago | (#45918431)

Why not take an existing - proven - helicopter platform and attach features that would make the aircraft "roadable"?

Most helicopters already have wheels & a steering mechanism. All they're missing is a small engine to drive the aircraft, upgraded suspension and a few other standard features that can probably be borrowed from an existing truck design.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918513)

Because the rotors on traditional aircraft are just too darn big to work on a road.

This thing will have the flyability of a hush puppy in a city. I've ridden in just about all of our military's heliocopters and this one is the one I'd least rather try out when bullets are flying.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 7 months ago | (#45919211)

Wide rotor = stability. Like track width on your car. This thing looks TIPPY!

Re:May I propose an alternative? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#45920435)

We have computers these days. A helicopter is barely humanly flyable as it is, this is of course much more complicated, but we don't need people to control it with Bowden wires. If stability were an actual issue, the Nighthawk would never have gotten off the ground!

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

CreatureComfort (741652) | about 7 months ago | (#45920631)

Only when you're talking rotor(s) on a single longitudinal axis. The side-by-side design of the octo-rotor should eliminate at least that problem.

That being said, you might get me to ride in it for a demonstration flight. You'd never get me in it going into a live fire situation.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#45921561)

You don't need to. It's unmanned. ;-)

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 months ago | (#45918547)

I think that's mainly because that'd be someone else's platform. These guys can't sell it.

Looks like they're trying to make a very small helicopter, with a very small overhead outline to avoid getting blades stuck on things when they land, and when they drive in farther to the position of the wounded.

Does anyone know if folding blades would have worked just as well as using 6 smaller rotors? What is the trade-off in reliability & performance between folding blades vs. multiple small rotors?

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 months ago | (#45918563)

I looked at the image gallery, it's actually 8 rotors.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918655)

Hence, the presence of "octocopter" in the summary and in the article.

Just sayin'

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 7 months ago | (#45919829)

I saw James Bond's Octopussy, but there was 8 of nothing in it.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

SpockLogic (1256972) | about 7 months ago | (#45921397)

I saw James Bond's Octopussy, but there was 8 of nothing in it.

Damn, I was sure there were 8 good looking women ... or was it cats.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

boristdog (133725) | about 7 months ago | (#45920597)

Folding blades or aligning blades along the center axis takes time. Since this is touted for medevac uses you want something that can get in and out of small spaces quickly. I'm interested to see its flying stability.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 7 months ago | (#45921939)

The reason why most of the drones are multi-rotor is that it's easier to keep them stable.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#45922065)

If they use this concept for a vehicle that can occasionally 'hop' over obstructions in its path, then it might be useful in certain scenarios. Its less intriguing as a copter that can drive on the ground.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 7 months ago | (#45918621)

They're likely top-heavy, and poorly balanced, especially for off-road operations.

Re: May I propose an alternative? (2)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#45919445)

You forgot with no Armor. That thing won't stop more than five bullets before it comes crash down to earth.

Re: May I propose an alternative? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#45920485)

Well, it's not like helicopters have the resilience of battleships, either. I'd imagine this device is designed to operate as a connection between the front and the rear, not for continuous operation ON the front. In many scenarios, the vulnerability may well be limited. (Also, I recall the early medevac helicopters having no armor as well. Did anyone reject them from service for that reason?)

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 7 months ago | (#45918835)

skids dont taxi on the ground, but 3-7 feet up.
but even among the wheeled variety many of them lack actual direct steering control of the nose/tail wheel, and instead rely on the tail rotor for ground steering. a few do have a steerable wheel, but they are the exception; for many types the wheel simply casters, especially in taildraggers. youll find it more on the larger birds, like the CH53 and Chinook, though in the Chinooks case, IIRC, only one tail wheel is steerable, and the other casters, though I dont remember which side is which.

Re:May I propose an alternative? (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 7 months ago | (#45918867)

addendum: forgot to add that sometimes the bird is simply steered on the ground through differential braking of the main wheels rather than direct control of the nose/tail wheel.

Maintenance nightmare (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918439)

Keeping eight engines up to spec per vehicle, sounds like one big headache

Re:Maintenance nightmare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45919265)

Nah, it's supposed to "hit the battlefield" anyway. Just let 'em fail. It'll hit the battlefield in spectacular fashion!

Re:Maintenance nightmare (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#45921673)

On the other hand, the engines seem to be more accessible than on an ordinary helicopter, and with identical units, perhaps replacements could be much faster.

Re:Maintenance nightmare (1)

cusco (717999) | about 7 months ago | (#45921999)

With eight motors, if the control software is done correctly they should be able to compensate for the failure/destruction of one or two as long as they aren't next to each other.

Actually looks feasable (4, Insightful)

fructose (948996) | about 7 months ago | (#45918455)

This is the first roadable aircraft that looks like it could work. No fancy linkages to have one motor run it all, or spiffy folding wings or anything that hasn't been created yet. This actually has demonstrated technologies behind it and looks like it's much further along that a pretty 3D rendering. Even if the UAV portion doesn't work, this application could be useful in more than just the battlefield. This could be used for civilian medivac or other urgent situation where a suitable landing location is easily accessible.

Re:Actually looks feasable (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#45918501)

I was thinking it would be the perfect platform for Google's self-driving vehicle technology.

Re:Actually looks feasable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45919571)

Potential crash detected.
Obstruction ahead.
Obstruction to the right.
Obstruction to the left.
Tailgater behind.
Above... clear.
Evading crash, have a nice flight.

Re:Actually looks feasable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918973)

Lol, what a joke. You have no idea what is useful in a battlefield, these would be expensive wreckage after 1-2 rounds from a kalashnikov.

Re:Actually looks feasable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45920165)

Go back to playing Call of Duty. You don't have a clue, yourself.

Re:Actually looks feasable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45920739)

He's correct. Modern military helicopters are armored. It takes more than small arms fire to bring them down. This thing will never get off the ground (diesel engines? really?)

Re:Actually looks feasable (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | about 7 months ago | (#45946257)

some guy in NZ was going for certification of the worlds first turbo diesel airplane some years ago, cant find a citation at the moment, last I heard he was nearing the end of his flight time trials. also, Cessna offer a turbo diesel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_diesel_engine [wikipedia.org]

Re:Actually looks feasable (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#45920911)

Lol, what a joke. You have no idea what is useful in a battlefield, these would be expensive wreckage after 1-2 rounds from a kalashnikov.

Guess what? The sad truth is that already applies to most helicopters, yet we still use lots of them. We just don't use them in the thick of combat, one or two aside. They serve support roles, where they don't have to try to dodge a lot of bullets.

Hitting the sweet spot. (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 7 months ago | (#45918471)

All the speed, agility and quite of a large, fully-laden truck combined with speed, agility and quiet of a large, fully-laden helio...

When can I download it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918519)

and 3D print it in my living room with a Makerbot? It's the future.

So, a Moller AirCar (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#45918531)

Change this to use dual, counter-rotating ducted fans around the perimeter, aerodynamicize the shape, and you've got the Moller Air-Car!

Well, except that this one appears to be something that could actually become airborne in the foreseeable future.

look ma! (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 7 months ago | (#45918573)

..its a drone on PEDs!

Stopped reading not too far in... (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 months ago | (#45918581)

I stopped reading not too far in when I encountered this little gem of stupidity; The trouble is, helicopters can only land in nice, big open areas that can be miles from where they're needed..

Um, not quite. Military helicopter pilots are trained to land in spaces much smaller than you might think possible. Military helicopters are also equipped with winches - they don't need to land.

This [youtube.com] is an extreme example - but it should give you the general idea. Sadly, the video is missing the most interesting part - the helicopter flying blind and *backwards* out of the narrow part of the canyon.

Speaking from experience... (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 7 months ago | (#45918793)

Hey, I think I've probably as much experience behind the stick as the article's author. Therefore, I can speak on this subject with internet levels of authority. In my experience, if you don't have a big, open area to land, you've just got to tell your crew to bail out and then do so yourself. The helo generally has enough momentum to avoid landing on you and all you need to do is deploy your parachute and you'll land safely.

At that point, you've destroyed your ride but a new one will spawn at base. The important thing is that you've gotten your guys to the objective safely, which is stupid hard to do if you try to land any aircraft. As a matter of fact, flying anything [youtube.com] should be avoided. Given this fact, it's easy to see why an aircraft you can drive would be useful.

Re:Speaking from experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45920019)

If you put c4 on it, you can even use it to take out tanks.

The perfect vehicle for soccer moms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918595)

If you need to drop off your kids in a hurry.

Smaller landing area? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918613)

From the article:

The trouble is, helicopters can only land in nice, big open areas that can be miles from where they're needed.

Helicopters can land in quite small spaces, not to mention that for many medivac scenarios they don't have to land at all but can hoist the injured with a winch instead. is the landing area argument really valid?

Re:Smaller landing area? (1)

SargentDU (1161355) | about 7 months ago | (#45920729)

Hanging out up in the air does make you an easy target, just sayin'. Being on the ground for pickup does have many advantages (both doors could be used for hurried entry.)

It seems a bit LARGE (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 7 months ago | (#45918643)

If the priority is evacuating injured soldiers from the front line, I would be concerned about this vehicle's ability to navigate narrow roads. We have a lot of warfare taking place in urban environments and your evacuation technology is only as good as its ability to get out of a given situation.

Re:It seems a bit LARGE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918715)

Yes, in battle this craft would be a sitting duck regardless if it were on the ground or in the air.

It is a good concept and start though.

El Segundo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918647)

El Segundo? I once found a wallet there!

Purpose? (1)

cahuenga (3493791) | about 7 months ago | (#45918681)

For the life of me I can't imagine any situation where a VTOL would need to be roadable. Maybe for Taco Bell?

Re:Purpose? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#45918717)

For the life of me I can't imagine any situation where a VTOL would need to be roadable.

Well, did you read the whole 3rd sentence of the summary?

as a more flexible way to recover casualties, move supplies, and support special forces.

Nobody is asking you to imagine anything.

Surprisingly, there's even more in the actual article.

Except it's not useful at all... (1)

trims (10010) | about 7 months ago | (#45920437)

It's NOT more flexible, except in hairball wacko scenarios that never happen in reality.

A UH-60 or a OH-6 have better range, better speed, much better maneuverability, and either higher cargo capacity or radically more nimble. And saying these things could be used as a UAV is completely brain-dead - they're so slow and vulnerable that they'd never survive in a hostile environment. At least helicopters have the speed and maneuverability for quick insert and retrieval missions.

And if you think helicopters have high maintenance requirements, and are vulnerable to ground fire, that's nothing compared to what this beast will need/be vulnerable to. All they are is a SUV-sized target.

Every scenario I can possibly think of (including those listed) is more effectively performed at a lower overall price (because you have to factor in losses) by existing helicopters, UAVs, and ground transport.

This is the modern version of steampunk - looks cool, completely practically worthless.

Re:Except it's not useful at all... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#45920697)

It's NOT more flexible, except in hairball wacko scenarios that never happen in reality.

I never said it was, nor am I defending the notion of this.

GP expressed an inability to imagine what this was for. I pointed out that TFS explicitly stated what it was for.

I have no idea about the practicality of this or how often these scenarios come up. I've never had to evac wounded under fire, because, thankfully, it's not in my job description. :-P

Me, I figure you shoot big, and aim for what they had in Aliens -- a VTOL craft you can unload your vehicles from and skip off to a safer place and provide fire support. If that fails, nuke the whole site from orbit. ;-)

Re:Purpose? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918791)

The Harrier VTOL Jet as used by the USMC can only take off vertically with a reduced fuel and weapons payload. The aircraft was deployed in a forward support role using roads as runways. It could land vertically with it's nose pointing in the right direction for takeoff after refuelling and re-arming.
I would imagine that this device would fulfill a similar role.

I worked on the USMC Harrier flight testing in the UK back in the 1970's. I also saw it in operation in W. Germany.

no style at all (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 7 months ago | (#45918699)

I'm thinking mauve. Definitely mauve. All leather interiors too. Because, freedom!

Re:no style at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45919087)

Why would you want mauve? It's already available in tan, beige, ecru, light brown, khaki, buff, and latte!

A terrible idea. (4, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 7 months ago | (#45918701)

These mish-mash flying cars always offer nothing but the worst of both worlds. This thing, like other similar concepts in the past, is not robust enough to make a proper ground vehicle. This is worse because it's intended to go off-road and needs to be armored. But it's inescapable that those two aspects will be compromised to ensure it can get airborne. And the compromises go in both directions, because as an aircraft it will be slow and clumsy.

What does purpose does this thing even serve that isn't already better filled by a helicopter? If a ground vehicle is necessary for a mission there are already numerous ways to deliver and retrieve them using a variety of aircraft. I also recall reading that someone is working on a sort of airframe that mates up to an armored vehicle for transport and separates upon delivery. That seems like a far smarter idea than this.

And since when is "roadable" a word? It always comes off as a pathetic attempt to legitimize a concept; the idea that something is so new and so awesome they had to make up a new term.

Re:A terrible idea. (3, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | about 7 months ago | (#45918913)

>And since when is "roadable" a word? It always comes off as a pathetic attempt to legitimize a concept; the idea that something is so new and so awesome they had to make up a new term.

The early 1920's.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/roadable [reference.com]

Re:A terrible idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45921153)

Perhaps this kind of a vehicle could be packed in a submarine. Autonomous detachable airframe with a series of ground vehicles reenforced to be carried by air could be a next step. Assuming there would be no base or grew to send the helicopter and the required travel distance exceeds the capabilities of a rested men on foot with packs and weapons, this might be useful.

Re:A terrible idea. (1)

eepok (545733) | about 7 months ago | (#45922573)

I had the same instinct about the word "roadable". Here's the Google N-Gram on the word's use in books throughout history: http://goo.gl/gd4xJh [goo.gl]

No such word as "roadable"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918735)

... please stop making words up... AMERICANS...

Leverage is not a verb either.

Re:No such word as "roadable"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45918927)

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/roadable?&path=/
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leverage?s=t

wrong on both counts. thanks for playing though.

Re:No such word as "roadable"... (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 7 months ago | (#45918943)

... please stop making words up... AMERICANS...

Leverage is not a verb either.

Roadable has been part of the lexicon since the early 20's.
Leverage has been in common use as a verb since the mid 50's.
This is how language works. It evolves. Get with the program.

Nice Design idea (1)

recharged95 (782975) | about 7 months ago | (#45920353)

Matching a naturally slowing moving, low agile ground system (it's a large brick) to a naturally unstable, lots of moving parts flight system.

I'm in!

(There's a reason by single bladed copters are still the best choice... they are naturally stable).

Re:Nice Design idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#45920941)

(There's a reason by single bladed copters are still the best choice... they are naturally stable).

You're a lot better off landing on 2/4 engines (if one fails, you'll have at least one opposing pair) in a quad than on 0/1 engines in a heli. Or better yet, you could have eight engines, and still function on six. And quads are very stable.

Re:Nice Design idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45921223)

Um, you can auto-rotate a helicopter, you can't do that on a quadcopter. As usual, you post is full of misinformed speculative horsehit that you masquerade as authority. Shut up and learn something.

Re:Nice Design idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45922121)

Again AC has no idea what they're talking about.

Tell me oh Genius AC, if the blades in your auto-rotating one blade machine are completely destroyed. I know I can destroy the blades completely in my Octo & Hex-a-Copters and they'll still do a controlled descent.

Now STFU and get off my lawn. Dumbass....

Re:Nice Design idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45923901)

What a wonderfully precise and limited form of destruction you wield!

Uuuh (1)

koan (80826) | about 7 months ago | (#45921019)

OK it's not April 1st, so....

Just looking at the picture (2)

ears_d (1400833) | about 7 months ago | (#45921435)

I see 8 turbines on a vehicle about the size of a large pickup truck. I'm guessing its range might be length of a football field...

Re:Just looking at the picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45923969)

If those look like turbines to you, then you're stupid.

Looks like... (1)

jimbrooking (1909170) | about 7 months ago | (#45922317)

A child of the V-22 Osprey with horrible birth defects.

I for one.... (2)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about 7 months ago | (#45924571)

This is pretty much the future of where helicopter technology is going to go, I think. Eight small propellers are way cheaper and simpler than one huge complex rotor system. The main downside is no autorotation in the case of engine failure (maybe a back-up parachute will be the solution).

Also the eight engines will probably be replaced by a single or pair of turbines driving generators and then eight small motors will used to drive the propellers/rotors. That reduces complexity and allows the rotors to be controlled electrically/electronically for precise control.

Re:I for one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45948919)

Multirotors, quad, hex or octo are inherently less efficient and manoeuvrable, than the classic heli design. As much as 20% worse. This is much better [ieee.org] and the standard helicopter design is still better. Find a quadcopter that can fly upside down.

It's a helicopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45925083)

And people say that the military industrial complex wastes money..

busjetc (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 7 months ago | (#45925523)

Fuck war, fuck the people that start wars.

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