DARPA have rejigged the Transformer flying jeep program to focus on an unmanned vertical takeoff and landing delivery system. In the fine tradition of never using a straightforward name when an acronym will do, the new name is the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System—ARES.
The first flight is planned for mid 2015. Piasecki are building the actual UAV and Lockheed are supplying the software.
The aircraft will will have a top speed of 200 kts, will cruise in the 130-150 kt range and will have a gross weight of 7,500 lbs—half of which can be payload.
The Marines are already using an unmanned Lockheed/Kaman K-Max unmanned helicopter for forward operating base resupply with success.
The ARES will be faster and more compact. With its wings unfolded, it will have a span of 42 feet. The ducts are 8.5 foot in diameter enclosing 7.5 foot fans.
I love this kind of stuff and once worked for Piasecki on a DARPA project involving a MAR—a Mission Adaptable Rotor.
Piasecki are an interesting company who have pioneered a significant number of rotary aircraft developments. The concept behind the Chinook CH-47 came from Frank Piasecki. He also did a great deal of work on ducted fans.
We thriller writers get around.