By Gautham Nagesh - 10/01/10 05:14 PM EDT
The Pentagon has awarded AAI Corp. with a contract to build a sport utility vehicle capable of flying, according to a report from Aviation Week.
Reports first emerged in August that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was negotiating with AAI and Lockheed Martin for its Transformer program, which aims to create a fully automated four-person vehicle that can drive like a car but take off to avoid roadside bombs. The budget for the project is reportedly around $40 million.
Now comes the news that AAI has received a contract to move on to the next stage of the project. AAI's design is based on a rotor similar to a helicopter that would allow the vehicle to take off vertically. The rotor would be raised from the top of the vehicle, while the blades would unfold from the sides.
According to Aviation Week, the vehicle's technology would allow it to move faster than a conventional helicopter. Takeoffs and landings would be automated and the device would run on electricity. Lockheed's submission was based on a ducted fan propulsion system that enabled flight, but it is unclear whether the Pentagon plans to move forward with both proposals.