Today the US Department of Defense announced that they would be collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University to develop an autonomous copilot for DARPA's upcoming "helicopter jeep" project. Yes, the military is developing a helicopter jeep.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a 17-month, $988,000 contract to Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute to develop an autonomous flight system for the Transformer (TX) Program, which is exploring the feasibility of a military ground vehicle that could transform into a vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) air vehicle.
The TX vehicle envisioned by DARPA would be capable of transporting four people and 1,000 pounds of payload up to 250 nautical miles, either by land or by air. Its enhanced mobility would increase survivability by making movements less predictable and would make the vehicle suitable for a wide variety of missions, such as scouting, resupply and medical evacuation.
"The TX is all about flexibility of movement and key to that concept is the idea that the vehicle could be operated by a soldier without pilot training," said Sanjiv Singh, CMU research professor of robotics. "In practical terms, that means the vehicle will need to be able to fly itself, or to fly with only minimal input from the operator. And this means that the vehicle has to be continuously aware of its environment and be able to automatically react in response to what it perceives."
[Top photo via Lockheed Martin]