Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, one of the agencies responsible for developing technology for the U.S. military, is evaluating proposals for a flying car. Its long-term goal for the recently dubbed Transformer X (TX) is to provide safe transport for men and equipment through hostile areas. Flying lets the vehicle avoid mines and the risk of being followed or ambushed.

The vehicles must carry at least 1,000 lb, enough to accommodate four soldiers and their gear. It needs to be no more than 8.5-ft wide, 9-ft high, and 30-ft long, about the size of two Hummers. The TX should also be able to handle light off-roading. Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) is another requirement, as is the ability to cruise at an altitude of 10,000 ft. Range should be at least 250 nautical miles on a single tank of fuel whether it is driving, flying, or a combination of the two. And it needs to be so simple to operate — practically autonomous — that nonpilots can take it airborne, navigate to a destination, and land it.

The firm making the winning proposal is eligible for $43 million to build a prototype that will be ready for ground and flight testing by 2015.

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.