No video, sadly. From Gizmag:

Following on from driving tests that wound up in December last year, the Black Knight Transformer prototype demonstrator has taken to the air for the first time. California-based Advanced Tactics, Inc., announced its vehicle, which combines the capabilities of a helicopter and an off-road vehicle, completed its first flight tests last month, being remotely piloted at an undisclosed location in Southern California.

During the test flights, the vehicle's stability and attitude were handled by the autopilot, with the ground-based human pilot only responsible for increasing or decreasing power. Although it is designed to hover at altitudes of up to 10,000 ft (3,050 m), for safety purposes altitude was limited to less than 10 ft (3 m), with outrigger landing gear attached to prevent it rolling over in the event of any mishaps. There was also an electrical cable attached to the underside of the vehicle that provided emergency shutdown capability. Turns out these precautions weren't required, with Advanced Tactics reporting the aircraft was stable, controllable, and performed as expected.

Similar to the aircraft being pursued by DARPA's Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program, the Black Knight is designed specifically for autonomous casualty evacuation and unmanned cargo resupply missions. While it can be flown by an onboard pilot, its unmanned capabilities are intended to keep pilots out of harm's way on dangerous missions.

The Black Knight Transformer during its first flight

The vehicle boasts six rotors, with a high-speed computerized feedback control system managing the differential thrust between opposing sets of prop-rotors to provide stability and control. This is similar to the approach employed by small electric multicopters, with the company saying this approach is mechanically simpler and cheaper than employing an articulated rotor system like that found on conventional helicopters. This also eliminates the need for a tail-rotor or engine transmission.

To strengthen its suitability for military cargo resupply missions, the vehicle's design provides it with a large interior volume relative to its overall footprint. The company says this feature also makes it suitable for civil missions, such as package delivery and fire-fighting. Measuring 31 x 19 x 8 ft (9.5 x 5.8 x 2.5 m)(L x W x H) in flight configuration, the prototype demonstrator weighs 4,400 lb (1,995 kg).

The AT Black Knight Transformer has a large interior volume similar to that of a BlackHawk...

On the ground, it can reach speeds of 70 mph (112 km/h) traveling on suspension and a drivetrain similar to those found in off-road trucks. As well as smoothing out the ride on rough terrain, the large truck tires and shocks also help soften the vehicle's landings. The modular automobile portion of the vehicle is also designed to be removed to allow for additional payload capacity, or swapped out for a boat hull or amphibious hull for water operations.

Advanced Tactics says that the successful first flight test of the Black Knight Transformer will pave the way for other future modular and roadable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The company has been working on the smaller AT Panther Transformer, a "low-cost vehicle" that carries two passengers and their gear and is designed for Special Operations missions. It is also developing a modular, cargo carrying aircraft that would carry 3,500-lb (1,590-kg) payloads in detachable cargo pods. The company is currently seeking investors and pursuing US and other government commercial opportunities.

Source: Advanced Tactics, Inc.

Views: 4018

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 11, 2014 at 1:48pm

I asked for video as well when they sent the release, I bet it makes a noise.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 11, 2014 at 1:55pm

Yeah, I'd really like to see a video to see what the stability is like.  This could shoot holes in my previous statements that you can only scale up a multirotor so far before it becomes unworkable. But let's wait and see the proof first. ;)

Comment by Jethro Hazelhurst on April 11, 2014 at 3:23pm

Here is a vid of one of their smaller units, can carry an all up weight of 25gk!!

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on April 11, 2014 at 4:27pm

I find it wonderfully ironic that military research are now playing catch up to DIY.

Take for example this one man project done 3 years ago:

Comment by Gary McCray on April 11, 2014 at 4:33pm

So each one of those eight motors is a 4 cylinder air cooled light aircraft engine with gear box speed reduction to prop.

Conservatively at least 200hp per motor so at least 1600hp at full throttle, probably more like 2000.

Assuming hover with normal payload at 50% = 800 to 1000 horsepower, fuel mileage is not likely to be very good.

They may need the 3500lb payload just to carry the fuel needed to go a few miles.

Or maybe you fly in empty, pick up the troops and they drop the motor/rotor units and simply drive out.

Now there's a plan!

It is an interesting experiment, but I would expect a helicopter with similar performance to get at least 2 to 4 times better fuel mileage.

Comment by Don H. on April 11, 2014 at 6:02pm
They look like 2 stroke Rotax engines paired together. I doubt it would make 200 hp per motor. Just a guess though.
Comment by Don H. on April 11, 2014 at 6:03pm
The Rotax 582s were around 65hp. Any idea what engines these are?
Comment by Gary McCray on April 12, 2014 at 9:57am

God, if their 2 strokes the fuel mileage would be even worse.

I know about Rotax's and I can see the attraction, light and proven in aircraft use and used in the early Predators as I recall.

And their 2 stoke 65 horse power engines are only $6000.00 each.

Lets see 2 engines on every prop = $12,000.00 X 8 = $96,000.00 worth of engines, (probably double it for the (mil spec version) I guess for the military, pocket change.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on April 13, 2014 at 2:29am

They look like Hirth H30's.  About 100hp each.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on April 13, 2014 at 2:31am

On closer inspection, they run the engines with gear reductions for one direction and belt reductions for the counter-rotating prop.   Odd really, because the 2-stroke engines can easily be made to run backwards, although whether the gear reduction would like it, I'm not sure.


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