Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System

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DARPA ARES scenarii

The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) was a concept for an unmanned VTOL flight module that can transport various payloads. The concept started as the TX (Transformer) in 2009 for a terrain-independent transportation system centered on a ground vehicle that could be configured into a VTOL air vehicle and carry four troops. ARES' primary function was the same as TX, to use flight to avoid ground-based transportation threats like ambushes and IEDs for units that don't have helicopters for those missions. It was to be powered by twin tilting ducted fans and have its own power system, fuel, digital flight controls, and remote command-and-control interfaces. The flight module would have different detachable mission modules for specific purposes including cargo delivery, CASEVAC, and ISR. Up to 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) of payload would be carried by a module.[1][2]

In May 2019, DARPA cancelled the ARES research effort due to significant cost growth and delays.[3]

Transformer TX[edit]

DARPA TX (Transformer)
TypeRoadable aircraft
Place of origin United States
Length>30 ft (910 cm)[4]
Width>8.5 ft (260 cm)[4]
Height>9 ft (270 cm)[4]

Payload capacity1,000 lb (450 kg)[4]
250 NM (460 km)[4]

The DARPA TX, or Transformer, was a 5-year, 3-phase[5] roadable aircraft effort coordinated by DARPA for the United States military.

The objective of the Transformer (TX) program was to demonstrate a four-person vehicle that provided enhanced logistics and mobility though hybrid flyable/roadable capabilities. This presented an unprecedented capability to avoid traditional and asymmetrical threats while avoiding road obstructions. TX would enable enhanced company operations of future missions with applicable use in strike and raid, intervention, interdiction, insurgency/counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, medical evacuation, and logistical supply. The TX vehicles were to have Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capability with a minimum combat range of 250 nautical miles on a single tank of fuel.

The primary focus of the TX program was the development and demonstration of an integrated suite of critical technologies to enable dual-mode transportation, VTOL capability, efficient flight performance, and a combat range comparable to present day rotorcraft. It was envisioned that the program would, at a minimum, demonstrate the ability to build a ground vehicle that was capable of configuring into a VTOL air vehicle that provided sufficient flight performance and range, while carrying a payload that was representative of four troops with gear. Key performance parameters were specified to show specific operational utility. The program was divided into two separate tasks; Task A would develop and integrate a full vehicle and Task B would develop individual critical technologies components for the full vehicle.


The Marines, Air Force, special forces[6] and National Guard[7] had stated an interest in the vehicle. Marines may have use the Transformer as a tool for the Enhanced Company Operations concept.[8]

The Marines would use the vehicle for amphibious assault and potentially eliminate the need for amphibious vehicles which are vulnerable to shore defenses and limited by their low speeds. Special ops would like to send vehicles unmanned to resupply special operators and then allow them to use that vehicle.[6]



Its VTOL capability gave it the ability to avoid threats and obstacles. The TX was required to have a range of 250 nmi (460 km) on a single tank of fuel which may be attained through flight, land, or a combination of both.[4]


The vehicle was to be lightly armored, required only to handle small arms fire. Its VTOL capability gave it the ability to avoid threats.[4]

Foreign developments[edit]

Russia will develop a vehicle similar to the TX for the Russian Airborne Troops. The vehicle will be a hybrid of a light combat vehicle and an attack helicopter with a crew of three to four people, and be developed by 2030.[9]


External image
AAI/Textron's Transformer proposal

DARPA was at first not interested in traditional rotary-wing aircraft, but shrouded rotor concepts might have been considered.[10]

Phase I

The first phase consisted of trade studies to evaluate future technologies[11] as well as conceptual design of both a prototype and a production vehicle.[5]

No more than 2 contracts were to be awarded in the $65m Phase I.[4][12] In September however only AAI's proposal was selected,[13] for $3m.[14] This proposal built on the CarterCopter slowed rotor technology,[15][16][17] and incorporated deployable surfaces technology from Terrafugia.[18][19] The United States Army Research Laboratory (Vehicle Technology Directorate) was contracted to conduct rotor analysis. Other partners were Bell Helicopter and Textron Marine & Land Systems, sister companies of AAI and subsidiaries of Textron. Lockheed Martin, Piasecki Aircraft, Ricardo Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Aurora Flight Sciences, ThinGap, Terrafugia and Metis Design are also connected to the project.[12]

In October 2010, Lockheed Martin, Piasecki Aircraft and its partners were also connected to Phase 1 of the program.[11]

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne received a US$1 million contract[14] to develop a Diesel engine called Enduro Core to power the Transformer.[20]

Phase II — Design

In 2011, AAI and Lockheed were chosen to proceed with Phase II of the project.

The 7,500 lb AAI vehicle was proposed to be equipped with a 1,200 shp Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine to power four electric wheel motors or the 56-inch ducted fan, and spin up the 50-foot rotor. Ground speed was up to 80 mph; flight speed range was 50 to 155 kt; maximum altitude was 10,000 ft.

The 7,000 lb Lockheed vehicle had two turboshaft engines in a 41 ft wing with tilting 8.5 ft ducted fans, giving a flight speed of 130 kt, while a Pratt & Whitney EnduroCore heavy-fuel rotary engine powers the four electric wheel motors for ground motion.

At AUVSI 2012, Lockheed Martin spoke openly about their status on the project. AAI Corporation was silent about their involvement details, but confirmed they were still in the competition. At the time of expo, neither company had prototype vehicles, but had designs and scale models of their concept vehicles. Previously, both passed DARPA's preliminary design review, which involved computer modeling. Lockheed's vehicle relied on two huge turbo-shaft fans and folding wings fixed to a turret above the cab to provide lift and thrust during flight. A key component is computerized flight. Because it will be used by soldiers rather than trained pilots, vehicle operation will be mostly automated. One idea is to have a computer screen to simply plot GPS points to chart a flight path. The fans rotate 90 degrees on the turret from their stowed positions just in front of and behind the cab to their in-flight positions on both sides of it. Control of takeoff, landing, and flight is controlled by the computer, although soldiers onboard would be able to alter their course or perform an emergency landing. The automated flight technology will be similar to the kind used by the F-35 Lightning II. The lift fans of Lockheed's vehicle provide hover while AAI's did not. AAI's vehicle could be made lighter, which gave greater ability to up-armor.[21]

Phase III — Manufacture of the prototype.[5]

The winning team from Phase II will produce a Prototype Vehicle (PV) with limited features, ready to fly in mid-2015. DARPA aims for a full-featured Field Vehicle (FV) to cost around $1 million, compared to $400,000 for a Humvee and $4 million for a light helicopter.[22]

Previous concepts[edit]

AVX concept

AVX Aircraft Company proposed a concept with coaxial rotors. Ducted fans were intended as propulsion in air as well as on ground.[23]

Logi and Trek offered the Tyrannos, a tilt-fan vehicle.[24]

Transition to ARES[edit]

In 2012, Lockheed and Piasecki Aircraft were selected for their design that combined a manned vehicle with an unmanned detachable ducted fan-powered flight module, which could operate by itself. A 2013 DARPA program review found limited interest in the flying car concept among the military services, leading to the ground vehicle being dropped and the program adapted to use the unmanned VTOL flight module delivery system as the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES).[25] The pod-carrying facility will have assistance loading cargo and be able to unload autonomously. Remote control is possible, but it will have the ability to fly itself, enabling battlefield supply missions carrying cargo or personnel without risking pilots. Lockheed claims their craft can be configured for several missions including reconnaissance, medical evacuation, and strike.[26][27][28] It is to carry a detachable payload module such as a cargo pod, casualty evacuation module, light vehicle, or even a small boat. The front section of the flight vehicle has management system computers that are controlled by a ground control station to plot its flight path.[29]

Work on Phase III began in January 2014; Lockheed is to develop the flight control software, and Piasecki will build the flight module and systems. The fans are driven via two turboshafts housed in the center section. The constant-speed, variable-pitch fans and movable vanes in the duct exhausts provide control. The ARES module will be 8.5 ft (2.6 m) wide, 30 ft (9.1 m) long with the outboard wing panels stowed, and 42 ft (13 m) long unfolded. 7.5 ft (2.3 m)-diameter fans will be enclosed in ducts that are initially planned to be 8.5 ft in diameter, which may be increased in length to 3.05 m (10.0 ft). Optimum speed will be 130–150 knots (150–170 mph; 240–280 km/h), with a maximum speed of 200 knots (230 mph; 370 km/h), faster than a helicopter with a sling-load. A similar class of helicopter would require a 30.5 m (100 ft)-wide landing zone, double that of ARES, making 10 times more landing locations usable; the ARES would however be less fuel-efficient than a helicopter while hovering. The Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations forces have shown interest in ARES demonstrations. DARPA and the contractors shall identify a transition partner if tests are successful.[25][30] Lockheed expected flight testing of the ARES module in June 2016,[31] but that was delayed until late 2017 because "some developmental items required some additional testing;" the drive train borrows gears from the CH-53E helicopter, but the proprotors, ducts, and other parts are all unique and brand new. The demonstrator has a maximum takeoff weight of 7,000 lb (3,200 kg) and is powered by two Honeywell HTS900 helicopter engines each generating 989 hp. While it is planned to fly at 170 knots (200 mph; 310 km/h) with a ceiling of 20,000 ft (6,100 m) and a mission radius of 175 mi (282 km), the production variant is planned to be able to cruise at 250 knots (290 mph; 460 km/h) with a mission radius similar to the V-22 Osprey.[32]


  1. ^ ARES Aims to Provide More Front-line Units with Mission-tailored VTOL Capabilities Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine - Darpa press release, 11 February 2014
  2. ^ DARPA Is Developing 'Transformers'-Style Flying Drones -, 12 February 2014
  3. ^ DARPA cancels ARES cargo drone project with Lockheed Martin. Flight International. 10 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Transformer (TX) Vertical Takeoff and Landing Roadable Air Vehicle" (PDF). DARPA. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  5. ^ a b c New DARPA project focuses on future vehicles, armor Composites World, 6 December 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b James K. Sanborn (20 September 2010). "DARPA works to develop a flying Humvee". Army Times Publishing Company. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  7. ^ Martin, Bob. Transformer: If Humvees could only fly Archived December 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine KRQE, 3 December 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  8. ^ Page, Lewis. DARPA, US Marines team on proper flying car project The Register, 14 April 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  9. ^ Russia will develop a hybrid vehicle that combines features of armoured vehicle and helicopter -, 2 August 2013
  10. ^ Weinberger, Sharon. "Pentagon Chooses Two Companies to Build Flying Humvee" Popular Mechanics, 27 August 2010. Retrieved: 21 December 2010.
  11. ^ a b "DARPA selects AAI, Lockheed Martin for Transformer (TX) program" Archived November 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Defense Update, 13 October 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  12. ^ a b Baratti, L. "Flying car company tagged for Transformer tactical vehicle team" Exec Digital, 18 December 2010. Accessed: 27 December 2010.
  13. ^ Spencer Ackerman (29 September 2010). "Darpa Moves a step Closer to Its Flying Humvee". Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  14. ^ a b Dillow, Clay. "The unexpected rebirth of the Flying Car" Popular Science, 29 October 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  15. ^ Skinner, Tony. "Textron pursues 'flying Humvee' programme" Shephard, 22 July 2010. Retrieved: 26 November 2010.
  16. ^ Weinberger, Sharon. "The U.S. Military wants a battlefield-ready flying car" Popular Mechanics, 15 July 2010. Retrieved: 26 November 2010.
  17. ^ "DARPA kicks off Transformer (TX) program" Archived 2010-11-22 at the Wayback Machine DARPA, 12 October 2010. Retrieved: 26 November 2010.
  18. ^ Huang, Gregory T. "Terrafugia, Aurora Flight Sciences, Metis Design take wing in $65M DARPA program to design Flying Humvee" Xconomy, 2 December 2010. Accessed: 16 December 2010.
  19. ^ McKeegan, Noel. "Terrafugia to contribute DARPA flying car program" GizMag, 30 November 2010. Accessed: 16 December 2010.
  20. ^ Ackerman, Spencer. "Darpa’s flying Humvee goes Diesel" Wired, 20 October 2010. Accessed: 31 December 2010.
  21. ^ Dillow, Clay. "Concept Gets a Lift from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter" Popular Science, 10 August 2012. Accessed: 11 August 2012.
  22. ^ Warwick, Graham. "Transformer - Coming to a Theater Near You?", Aviation Week 24 October 2011. Accessed: 5 November 2011.
  23. ^ Quick, Darren. "AVX flying-car concept – the Vertical Takeoff and Landing SUV" GizMag, 19 July 2010. Accessed: 11 August 2012.
  24. ^ "Armada International - Compendium - Special Operations Equipment - 6-2010" p10, Armada International, 2010. Accessed: 11 August 2012.
  25. ^ a b Lockheed/Piasecki Team Tackles Cargo UAV -, 24 February 2014
  26. ^ Lockheed Martin to build Transformer TX—Autonomous flying payload carrier -, 20 August 2013
  27. ^ DARPA is building an autonomous vertical takeoff transport for troops, cars, and more -, 21 August 2013
  28. ^ Lockheed Martin’s Transformer TX in Phase 3 of Development Process -, 22 August 2013
  29. ^ Lockheed Martin Showcases Transformer UAS -, 13 August 2013
  30. ^ Lockheed/Piasecki move beyond flying cars with ARES -, 25 February 2014
  31. ^
  32. ^ DARPA Do-It-All Drone Among New VTOLs Nearing Flight -, 17 October 2016


This article incorporates work from, which is in the public domain as it is a work of the United States Army.

External links[edit]