There are plenty of companies out there working on VTOL manned multirotor designs, from Joby Aviation and eVolo to Jetpack Aviation and Russia's Hoversurf. But there's only one group we're aware of that's actually already built and tested a vehicle capable of doing 70 mph (113 km/h) on the highway and flying 10,000 feet in the air – and that's Advanced Tactics, Inc, (AT) out of Torrance, California, which has just announced the AT Transporter, a multi-mission quadcopter capable of carrying up to six people or 1,200 lb (544 kg) of cargo.
AT's Black Knight Transformer is a gigantic thing, and it's ahead of the rest of the crowd because it's not waiting around on battery technology to make it viable. Focused on military applications, the pilot-optional aircraft uses gasoline motors instead of electric ones to power its propellers, giving it huge range and immediate refueling advantages over its electric brethren.
Now, the company is striking out on a pure VTOL multirotor project without the roadable elements. The AT Transporter is a modular, heavy-lift VTOL platform that boasts multi-mission capabilities thanks to detachable passenger/cargo modules that clip in under the airframe, and it's got some pretty impressive performance stats.
The current prototype, AT's technology demonstrator, can carry up to three people or 800 lb (363 kg) of cargo, and flies at up to 200 mph (322 km/h) with an endurance up to five hours – and being gasoline-powered it could even be filled up at your local neighborhood gas station if need be. There's absolutely nothing in the electric world that can pull those kinds of figures yet, as current battery technology limits most of these things to 20 minute-odd flight times.
But there's also a turbocharged version in the works that bumps things up considerably. It will carry up to six people, or over 1,200 lb (544 kg) of cargo, with an endurance of seven or more hours, a range up to 700 nautical miles (805 mi, 1,296 km) and a top speed around 220 mph (354 km/h). It'd take a brave passenger to sit in this thing at 25,000 feet.
AT is touting the Transporter's multi-mission capabilities. It can be used as a firefighting tool, dropping 1,200 lb of water at precise locations. It can move supplies in and out of disaster areas, using a winch to lower things where landing is impossible. And it can be fitted with floats for water rescue, or be fitted out to carry stretchers for medical evacuations.
Like the Black Knight, it's pilot-optional. This means that the pilot could be on board, they could be remotely controlling it from the ground, or it could be flying autonomously.
When it's time to move it, you just need to remove four locking bolts and hit a button, and the Transporter will fold itself down into a 5-ft-high, 5-ft-wide (1.5 x 1.5 m) shape that'll fit in a shipping container or in the back of a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.
The three-passenger version is set to sell for US$249,000, and the six-passenger for US$395,000 – those are estimated prices at this point, and the passenger pods won't be available until early 2018. It'll be interesting to see how these things go through certification.
Source: Advanced Tactics