What do you get when you cross a military truck with a drone? This isn’t some sort of joke, that’s the basic concept behind the Black Knight Transformer, a military vehicle being created by a company called Advanced Tactics. The vehicle is designed to function as a truck for the most part but Advanced Tactics is also building in flight capabilities similar to those seen in commercial drones by using eight sets of helicopter-like blades to lift the truck.
And the Black Knight has recently completed its first flight test. It finished driving tests late last year and it has finally achieved liftoff, rising to a height of 3 metres during its initial takeoff. That’s not a whole lot of height but it’s a proof of concept that one can have a truck that also flies – even though it’s closer to being a hovercraft at the moment.
The Transformer series (there is a smaller vehicle, known as the Panther Transformer) gets its name from the vehicle’s ability to fold down the props that allow it to become airborne, letting it operate like a truck in more confined spaces. When a section of road becomes impassable, the idea goes, the props come out and the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aspects of the truck come into play.
Advanced Tactics’ flying truck isn’t likely to make it into a war zone any time soon, there’s still a considerable amount of work to be done with it. The test-flight, for instance, was done remotely this time around, a feature that the Black Knight’s designers are apparently planning on hanging onto, but they’ll need to conduct manned testing as well. They also need to get it to higher elevations safely before it becomes wholly viable. If it ever goes into service, it will be used to carry cargo and possibly wounded troops without having to bother too much with most ground-based hazards. And if it doesn’t go into service, at least there’s someone out there working on a flying truck.