According to Computerworld, a Colorado-based company has developed a prototype of a 'flying Humvee' robotic aircraft to ship supplies to military troops. This robotic aircraft, dubbed the V-STAR, short for "VTOL Swift Tactical Aerial Resource,' should be operational around 2010. If calling it a 'flying Humvee' is a figure of style, this unmanned aircraft has impressive characteristics. It will fly at an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) at a cruise speed of 288 knots (530 km/h) for more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers). The V-STAR will be able to carry payloads of about 400 pounds (180 kilograms) and each of these birds will cost about $4 million when it is in production mode. But read more...
This robotic aircraft is built by Frontline Aerospace, Inc.. It will have a length of 21.5 feet (6.5 meters) and a width of 16.5 feet (5 meters). The illustration above shows a Front Line Delivery System (FLDS) simulation in which the V-STAR will bring food or ammunition to military troops. (Credit: Frontline Aerospace) Here is a link to a larger version.
This second illustration shows a V-STAR flying above desert. (Credit: Frontline Aerospace) Here is a link to a larger version. And here is a link to an image gallery from Frontline Aerospace where you'll find additional pictures.
Now, let's look at the Computerworld article to see how Frontline Aerospace's CEO Ryan Wood describes future usages of this unmanned aircraft. "Wood said he foresees a soldier hunkered down in a military hot zone in need of ammunition or fuel. Instead of calling for a manned force to move the supplies to him, he opens his laptop and punches in his request. The V-Star then is loaded up and flies the supplies in without risking other lives or jamming up needed troops. 'Logistics is what's winning the war in many ways in Afghanistan and Iraq,' said Wood. '[Logistics] is the ultimate weapon -- being able to deliver supplies, parts, food, fuel, water or troops. Without even water, in a few days, troops stop. The V-Star allows you to keep moving to your target without slowing down to be resupplied.'"
I guess that the 'winning the war' argument is a little bit controversial. So let's forget it and look at how The Register describes the V-STAR with its unique style in "'Humvee of the Skies' robot air-car design unveiled." "The V-STAR (VTOL Swift Tactical Aerial Resource) is that old favourite among flying-car fanciers, a ducted fan vehicle. In this case, a fairly conventional saucer-like turboshaft powered fan airframe has a few new bells and whistles added: a separate tail fan for high speed, and a diamond-shaped box wing for efficient lift at speed. The designers also hope to drastically improve fuel efficiency using a proprietary 'recuperator' to harvest waste heat from the turbine exhausts and put it back into the engine at the intake. Unusually, the flying Hummer's payload bay is situated inside the central hub of the hover fans. This is intended to benefit the craft's stability. The box wing also has pop-out winglets for better lift at low speeds."
For more information, here are links to two documents from Frontline Aerospace.
- Frontline Aerospace Unveils "Humvee of the Air" (Press release, June 9, 2008)
- The V-STAR Pocket Guide (PDF format, 21 pages, 1.18 MB), from which many numbers mentioned above have been picked
Sources: Sharon Gaudin, Computerworld, June 17, 2008; Lewis Page, The Register, June 16, 2008; and various websites
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