Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute received $988 000 late last year to develop an autonomous flight system for DARPA's military flying car concept called the Transformer. If DARPA had its way, the Transformer will be a four-wheeled off road military vehicle that can also transform into a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. It will have a range of 250 nautical miles on a single full tank of fuel, seating for four, and a payload of 1 000 pounds.
The Transformer will greatly improve mobility for ground troops. The soldiers will not only move to and fro the battlefield faster, it will also allow them to fly over difficult terrain or terrain with possible enemy troops.
One of the many challenges of developing the Transformer is the flight system. The ordinary soldier will not be able to fly an aircraft and so the flight system of the vehicle will have to be largely automatic. That's where Carnegie Mellon comes in. Their robotics institute have already won DARPA's Urban Challenge, which is a race to create an automatic car, in 2007 and I would say they are well prepared.
The rest of the Transformer will be developed by AAI and Lockheed Martin, who are creating overall design concepts, and Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, who is developing the engines.