Logistics and transportation has always been one of the unique challenges facing warplanners through the ages. The modern age has now revealed unparalleled capabilities made possible through advanced technologies. Advanced Tactics, a technology-focused concern founded in 2007 in El Segundo, California, has developed a dual-role, multi-purpose system, known as the "Black Knight Transformer", capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), forward flight and on-road/off-road driving to provide the American military with an all-in-one solution for delivering cargo/extracting wounded to/from hard-to-reach areas. Advanced Tactics markets its Black Knight as "...the world's first roadable vertical takeoff and landing vehicle".
The concept of the Black Knight is rather simple, giving helicopter-like qualities to a driving vehicle. To achieve vertical and forward flight, eight piston-driven engines are fitted to a strut network along the sides of the hull, four engines to a side. Each engine drives a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The combination of this output gives the vehicle the necessary lift and forward travel as if a helicopter. When landed, four large road wheels act as the undercarriage and give the vehicle its on-road/off-road travel component. Power during ground travel is by way of a dedicated Volkswagen engine. The "arms" supporting the multicopter engines are then tucked along the sides of the vehicle to help limit its width. The fuselage is given a generally rectangle shape with the cargo hold making up a bulk of the internal space. Vision for the pilot is assisted by the designs multiple viewports including a heavily glassed, framed cockpit area. The vehicle showcases a gross weight in the 4,400lbs range and its cargo hold capabilities are intended to be highly modular to suit mission requirements.
As it stands, the Black Knight is an experimental concept vehicle and has completed early hovering flights. Its initial flight was recorded in March of 2014, this as a tethered prototype controlled by a ground-based controller (a 2,200lb version, known as the "Mini-Knight", was flown as early as June of 2012). The engines are monitored and managed by a digital control system that applies appropriate changes to the powerplants during flight. Development has been ongoing since 2010 and is now supported by the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, the United States Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, and the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory - each with a specific interest in such a unique battlefield concept.
In its current form, the Black Knight Transformer represents something more akin to a "proof-of-concept" aircraft/vehicle. A finalized version would become more "militarized", most likely exhibiting expanded dimensions and performance capabilities, perhaps appearing more as a military transport helicopter with eight lift engines and heavy duty road wheels.
Listed specifications for the Black Knight, per Advanced Tactics marketing material, include a length of 31 feet, a width of 19 feet and a height of 8 feet. With the arms stowed, its length decreases to 25 feet while width decreases to 8.5 feet. The reported service ceiling is 10,000 feet with a maximum ground driving speed of 70 miles per hour.
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