In 2012, a small American aerospace company called Advanced Tactics began work on the AT Panther Transformer, a unique roadable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle designed specifically for Special Operations missions. It is a low-cost vehicle that carries two passengers and their gear to a remote location that is inaccessible by traditional air- or ground-based means, is transportable in a CV-22 Osprey cargo hold, and is operable with minimal training.
The Panther Transformer utilises the company’s AT Transformer technology, which leverages the simplicity and robustness of a “multicopter” helicopter at a full-scale size. Like the small electric multicopters that are prevalent today, the AT Transformer uses engines with a direct drive connection to prop-rotors. The components of the propulsion system, including the engines and prop-rotors, are low-cost commercially available parts and the aircraft’s structure is made of modular field-replaceable components.
Like an electric multicopter, the vehicle is stabilised and controlled by differential thrust between opposing sets of prop-rotors. This design is simple and robust, eliminating the mechanical complexity and cost of the articulated rotor system that stabilises and controls a conventional helicopter , replacing it with a high-speed computerised feedback control system. Additionally, the configuration negates the need for a tail-rotor or engine transmission. The AT Transformer has the ability to perform controlled engine-out flight in case of a critical component failure.
The Panther Transformer has automotive suspensions and drive-trains similar to those used in off-road trucks. Large truck tyres and shocks provide excellent terrain handling and soften the vehicles’ landings. The wheels are driven by an independent engine and transaxle for speeds up to 113 km/h.
The Panther Transformer vehicle has been developed through an iterative prototyping process starting with small scale electric prototype and moving to the larger internal combustion powered technology demonstration vehicle. A scaled prototype of the Panther vehicle has been tested and the full-scale version is in the early design phase.
Watch the Panther’s first hover and maneuverability flight tests…