Air Force looking to buy flying cars

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The Air Force is looking to buy commercially-made flying cars designed using drone technology.

The advantages of vertical landing and take-off are many. For example, they would not need runways that are targets and must be defended. They can take off and land practically anywhere. In the past however the cost and practicality of making an airplane do this has been a major obstacle.

Normally I would see an article like this in the military press as simply a lobbying effort by a government agency to garner a bigger budget for itself. That still might be the case, but this part of the Air Force’s proposal stood out:

Because a key aim of Agility Prime is to work with commercial industry, there are currently no plans to modify the design of the orbs for military use or arm them for strike missions. “We will not put any military unique requirements on them because the last thing you want to hear as a commercial backer of one of these companies is that the military is coming in and changing a vehicle away from a type that would have domestic use,” Roper said. “We want to create a supply chain in the U.S. that is dual commercial and military.”

In other words, the Air Force wants to buy these unmodified from commercial civilian companies, both to save money and speed utilization. They have issued the general specs for the two types of vehicles they want (one larger than the other) and are accepting bids from private companies for delivery.

If true and if the Air Force sticks to this policy (which is essentially the approach I advocated for NASA in my 2017 policy paper Capitalism in Space), they hope to have these vehicles flying operationally by 2023, and at a cost of only “a few hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars per unit.”


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  • Thomas V Willoughby

    When I was in the National Guard the Army was doing the same thing. Units that were not first line deployable received CUCVs which were basically bare bones Chevy Blazers and pick ups. They had no amenities but heat, were cammo painted and had a few military fittings to bring them up to spec and a better alternator for radios. Other wise stock.

  • David K

    The military also has tons of automobiles used strictly for transportation and not for combat.

    Still, they can probably find a way to mount some sort of weapon to a commercial vehicle just as they are sometimes mounted to pick up trucks in light combat / policing activities.

  • Col Beausabre

    This is known as COTS – Commercial Off The Shelf procurement where the military buys a piece of equipment, paints it the appropriate color and issues it to the troops. A perfect example are the four-wheel drive pickups used for administrative chores around the base instead of more expensive (and more capable) tactical vehicles. For example, the Chevy K5 Blazer became a M1009 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle when you beefed up the suspension a bit, added tow hooks and painted it olive drab.

  • commodude

    The military is learning, but it’s a slow slog.

    The Army started RFI, Rapid Fielding initiative, to purchase and field COTS (commercial off the shelf) equipment that troops were buying and bringing on deployment anyway. They finally learned that not all the equipment they were giving us actually worked in the real world, and buying what troops were using anyway saved money and sliced years off of the procurement process.

    The Navy attempted this with the Littoral Combat ship (LCS) but blew out the budget when they startled making changes. The ships went from a target price of $275 million to almost 3 times that.

    We’ll see how the Air Force does once the fighter mafia chime in.

  • Jerry Torres

    Some fool in DC has been wasting too much time watching “Jetsons” re-runs or Luke Skywalker in his desert skimmer. in Star Wars IV.

  • hondo

    Reference the Chevy K5 Blazer M1009 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle – they were in fact highly useful and effective. When total replacement began with the HMMVs, they easily went straight to Property Disposal (well maintained and with incredibly low mileage). A number of friends made a small killing buying them in bulk.

  • Max

    “About 50 companies participated in the virtual Agility Prime Launch Week event, demonstrating corporate interest in the initiative.”

    Promotional video, 4:30

    Impressive model.

    What happened to the sky car?
    The same that usually happens when you work contracts with the military to develop an air Jeep/ambulance. Nothing.
    His website:

    BBC click, half hour show on flying vehicles and tech.

  • Col Beausabre

    The dream of the “flying jeep” has been around for a long time. The Curtiss-Wright Model 2500 actually flew (sorta)….my question is, given it’s from the late Fifties, where are the tail fins….

  • pzatchok

    I can understand what they are looking for, but I gave yet to see an example offered that fills the military bill.

    First they pretty much want an air ambulance. One pilot and two to three patients. These have to be ground and air transportable, quickly recharged off of a generator, safe for ground crews. field repairable to an extent and modular as possible.
    Once that basic air-frame is worked out they can change the modular cargo area out for weapons, surveillance systems, or basic transport duties.

    Safe for ground crews means either the lift fans are always above the heads of the ground personnel or they shut down and lift out of the way.
    With good planning two should be able to fit onto a semi trailer. Which also means they will fit inside our smallest air transport planes.

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