Autobots, roll out! But for real, this time.
When I was a kid, all I wanted was for Transformers to be real ... and to be mutated into a Ninja Turtle. The latter is sadly a ridiculous child's dream, doomed to go unanswered. The former, however, might actually happen.
Unsurprisingly, it's a part of the United States Department of Defense who's responsible for our future robot overlords. DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is presently working on a little something called ARES. Nothing insidious about that. The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System is basically a drone that can fly to a soldier and then transform into a number of different tools that the soldier can use in the field. Here's the official jargon.
It is envisioned that the flight module would travel between its home base and field operations to deliver and retrieve several different types of detachable mission modules, each designed for a specific purpose—cargo pickup and delivery, casualty extraction or airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, for instance.
Units could direct the flight modules using apps on their mobile phones or ruggedized tablets. Initially, the system would be unmanned, with a future path towards semi-autonomous flight systems and user interfaces for optionally manned/controlled flight.
So the catch here is that the ARES isn't sentient, so it isn't just transforming all on its lonesome. The soldier is the one who sends the signal to the robot in order for it to alter its configuration. Also, ARES is not actually a giant robot. Yet. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
ARES can be used for bringing necessary tools and supplies to soldiers in need as well as checking out areas to make sure a soldier may travel safely. But who knows what the future might hold? Surely, the ARES is already more than meets the eye.
The project is already in its third and final phase. So whatever shape ARES takes (both literally and figuratively), we'll find out soon enough. But, for now, let's just keep ARES aware from our stockpile of energon cubes. Just in case.