Airbus is trying take high speed helicopters to whole new level.
Last month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved an application last month from Airbus Helicopters’ Axel Fink, Ambrosius Weiss, and Andrew Winkworth for a new compound helicopter.
The patented design is a yet-unnamed development of the company’s revolutionary X3 experimental helicopter that first flew in 2010.
The concept is also part of Airbus Helicopters’ (formerly known as Eurocopter) high speed, long-range, hybrid helicopter (H3) initiative.
During testing, the X3 managed to reach to 293 mph — making it the fastest non-tilt-rotor helicopter in the world. The new patent offers a development on the original X3 design.
What makes the new aircraft a compound helicopter are is pair of wing-mounted engines with pusher propellers in addition to the conventional main rotor. This design eliminates the need for a tail rotor to counter the torque of the main rotor.
A helicopter with additional pusher or puller propellers is far from new and various versions have been flying for decades. However, a helicopter with this layout and such high performance is quite novel.
This design also helps the helicopter reach the performance levels of tilt-rotor aircraft such as the V22 Osprey that can takeoff and land like a helicopter, but transform into a conventional aircraft for horizontal flight.
Unlike the X3 prototype, the patented aircraft’s propellers are mounted behind the wings instead of in front. According to the patent, this helps reduce noise, and vibrations while improving lift and passenger safety. The authors of the patent indicate that a further development of the design will include turbojet engines. This means the patented helicopter will likely be significantly faster than the record-setting X3.
This new patent could also be the latest development of the Low Impact Fast and Efficient Rotor-Craft or LifeRCraft to which Airbus Helicopters hinted in 2014. That project is also based on the X3 concept.
It is unclear if the patented compound helicopter will ever see production in its current guise.
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