Photo: Eurocopter USA
Flight Global has an excellent piece by Andy Healy about the helicopter business’ recent development of 1950s innovative design with 21st century technology.The ever expanding helicopter market has exploded with bold aircraft for both military and civilian use.
Many of these designs go well beyond the tried and true rotor and propeller system that has defined generations of helicopter technology since their introduction into military use in the forties.
The Eurocopter X3 prototype has just landed in the U.S. for a national tour that will see it spending quite a bit of time in the Washington area in an attempt to woo policymakers toward the design.
Eurocopter intends the chopper to be used for search-and-rescue, border patrol, special forces operations, and troop transport.
For this helicopter, speed is the name of the game. The two propellers on the sides of the craft both stabilise the helicopter -- removing the need for a tail prop -- as well as help it gain excellent acceleration and speed.
In case the military pitch fails to convince the Pentagon that the X3 is what they've been needing, Eurocopter expects that the craft will see many possible civilian uses.
The helicopter can be used for corporate transportation in lieu of a jet, and the dual turboshaft engines will make it one of the fastest helicopters at the airport.
Given that it doesn't need a runway, it's a very versatile aircraft that maintains speed.
AgustaWestland -- an Italian and English company -- already has 70 orders for their AW609.
The aircraft employs a tilt rotor design, allowing it to take off and land vertically while having similarities to a regular prop aircraft in flight.
Despite the piling up of civilian orders, AgustaWestland is mostly aiming for the Military and Government market. The parent company, Finmeccanica, is one of the world's largest defence contractors.
As for military uses, AgustaWestland sees the craft as a troop transport system similar to the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
With success already expected as a competitor to the business jet market, it's only a matter of time before AgustaWestland comes out with more design additions to fit it for military use.
Plus, the United States is already watching. the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for aviation has already asked Bell Helicopter to study the possibility if using the AW609 as an escort for the Osprey.
Looking at the domestic market, it seems like there isn't too much to look forward to in helicopter development.
That is, until you've checked out the Sikorsky S-97 Raider.
One of the huge innovations on the S-97 that make it so applicable is the clutched propeller in the back, replacing the typical propeller configuration and allowing for huge increases in speed.
The coaxial rotor system is likewise a huge improvement for the Raider, meaning that this aircraft will have unprecedented speed and stability for the Military.
This is the Sikorsky X2, an experimental prototype that validated much of Sikorsky's proposed additions to the Raider.
This proof-of-concept prototype is considered the fastest helicopter ever made. In tests, it achieved speeds of 300 mph.
Now that it's design has been rolled into the Raider's, the U.S. Army is already interested in it. Sikorsky intends the aircraft for use in the Army's Armed Aerial Scout program.
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