NASA Just Simulated The Crash Of A Marine Helicopter -- And Studied The Results

Helo drop NASADavid C. Bowman/NASA LangleyTechnicians at NASA Langley pulled a helicopter 30 feet into the air before dropping it to test crashworthy systems.

On October 1, NASA researchers tried to simulate a helicopter crash.

Researchers gathered at the space agency’s Langley’s Landing and Impact Research facility alongside representatives from the military, as well as national and international government agencies, to drop a former Marine helicopter 30 feet to the ground.

The NASA drop test featured a Boeing CH-46 fuselage outfitted with almost 40 cameras inside and out, along with an additional 350 data channels recording the movement of aircraft.

Inside the helicopter were a further 13 crash-test dummies equipped with monitoring instruments, along with two non-instrumented manikins. The purpose of the test — which lasted only three seconds but took more than three years to prepare — was to aid in developing helicopters that are safer and more efficient, and to closely study the physics and dynamics of a common crash scenario.

The October 1 test drop is the successor to a nearly identical CH-46 drop that occurred in August 2013. In the most recent drop, NASA added a specially developed energy-absorbing passenger floor, as well as new seats and restraints.

NASA filmed the drop from a multitude of angles to document the test and to gather additional data. Here are some of the highlights.

The Boeing CH-46 was dropped from 30 feet in the air to a soil base.

Soil was purposefully chosen — the majority of helicopter crashes land on organic materials and not manmade surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.

To provide additional information beyond the sensors within the fuselage, the CH-46 was painted white with black polka dots. These dots allow cameras filming the event at 500 images-per-second to see exactly how the aircraft’s structure responded to the crash.

Thirteen of the 15 manikins within the aircraft were outfitted with sensors, recording how they fared during the helicopter’s crash landing.

The full video is below.

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