Helicopters have been utilized since they were first designed to be the convenient air transportation that airplanes could not. They can reach those little remote areas without runways, or hover above the ocean for a sear-and-rescue operation. However, they lacked the speed of planes and their ability to get from place to place quickly. But they are getting faster.
The average top speed of a helicopter is right around 160 mph, or 130-140 knots. Eurocopter was not impressed and decided to strap on two more turbines to the wings and see what it could really do. The results were impressive.
On May12 of this year, the Eurocopter X3 broke the world speed record for helicopters by flying at 267 mph for several minutes while remaining stable, even with autopilot disabled.
The X3 is equipped with two turboshaft engines, one for the main five blade rotor and one for the two smaller propellers on the wings. It has the same power and speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft but with the VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) capabilities of a helicopter.
The flight on May 12 was only the craft’s third outing, and the improvements and success shocked even the pilots. “The X3 handles extremely well, demonstrating remarkable stability at high speed – even with the autopilot off,” said flight test engineer Daniel Semioli and test pilot Hervé Jammayrac.
No extra attention was needed for designing anti-vibration or stability instruments and everything handles just as well as a traditional craft.
The new aircraft is destined for a bright future of many uses. Among them are speedy long-range search-and-rescue efforts and military operations. They may also be available for wealthy patrons to speedily get from place to place in a city or shorter distance travel.
Though testing the X3 is going to take part through the rest of the year, I hope to see these bad boys get used as soon as possible to make the world run just a little quicker and safety is an extra couple minutes sooner.
Eurocopter, via DVice