Boeing DiscRotor Helicopter
DARPA/Boeing to demonstrate disc-rotor technology in wind next summer…
Advancements in aviation have allowed a technology from the past to rear its majestic head – the compound helicopter.
The race is already heating up to develop faster, more maneuverable helicopters for military and civilian use, with Sikorsky’s X2 and Eurocopter’s X3 leading the pack.
Boeing Disc Rotor Helicopter
But Sikorsky and Eurocopter are far from the only ones concentrating on next-gen helicopter technology. Boeing recently announced its’ plans to build a 20 percent scale model of its Telescoping-Blade Disc-Rotor Helicopter for wind tunnel testing next summer.
While the traditional blades of a helicopter’s overhead rotor allow for seamless VTOL, they become plagued with drag issues when craft approaches subsonic speeds. In order to reduce drag, the disc-rotor retracts the blades into the disc as the helicopter approaches high-speeds. By transferring propulsion to two fixed wing propellers, the Disc Rotor can effectively maneuver like a plane.
Boeing’s conceptual Disc Rotor is capable of traveling up to 400 nm (460 miles) at speed of 300-400 knots (345-460 mph). Two turboshaft engines will power the main rotor as well as two fixed wing propellers. The craft will be able to carry a payload exceeding 2,400lb, and should be able to maneuver at up to 4g.
Boeing Disc Rotor
The Disc-Rotor helicopter, invented by Danish engineer Jacob Ellehammer early last century, is being developed under DARPA’s Disc Rotor program to demonstrate high-speed, VTOL helicopter for combat search and rescue.
When Boeing’s concept designs emerged in 2008, there were concerns that its disc-rotor helicopter closely resembled the Gerbino Flight System, a design patented by American movie stunt pilot Al Gerbino. But whatever legal obstacles stood in the way must now have been squashed as Boeing plan to being testing next summer.
- Adam Frucci: DARPA Developing a Helicopter with a Spinning Disc Instead of Blades. Gizmodo, 09/05/2008.
- Graham Warwick: High-Speed VTOL Goes for a Spin. Leading Edge, Aviation Week, 10/22/2010.
- Lewis Page: DARPA funds radical disco-copter concept. The Register, 09/05/2008.