- Airbus Helicopters
Airbus is trying to take high-speed helicopters to a whole new level.
Last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office approved an application from Airbus Helicopters’ Axel Fink, Ambrosius Weiss, and Andrew Winkworth for a new compound copter.
The patented design is a yet unnamed development of the company’s revolutionary X3 experimental copter that first flew in 2010.
The concept is also part of Airbus Helicopters’ – formerly Eurocopter – high speed, long-range, hybrid helicopter (H3) initiative.
During testing, the X3 managed to reach 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 copter are its 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. But a copter with this layout and such high performance is novel.
- Airbus Helicopters
This design also helps the copter reach the performance levels of tilt-rotor aircraft such as the V22 Osprey that can take off 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 patent authors indicate that further development of the design will include turbojet engines. This means that 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.