Helicopters of the Future

A number of wildly advanced designs are making headway in the realm of rotorcraft.

** The strange look of the design has given rise to the nickname “Flying Cuisinart.” A funny moniker, yes, but nobody was laughing when the machine last year attained a sustained forward speed in level flight of 232 knots.**
Sikorsky has designed the fastest helicopter of all, the X2, with a twin-coaxial rigid main rotor system that enables sustained cruise speeds above 250 knots.
With the X2, Sikorsky says it is focused on increasing cruise speed without compromising the attributes that make helicopters so valuable.
At the heart of the X2 design is an integrated fly-by-wire system that allows the engine, rotor and “propulsor” (the rear-facing propeller mounted at the tail) to operate efficiently together, with full control of rotor rpm throughout the flight envelope.
The key to making the concept work is the X2’s twin-coaxial, high-lift-to-drag rigid main rotor blades, which spin opposite of each other and thereby ensure that an advancing or retreating blade never has the upper hand in the lift equation and that the whole system is about as efficient as it can be.
Sikorsky next will build two more X2 prototypes.
Both will become the baseline prototypes of an all-new light tactical helicopter called the Sikorsky S-97 Raider.
Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland is overseeing development of the AW609 tiltrotor, evolved from the XV-15 project headed by Bell.
AgustaWestland says the first two prototypes have surpassed 650 flight hours and have proved the aircraft’s ability to fly at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet and cruise at speeds of up to 275 knots at the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight of 16,800 pounds, figures made possible by the fact that the AW609 in forward flight doesn’t abide by the rules that limit helicopter cruise speed.
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