Meet The X2: The Fastest Helicopter in the World
Posted June 2, 2011on:
When Sikorsky nailed the airspeed record of 288 mph for unassisted helicopter flight last year, the company thought it was onto something big. With the awarding to Sikorsky of the Collier Trophy this year, they know it.
According to Wired, the Collier is awarded for the greatest aeronautical achievement in the United States. This year marks the award ‘s 100th anniversary, and the year Sikorsky joins an impressive list, along with the Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager, and the crew of Apollo 11.
Sikorsky entered the romanticized upper-echelons of flight by making the very unglamorous decision to examine its stale development process, reports Credit Suisse analyst Michael Exstein.
Helicopters haven’t advanced much since their introduction following World War II. A top rotor, a tail stabilizer, more recently a turbine for thrust — that about caps the list of chopper advancements. Sikorsky took a look at their product line, decided they needed to do better, and imposed one year upon themselves to build a better helicopter.
The physical limits of the design proved so contentious that many within Sikorsky maintained the machine would never fly, right up until the moment it left the ground.
There are a litany of problems associated with tilt and rotor velocity that plague a traditional helicopter’s high-speed attempts. Team X2 avoided the dilemma by conjuring up various feats of design and engineering that together give the X2 unparalleled smooth, fast flight. With a total budget of only $25 million, the team was forced to get creative, and it paid off.
The most significant advancements made by the X2 are:
- The coaxial main rotor system that eliminates the need for a tail rotor
- In place of the tail rotor, the propeller for forward thrust
- Retreating blade stall is countered by slowing down the main prop and using the propeller for thrust. Imgine using the blades as small but effective wings
- An Active Vibration Control to stabilize the craft at higher speeds
Together, the advancements earned them a new government contract and Sikorsky is moving forward with the military version of the X2, called the X2 Raider. Being designed for the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout Program the craft will maintain the same design with the added bonus of being quieter and capable of carrying a heavier payload.
The new helicopter will play an important part in reducing troop fatalities and maximizing the “golden hour’ the critically injured are said to have between being wounded and death.
The X2 Raider will make its first flight in 2015.