Eurocopter X3 – Fastest Helicopter on the Planet?

Last week a new European hybrid helicopter was able to reach an almost unprecedented speed of 232 kts. (or 430 km./hr.). This demonstration indicates one more time that the future of high speed helicopters will be based upon hybrid technology.
 
 
The X3 in flight
(Credit: Anthony Pecchi/Eurocopter)

The Eurocopter’s X3 hybrid helicopter reached the speed milestone on May 12 during stable, level flight maintaining a true airspeed of 232 kts. (430 km./hr.) for several minutes. This airspeed was reached after a scheduled upgrade that integrated new  gearboxes into the X3, enabling it to operate at full power.

According to Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter’s CEO. “Future helicopters incorporating the X3 configuration will offer our customers about 50 percent more cruise speed and range at very affordable costs, therefore defining the future of high productivity rotary-wing aircraft.”
 
The Eurocopter X3 had its first test flight in  September 2010. During a series of flights that combines vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter with aircraft-type fast cruise speeds of more than 220 kts. In November 2010 the X3 achieved an initial goal of 180 kts. (333 km./hr.) airspeed at a reduced level of engine power. Since returning to flight last week, the X3 demonstrated sustained flight at full engine power, as well as excellent maneuverability and quick climb and descent rates while employing the new hybrid propulsion system.
During the test program the X3 demonstrated low vibration levels without the use of passive or active anti-vibration systems, providing flight characteristics comparable to those of the best traditional design helicopters currently in service.
The X3 airframe is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers which are installed on short-span fixed wings. This hybrid configuration creates an advanced transportation system offering the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter. This
 
The X3 has a much more conventional helicopter structure than the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey with a center main rotor (unlike the V22 two large side rotors) and is consider to be of a less complex design.
 
Eurocopter envisions a wide range of uses for this X3 concept, including coast guard duties, long-range search and rescue operations border patrol tasks, passenger transport. Like the V22 it can also be useful as a fast military transporter for special forces operations as well as combat SAR and medical evacuation.
TFOT covered other advanced airail vicehles including the American Dynamics’ AD-150 UAV and Northrop Grumman’s X-47B drone.
 
More information can be found on Eurocopter’s website.

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