Airbus X3 Poised to Change the Helicopter Industry
In the world of aeronautical developments that have taken a while to pan out, the most notable is always the flying car. It has been the promise that never comes to fruition. But a close second has been the promise of the higher-speed helicopter. That might be all over with the all-new Airbus X3.
When it comes to flying vehicles, you typically have your conventional airplanes and your conventional helicopters. The former needs space to take off but can reach higher speeds. The latter is not as fast, but can take off vertically, making it an invaluable workhorse. But there has always existed a creative and fascinating world of vehicles that try to combine the best attributes of both.
That is where you get vehicles like the gyrocopter, and tilt-rotor machines such as the V-22 Osprey employed by the United States military. The Airbus X3 is yet another one of those hybrid flying machines, but with a unique approach:
To create the unique X3, Airbus starts with a Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin helicopter. It is fitted with a main 5-blade rotor powered by two 2270-horsepower Rolls-Royce engines. These also powered two smaller 5-blade props, attached by winglets. There is no tail rotor, as the X3 sends more power to the starboard prop, which counters the torque effect of the main rotor. Got all that?
All you need to know is that it is fast– much faster than a conventional helicopter. In 2011 it had hit a speed of 276 mph, and in 2013 hit 293 mph, breaking the speed record for non-jet-assisted helicopters. This vehicle was a demonstrator, and has since been retired, but Airbus hopes to use the developments from the X3 for future military and commercial applications.