At Eurocopter, increasing the mobility of rotary-wing aircraft is the object of an innovative hybrid platform called the X3, which flew for the first time in September 2010 and surpassed the speed of a traditional helicopter just two months later. Based on a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe, the X3 demonstrator is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two variable-pitch propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. While this hybrid configuration may be more mechanically complex than a conventional helicopter, it is much simpler than other higher-speed designs, such as tilt-rotor aircraft.
The hybrid concept offers the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft and the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter, with its use tailored to applications where operational costs, flight duration and mission success depend directly on the maximum cruising speed. Eurocopter foresees a wide range of missions for the helicopter, including long-distance search and rescue (SAR), coast guard duties, border patrol, passenger transportation and inter-city shuttle services. Additionally, it also could be well-tailored for military missions in special forces operations, troop transportation, combat SAR and medical evacuation – benefitting from the hybrid aircraft’s combination of higher cruise speeds with excellent vertical take-off/landing performance.
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