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The A160T-Hummingbird, The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread and the Air Foil

Written by on Monday, June 11th, 2012

“Helicopter” and “stealth” typically aren’t two words that are uttered in the same sentence. Helicopters are low-flying and their distinctive thrumming noise is instantly recognizable, so you’re just not going to be able to use helicopters in a stealthy mission.

Until now.

Boeing has completely reinvented the wheel, so to speak, by changing the design of helicopters. They threw away all of the assumptions, went back to the drawing board, and managed to create a helicopter that is not only quieter, but also more fuel efficient and more versatile than its conventional counterparts.

How did they do it? It all boils down to the physics of rotor blades. Conventional rotor blades are flexible, which causes them to have a very complicated pattern of vibration. Changing the speed of the rotors will also change the vibration pattern, which can have disastrous consequences. Because of this restriction, helicopters generally operate with the highest rotor speed possible. High rotor speeds translate into a gas-guzzling engine and a lot of noise pollution.

Boeing changed all that when they created the A160T Hummingbird. It features unique rotor blades that are light and stiff. These blades are made out of a customized carbon fiber material and become increasingly thinner and more flexible at the tips. This design dramatically cuts down on vibration, which means that the helicopter can change the rotation speed of its rotors. Variable speeds opens up a whole new world of helicopter design features.

For one, these helicopters don’t need such an over-powered engine anymore. Believe it or not, the first engine that Boeing used for the prototype was a Subaru car engine. And you thought buy antibiotics in thailand Japanese imports were wimpy! This lighter and more efficient engine allows the helicopter to fly farther, for longer periods of times, and at quieter levels.

But that’s enough drooling over this next-generation helicopter. Let’s take a look at the specs. The Hummingbird can fly 2,500 nautical miles for more than 24 hours at a time (though some engineers speculate that a 48-hour nonstop flight is possible) while carrying a payload of 300 pounds or more. It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, about 10,000 feet higher than what conventional helicopters can manage.

Add a healthy dose of drone technology, shake well, and you’ve got the world’s best stealth surveillance helicopter.

US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) can’t wait to get their hands on this new toy. They placed an order for 10 Hummingbirds and Boeing expects to deliver them by November of this year. The Hummingbird will be absolutely invaluable to the highly dangerous SOCOM operations. Like all helicopters, the Hummingbird can provide excellent aerial surveillance support in areas due to its vertical take-off and landing capabilities. Unlike its comparatively low-tech predecessors, however, the Hummingbird will be able to survey a region for days at a time with its ultra-efficient engine, and it can even quietly observe enemy locations thanks to its quiet rotor blades.

The Hummingbird hasn’t seen much action yet, so it’s hard to say how reliable this aircraft is going to be. If it works as well as it should, this technology is going to be as game-changing as the leap from standard cell phones to smart phones.

 

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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