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Hybrid RotorWing design transitions from fixed to rotary wing mid-flight

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April 21, 2013

StopRotor Technology's Hybrid RotorWing technology allows for in-flight transition from fi...

StopRotor Technology's Hybrid RotorWing technology allows for in-flight transition from fixed-wing to rotary flight mode and back

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Attempts to combine the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities of a helicopter with the high-speed flight and long range capabilities of a fixed-wing aircraft have been tackled in a number of different ways – from tiltrotor designs, such as the V-280 Valor and Project Zero, to fixed rotor aircraft that transition from vertical to horizontal flight, such as the SkyTote and Flexrotor. Australian company StopRotor Technology has taken a different approach with its Hybrid RotorWing design concept which features a main rotor that switches from fixed rotor to fixed wing in mid air.

Similar to the SiMiCon Rotor Craft concept, StopRotor Technology’s Hybrid RotorWing can take off vertically and hover with the main rotor spinning like a helicopter’s, or take off and fly like a conventional fixed wing aircraft. To transition between rotary and fixed wing flight modes, the aircraft is plunged into a fall involving high angle of attack flight that aligns the airflow with the rotation axis of the rotor system. This symmetrical airflow over the main rotor provides a stable environment that allows the blades to be started or stopped.

The design features a powered main rotor, anti torque system and forward propulsion engines. These various components can either all be powered by a single engine with appropriate transmissions, or by multiple engines performing dedicated roles.

Stopped rotor aircraft changing flight mode

The Hybrid RotorWing can operate in five different flight modes.

  • Fixed Wing Flight: where the RotorWing is locked to operate as a fixed wing
  • Rotary Wing Flight: The RotorWing rotates like a helicopter rotor providing sustained hover capability
  • Compound Rotary Wing Flight: where the rotors requirement to produce lift and thrust is off loaded to other lifting surfaces or propulsion engines
  • Autogiro Flight: a form of rotary wing flight where the rotor is driven by the relative airflow and not directly by the engine
  • Transition Flight Mode: where the conversion from fixed to rotary or rotary to fixed wing flight occurs

The company says this versatility translates into unprecedented adaptability with conventional, short or vertical takeoff and landing options, plus on-ground as well as in-flight mode transition with no negative impact on load capacity. The design also features a conventional fuselage that helps open up the technology to a host of applications.

While the StopRotor team says the design is suitable for scaling up to manned applications, the unmanned and remote piloted aerial vehicles market is seen as the natural first step for the technology.

While other potential applications include search and rescue, surveillance and corporate transport, military applications are likely to come first since StopRotor Technology is keen to develop the Hybrid RotorWing for inclusion in DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane program, which was launched in February. The company is looking to collaborate with leading aerospace companies to reach this goal.

"For the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex," said Ashish Bagai of DARPA. "To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity."

StopRotor Technology's Hybrid RotorWing technology allows for in-flight transition from fi...

So far, a number of physical models built with rapid prototyping have successfully demonstrated the potential behind this approach. Each model had a virtual counterpart, which allowed for numerous designs to be tested and improved upon in a relatively short time frame. While the project is still in very early stages of development, the StopRotor Technology team believes that at the very least it could fulfill a useful role in the rapidly expanding UAV industry.

An overview of the Hybrid RotorWing design and its transition flight mode capabilities are shown in the first video below, with the following videos showing some various prototype test flights.

Source: StopRotor Technology

About the Author
Jan Belezina Formerly in charge of Engadget Poland, Jan Belezina's long time fascination with the advance of new technology has led him to become Gizmag's eyes and ears in Eastern Europe.   All articles by Jan Belezina
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11 Comments

I question how well the rotor blade/wing will stand up to being pushed through the air while at a low RPM. The history of forward swept wings is not encouraging.

Slowburn
22nd April, 2013 @ 01:35 am PDT

Just a couple thoughts on this...

First thing that stood out to me, In the rendering there is no tail rotor to compensate for the torque when it's in rotor mode... yet in the "Prototype" there is one clearly visible on the RC helicopter. not sure how they're really planning to compensate for the forces working to spin the craft in mid-air.

Second, I agree with the previous comment, I doubt the blade will stand up well being pushed...

It seems like an odd way of going about VTOL, but I genuinely hope it works the way the designer wants it to.

Galentin
22nd April, 2013 @ 10:00 am PDT

I wouldn't trust a vehicle that stalls in order to change flight modes. For drones, that will be ok.

cachurro
22nd April, 2013 @ 10:29 am PDT

Maybe I misunderstand how this thing works, but the rotor blade never gets into an attitude where it is pushed by the relative wind any longer than to slow it down to a stall-- once the aircraft is falling in a stall there would be even less relative wind to push the blades. It is in a stall (aircraft falling stably, in a stall, belly-to-earth) that one can either loose the rotor and have it spin up, or stop the rotor, lock it in place, and put the aircraft nose down as one would do in a conventional fixed-wing plane for stall recovery.

lmalinofsky
22nd April, 2013 @ 10:37 am PDT

I wonder how much of the work is based on the X-30 Dragonfly? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_X-50A.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canard_Rotor/Wing

or the Navy's stop rotor?

http://www.nrl.navy.mil/techtransfer/fs.php?fs_id=ELE11

Deirdre Cimino
22nd April, 2013 @ 02:52 pm PDT

That looks terrifying... to anyone considering piloting it or riding on it.

Bill Gallagher
22nd April, 2013 @ 04:13 pm PDT

re; cachurro

If you have the altitude it is not a problem you just loose some altitude.

Slowburn
22nd April, 2013 @ 05:10 pm PDT

Slowburn - really? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_X-29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-47

Marc 1
22nd April, 2013 @ 07:16 pm PDT

re; Marc 1

Two successes at sweeping the wing forward. Given the degree of difficulty in getting a 33 degree forward sweep to work, now more than doubling the sweep and see what happens.

Slowburn
22nd April, 2013 @ 09:32 pm PDT

VTOL was solved by the Freewing over a decade ago. No fixed wing is needed for horizontal flight. A Freewing design is more efficient. See the web page.

Sandy Duncan
23rd April, 2013 @ 11:53 am PDT

Looks like a promising idea!. And as happens with EVERY promising project, some look at them with reluctancy: "it looks weird, so it won't work". Harrier also looked weird indeed, until our eyes and your mind got used to it. VTOL vehicles are the future, and your are surfing the wave.

My best wishes and good luck (one never has enough of it)!

Engadin.

Engadin
26th April, 2013 @ 11:50 am PDT
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