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The World’s Fastest Helicopter
May 7, 2015   
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The Lodz University of Technology’s Institute of Turbomachinery has helped produce the world’s fastest helicopter, the X3.

Aiming to build a flying prototype of the new machine, global aircraft corporation Airbus Helicopters teamed up with the Institute of Turbomachinery in 2008. Aerodynamics is a field of research in which the institute, which has worked with Airbus Helicopters for almost 10 years, has made a name for itself in Europe.

The new helicopter has two short wings on either side of the fuselage with a propeller mounted at the end of each wing. The two extra propellers allow the helicopter to attain high speeds while also allowing it to perform standard maneuvers such as hovering, vertical ascent and descent, and forward flight at low and very low speeds. The performance and capabilities expected of the new machine would be unattainable with standard helicopter and propeller design methods.

The Institute of Turbomachinery was tasked with performing calculations concerning the design of the side propellers, the inlet channel system for the helicopter’s engines and the fuselage. The high cruising speed of the new helicopter could hinder the intake of air by the engines. The stream of air supplied into gas turbines has to meet strict criteria and in order to make sure the X3 engines function properly, a lot of work had to be done to optimize the geometry of inlet channels supplying air to the engines.

The shape of the inlet channel system has a direct impact on the geometry of the fuselage. Following stress calculations under different flight conditions, the designers were finally able to build the X3 fuselage. The prototype underwent tests in 2013, reaching a top speed of 472 kilometers per hour during horizontal flight and 483 kph during a shallow dive, setting a world record for a helicopter.

This spectacular success was largely made possible by simulations performed at the Institute of Turbomachinery and by computational methods that the institute devised. The prototype hybrid helicopter opens a new chapter in helicopter design.

In addition to research results that were put to the test in the working prototype, the X3 project has enabled the Institute of Turbomachinery to hire new staff and build good relations with an important industrial partner. Encouraged by its collaboration with the Lodz University of Technology, Airbus Helicopters has opened its first Polish engineering design office in £ód¼. This is the company’s fourth such office in Europe.

Krzysztof Jó¼wik
Institute of Turbomachinery
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