Mar 072017

Bell has unveiled a very sci-fi mockup of a “concept helicopter.” It features some unusual things:

A hybrid propulsion system

Variable geometry rotor tips

Lots and lots of glass

Only a single pilots seat

No physical control.

It’s that last one that’ll probably cause the most consternation. The pilot is meant to wear augmented reality goggles/visor/glasses/whatever; this will place data screens in front of him in an arrangement the pilot prefers. Control will still be manual, but the choppers onboard AI will presumably be able to track the pilots hands as he manipulates phantom controls.

Sure, it sounds cool, but two issues immediately present themselves:

1: Computer goes goofy. Malware, hacking, power surge, EMP, whatever… this thing seems like a deathtrap if the computer goes down.

2: Phantom controls that exist solely in the computers imagination and the pilots visor… sure, that sounds cool, and is certainly a common enough trope in sci-fi. Witness anytime Tony Stark wants to design anything, for instance. But in reality, your hands and arms get tired. You actually rest on the steering wheel or the yoke or the collective. Additionally, pilots really like to get direct feedback, which seems as yet beyond the ability to reproduce virtually. More, with every bump or jolt, the pilots hands will flail around. In a conventional helicopter, the pilots hands will be constrained by the controls they are gripping. In this one… nothing.

I would suggest a compromise: a set of *basic* physical instruments. Just what the pilot needs to safely fly the chopper. And I’d damn sure stick with physical controls. But… keep the augmented reality for the *secondary* instruments. Navigation, radio, air conditioning, whisper mode, thermal vision, fire rearward missiles… that can be via virtual reality. Instrument panels that are called up with a voice command, and recede when not in use.

Bell Helicopter unveils futuristic FCX-001 concept aircraft



Not at all related:


 Posted by at 2:14 pm
Oct 302016

I’ve been running the Aerospace Projects Review Patreon project for a bit over two years now. Every month, Patrons get rewarded with sets of aerospace history stuff… currently, one large-format diagram or piece of artwork, three documents and, depending on level of patronage, an all-new CAD diagram of an aerospace subject of interest. More than two dozen such packages have been put together so far and distributed. Given that you can get in on this for as little as $1.50 a month (for 125-dpi scans… $4/month for full-rez 300 dpi scans) and you get at least four items, that’s a pretty good bargain compared to the individual aerospace drawings and documents.

Patrons who signed up after the process got underway can now get “back issues” of the previously released rewards packages. A catalog of more than the first years worth has just been posted; each month will see an updated catalog posted for Patrons to order from. So if you are interested, check out the APR Patreon page to see how to sign up; if you are already a patron, check out the catalog here.

 Posted by at 3:41 pm
Sep 122016

Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin has described a new rocket his company is working on , the “New Glenn.” It’s kinda big:


The “New Glenn” will be 27 feet in diameter (close to the Shuttle External Tank, it seems), 270 feet tall in a two-stage configuration and 313 feet tall in a three stage configuration. The first stage is recoverable, landing vertically under rocket power. It will have seven BE-4 engines burning natural gas and oxygen, producing 3.85 million pounds of thrust. The second stage uses a single BE-4 engine with an increased expansion ratio. The third stage uses a LOX/LH2 BE-3 engine.

The article says that Bezos has claimed that the rocket will fly “within the decade.” If that means by the end of 2019, that’s pretty ambitious.

 Posted by at 9:58 pm
Aug 212016

The Ryan XV-5A Vertifan was a 1960’s VTOL aircraft that was given considerable testing and proved to be reasonably successful, yet it was not chosen to be put into production. he video below (a couple different versions of it) show the XV-5A being put through its paces. It’s shown to be a remarkably nimble and stable platform. Also shown are numerous pieces of concept art, the XV-5A being used in a rescue capacity. Interestingly, the idea presented was to send the VTOL right alongside strike aircraft so that it would be right there on the scene ready to collect any pilots who happen to get shot down during the mission.

The XV-5A used largish fans embedded win the nose and wings to provide vertical thrust; the fans were driven by the exhaust from the jet engines. This is not a particularly elegant solution, unlike the Harrier with its fully integrated single engine system, but the fan approach would provide both better fuel efficiency during hover and lower jet velocity compared to something like the Harrier or the F-35. This would mean that the vertical thrust would tear up the dirt or deck plating a whole lot less.

One wonders how well the XV-5A would perform today. It would have the benefit of better engines and better materials, meaning more thrust at lower fuel consumption, in an aircraft that weighs less. And perhaps more importantly, modern avionics and computerized controls would make this plane much more stable, controllable and safe in hover.




 Posted by at 9:09 pm
Jun 252016

A heavily illustrated USAF brochure on turbine engine technology included, among a vast number of little photos of engines and aircraft, a few illustrations that might be of interest.

Several futuristic concepts here, several old ones. Of particular interest is the “Supersonic Multirole Fighter,” which looks like a cross between the old Lockheed Hopeless Diamond concept and the Northrop XST design… tailless with an inlet on top, with features reminiscent of the F-117, but blended rather than faceted.



Of these “Emerging Concept Needs,” several are distinctly old. The middle row of three designs are all 20+ year-old concepts.



 Posted by at 6:08 pm
May 142016

A 1952 film describing the turboprop tailsitter. The film apparently had no audio, so a wholly unnecessary bit of “film projector noise” was added.

The film shows some interesting stuff, such as animations of the craft in action, and artists impressions of what must have been early alternate designs including a ducted-fan design and one with an odd delta wing with a cutout for the props.

 Posted by at 12:27 am
Mar 242016

A mid-1960’s German (VFW/Heinkel) concept for a VTOL passenger transport, a quad-tilt-wing design, with capacity for 40 passengers or 13,200 lbs of cargo.

VC-400 Interavia 10-1966 1

I’ve uploaded a two-page article from the era on the VC400. It is in the 2016-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all $4+ APR Patreon patrons. If interested, check out the APR Patreon.

 Posted by at 4:21 pm
Mar 172016

Seems I’ve sorta fallen off the PDF Review Wagon. So here’s a hastily slapped-together review of a great report (the scans, sadly, aren’t so great, but whatreyagonnado…

V/STOL Concepts and Developed Aircraft. Volume 1. A Historical Report (1940-1986)

Report Number: AFWAL TR 86-3071 Volume 1
Author(s): B. Lindenbaum
Corporate Author: Universal Energy Systems
Laboratory: Flight Dynamics Laboratory
Publication Date: 11/1/1986
Pages: 458
Contract: F33615-83-C-3000
Project: 3038
Task: 303800
AD Number: ADA175379
Photo Enhancement: Complete

Abstract Text:

The purpose of this document is to present a comprehensive, in-depth review of the serious efforts made in the development of VTOL and V/STOL concepts and aircraft other than the helicopter. The time period covered is from the beginning of organized government-sponsored activity in the late 1940’s through the present, during which a very large study and development activity has taken place. Conventional helicopters are not included because their development history is a sizeable subject in itself and one which is already well-documented. Included are V/STOL aircraft which do use rotors but are aimed at providing cruise speeds and aerodynamic efficiencies similar to those of conventional airplanes. Although not aircraft in the conventional sense, wingless VTOL vehicles which use direct thrust (rocket or turbojet/turbofan) for lift in all flight modes also are included since such machines do have a close relationship to some of the more commonly accepted forms of VTOL aircraft. This volume contains an introductory review of V/STOL aircraft concepts and the rationale behind them. The concepts are categorized by propulsion system. This volume contains definitive information and technical reviews of the rocket belt, turbojet/turbofan platform type (wingless) vehicles, and turbojet/turbofan vertical attitude takeoff and landing aircraft.


Two scans of this are available online.

Direct link to PDF copy 1.

Direct link to PDF copy 2.

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Mar 172016

An ok-quality inboard view of the slick S-67 from 40+ years ago. This represents an armed, operational vehicle.

av week 1974-07-29-22

Nice, eh?

 Posted by at 5:19 pm
Mar 112016

A silent NASA film documenting flight testing of the little-remembered X-100 in 1960. The X-100 was a slick-looking tilt-prop design, a predecessor to the X-19. In this video is certainly looks rather wobbly in the air as the pilot attempts to hover. The craft could certainly have benefited from modern computerized controls.


 Posted by at 1:28 am