The helicopter and the airplane got together and had a baby–and the U.S. military is commissioning hundreds of them to transport soldiers. NASA is experimenting with
All of these are part of the exciting future of the helicopter. It’s long been considered only the province of news traffic reporters, military extractions, and medical emergencies. But that could be changing, soon, as these top helicopters of the future reach development and eventually, the general public.
10. SB-1 Defiant
This Sikorsky model helicopter is being built for the U.S. military, which has long suffered from obsolete helicopters, some of them having served since the 1960s. But this new model incorporates every possible innovation that’s taken place in the last fifty years, like pusher propellers that raise its top horizontal speed.
9. V-280 Valor
This is another helicopter originally designed for the U.S. military, but one which will see practical applications in the medical field–and possibly even in civilian transport–once it reaches the general public. Conceived as a slimmer, sleeker–and faster–version of the famous V-22 Osprey (the one mounted with rotating propellers that double as rotors for vertical landing and takeoff). The military has also planned an attack helicopter version of this beast, armed with a significant load of missiles.
8. DARPA/Boeing DiscRotor
You might be fooled when first looking at this particular model because it looks more like a luxury Learjet outfitted with a giant radar dish than it does like a helicopter. But there’s a good reason for its rather odd appearance: it uses rotors for vertical takeoff and landing. But unlike other craft that then rotate their rotors to a horizontal position, and use them as propellers, this future helicopter model retracts its rotors into a hard-shell casing that then serves as the plane’s wings, generating the lift to keep it in the sky as it’s propelled forward by twin jet engines mounted on the fuselage.
7. Shadow Hawk UAV
Any post about future helicopters–or future aircraft of any kind–is never complete without at least some mention of drones–unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. The Shadowhawk UAV is the latest and greatest in the parade of ever-more-advanced drones tracking pirates on the seas and aiding police here at home. Weighing in at 50 pounds total, and capable of carrying lasers, thermal imaging equipment, and even grenade launchers, it’s a sure sign that unmanned air travel is destined to play a big part among the aircraft of the future.
The mysterious-sounding name fits this Sikorsky helicopter well. Featuring twin rotors as well as a push propeller–that enabled it to break the worldwide helicopter speed record when it clocked an impressive 299 miles per hour–it uses all of the latest helicopter technology. It was, however, sadly only conceived as a concept craft, and is unlikely to see major production in either the military or civilian fields. However, future helicopters based on this design could very well see heavy usage in both arenas in the near future.
5. Eurocopter X3
One of the few helicopters on this list not specifically designed for the military–at least originally–the X3 features a similar design to that of the X-2 (but don’t be fooled; they’re made by two different companies and the designs aren’t really related–they don’t even look alike). It uses both rotors and propellers, powered by twin engines, that give this ‘copter incredibly fast vertical and horizontal speed. It flies as fast as any normal turboprop plane, but remains stable in vertical takeoff and landing, so no fancy computer programs are necessary to keep it airborne.
4. The Mosquito Helicopter
This is a truly outlandish design–and one that has yet to see even a concept craft built. Conceived by eccentric designer Cikrac Dragan, it crosses the helicopter, the four-prop drone, and a motorcycle all together. The pilot sits on a chair suspended between three vertical propellers. The pilot is in the open air, and the craft’s structure is made primarily of metal bars, reducing its weight. This craft could have significant uses for personal transportation and in military applications–if it’s ever built.
3. Igarashi Single Seat Helicopter
Another design featuring a tiny helicopter, built to accommodate only a single person, this copter has yet to see production. Perhaps this is due to a lack of military backing, but as air travel becomes more ubiquitous and personalized, there may indeed be demand for such a vehicle as this.
2. Blue Edge
This helicopter is based on a design unveiled by Eurocopter at a recent future helicopter expo. It’s part of the industry-wide quest towards something called “whisper mode,” in which the characteristically deafening sound of a helicopter’s rotors are reduced to a mere three or four decibels–an important factor if helicopters of the future are to become a major part of personal travel in the future.
1. Urban Aeronautics X-Hawk VTOL
It’s a flying car. Yeah, you heard that right: a flying car. Utilizing rotors built into the structure of the craft, it actually resembles something Luke Skywalker would drive around in. It was conceived as a way to rescue people from the upper floors of burning buildings, and to deliver soldiers to hard-to-reach areas, even for helicopters. It should begin production sometime in the next few years.