Feeds

SpaceShipOne firm to build DARPA's Heliplane

Auto-gyro-dyno-retro copter project lives again

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The US military's ongoing bid to revive grand old vertical lift concepts of the 1950s under the name "Heliplane" has gained a new lease of life. The financially-distressed main contractor is to be replaced by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT), and the airframe will now be made by renowned high-tech company Scaled Composites - of SpaceShipOne, Ansari X-Prize and Virgin Galactic fame.

DARPA's Heliplane concept

Sexier pix expected now that Scaled is on board

Regular readers will be well aware that the Heliplane project comes to us courtesy of DARPA, the Pentagon boffinry bureau which aims to make the bleeding edge of everyone else's tomorrow into the stone axe of America's yesterday. In this case, however, the possible Heliplane future will bear more than a mild resemblance to Blighty of yesteryear, as the design is more than a bit similar to the late, great Fairey Rotodyne. Like the Rotodyne, the Heliplane uses tip-jet driven rotors to land and take off vertically, and flies along first as an autogyro then more and more as a stub-winged ordinary plane with increasing speed.

Also like the Rotodyne, one of the big snags of the Heliplane was the racket made by the tip jets. Noise was always a problem for this technology, and is often seen as one of the main reasons it never gained wide use despite being more desirable in many ways than conventional transmission-driven rotors. The former Heliplane project leader, gyrocopter firm Groen Brothers Aviation, was given a six-month extension by DARPA to sort out the projected row arising from its tip jet design, but then money problems intervened.

Now, according to a sole-sourcing notice from DARPA, boffins from GIT will take the programme forward through phases 1B and 2 - which should see "experimental demonstration" that a 400mph vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft (VTOL) can be built. This would be a big step forward on the original Rotodyne, and indeed on the current cutting edge in VTOL lifters, the controversial V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

It's not all over for gyrocraft true believers like Groen, however. The announcement says that DARPA "anticipates Groen Brothers Aviation maintaining a role in Phases 1B and 2 of the Heliplane program as a subcontractor to the GIT".

Meanwhile, replacing the now-vanished airframe maker Adam, there have also been reports that the Heliplane airframe design will now be produced by everybody's favourite pocket rocket company, Scaled Composites. Scaled is currently engaged in building a small fleet of two-stage suborbital thrillride planes for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic operation. The involvement of Scaled would seem to promise at least one surefire benefit: The relatively dull biz-jet based concept art for the Heliplane (as shown above) should soon be replaced by something a bit snazzier. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.