Feeds

SpaceShipOne firm to build DARPA's Heliplane

Auto-gyro-dyno-retro copter project lives again

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.