Feeds

DARPA seeks Transformer helicopters

'On the fly inflight morphing' superchopper wanted

Application security programs and practises

Pentagon crazytech researchers look to be revisiting a long-speculated-upon idea: that of helicopter blades which could extend or shorten in length during flight. This would offer major performance benefits, and such options as whisper mode or easier operations in confined spaces.

The latest development in the telescoping rotor blade world originates at DARPA, the Pentagon tech barbershop where they only know one style - Lunatic Fringe. DARPA has just kicked off a new extendy-shrinky-copter push under the rather dull name "Mission Adaptive Rotor", or MAR.

According to the Pentagon propellor-heads:

The goal of the Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program is to develop “on-the-fly” morphing rotor technology and demonstrate the dramatic benefits possible using this capability to reconfigure the rotor in flight, either during each rotor revolution, between mission phases, or both. Applications for both tilt rotors and edgewise rotors are equally acceptable.

DARPA will be holding an industry day tomorrow, to get a sense of how many people think they can make a morphing rotor blade. There will probably be quite a few, judging by prior examples of the idea such as this.

It would obviously be excellent to have variable-length rotors on a V-22 Osprey style tiltrotor - though some would argue that the plane/copter combo is already complicated enough. The ability to have a large rotor disc pointing up for good hover performance and a smaller one pointing sideways for good aeroplane performance would definitely help.

DARPA believe that a more ordinary morphcopter unable to swivel its rotors would still be excellent - the agency's boffins expect that there would potentially be gains of 30 to 40 per cent in payload or range, a halving of acoustic detection range due to increased quietness, and a huge 90 per cent reduction in vibration.

One might alse choose to use the morphblade tech in unexpected ways: for instance a big chopper might actually shrink its rotor disc on setting down, so losing some performance but gaining the ability to land in a tighter space than would normally be possible/safe.

The whole thing sounds a trifle questionable - a helicopter is already a chancy enough proposition without making it even fiddlier. Still, if DARPA have no luck with this notion they might with one of their other crazy whirlycraft programmes: the Heliplane, the saucercopter, the robotic whisper-gunship or the Casimir-effect gecko hovership. The agency appears to be of the opinion that there's no such thing as a long shot, as long as you use a multibarrelled autohowitzer triple-shotted with barrels of cash.

Then there'll just be the little matter of getting it to turn into a giant robot, pickup truck etc. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.