Feeds

DARPA seeks Transformer helicopters

'On the fly inflight morphing' superchopper wanted

Boost IT visibility and business value

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. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
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.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?