Do They Really Need an Introduction?
The ‘helicopter’ or ‘chopper’, as it is normally referred to as, is an aircraft that derives flight from a set of spinning blades mounted on its head. Like any other modern machine, the chopper is an accumulation of technologies from diverse engineering sectors. To say technology has made an impact on helicopters would be an understatement in some sorts. Despite the gradual advances in aircraft in the 20th century, it is fair to say now, that innovations are at the helm of most modern utilities. Keeping aside the ‘peculiar’ designs, helicopters are bundled with some exceptional features and they can do several things that an airplane cannot!
What Exactly Are the Advantages of a Chopper Over an Airplane?
Although aeroplanes can hold hundreds of passengers at a time and travel longer distances, their abilities are somewhat constrained. Here are a few areas wherein helicopters have an edge over aeroplanes:
- Travelling Shorter Distances
- Quick Trips
- Taking off and Landing Without Runways
- Compact Structures
- Seamless and Quick Motions
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Where It All Began…
The world’s first practical helicopter took flight in the state of Connecticut, US, almost 8 decades ago. Designed at the United Aircraft Corporation, the equipment would work on a single main rotor and a tail rotor design. Igor Sikorsky, the genius behind numerous flying machines and the inventor of world’s first ever helicopter, will go down as the man behind one of the greatest innovations this world has ever seen. Go to think of it now, the manner in which the helicopter was designed, especially the availability of limited resources and technology, Sikorsky’s chopper invention was truly remarkable. Due to technological shortfalls, the machine had to give in, somewhere. Unfortunately, the tethered flight would last only for a few seconds. Soon enough, newer, and more importantly, better machines were introduced. Nonetheless, these designs were influenced by Vought-Sikorsky’s VS-300 model.
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From ‘Tethered Devices’ to Battery-Powered Machines, Advances in Choppers Are Nothing Short of Exceptional!
As discussed earlier, technology has emerged at the core of choppers. Advances in helicopters have enabled applications across widespread domains. The quick take-off and high-speed capabilities widely cater to emergency services. Chopper ambulances have saved around 1000 lives every year, ever since their inception. Besides emergency services, helicopters can serve the following purposes:
- Aerial Imaging and Observation
Besides this, helicopters can be used for applications across numerous industries. Technological advances may unfold newer applications. Accounting to this, the helicopter industry will be blessed by huge upfront investments in the coming years and we can expect rapid advancements in the foreseeable future.
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‘Helicopter Taxis’ Are a Thing Now!
Initially used for business and commuting purposes, helicopters have now made headways into regional transport as well. The advent of compact helicopters has allowed their use in commuting within cities and adjacent states. Transportation companies such as Ola and Uber were quick to capitalize on this. 2018 was a year of breakthrough helicopter taxis. Accounting to the huge potential held by helicopters, there have been several market entrants in the past couple of years. Although existing rides are highly priced, we may witness helicopter taxi rides at affordable rates within the next 5 years. Listed below are a few of the major companies that are involved in helicopter taxi services across the world:
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- Uber: United States
- Airbus-Voom: United States
- Velicopter: Singapore
- HeliTaxi: India (Bengaluru)
Besides these companies, several newer market entrants are now focusing on finding ways to improve fuel efficiency. Start-ups and IT collaborations are a growing trend. Helicopter taxis can help reduce the traffic conundrum to a great extent.
‘A Tale of No Tails’: Why Haven’t NOTARS Gained Recognition?
Conventional helicopters were built through a combination of primary rotor and the tail rotor for operation. The primary rotor would aid ‘lift’ and the tail rotor is used for turning. However, the incidence of tail rotor failures has significantly risen. The use of ‘No Tail Rotor’ (NOTAR) helicopters has helped reduce chances of failure and damage. Despite this, NOTARS haven’t really picked up from the beginning. The amount of fuel required for functioning, in case of NOTARS, is naturally high due to the flight and turn mechanisms. This seems to be the only possible explanation behind the stagnancy in the adoption of NOTARS. Having said that, recent advances in fuel combustion techniques have opened up a huge potential for No-tail Rotor helicopters.
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‘Soaring High’: Helicopters are in the Limelight and Rightly So…
Helicopters have served a variety of industrial and domestic purposes in the past few decades. In the wake of global warming, hybrid-electric propulsion concepts have taken centre-stage. The use of electro-optical and infrared (EOIR) systems will create platforms for applications in surveillance and tracking. Besides these, autonomous flight technologies are also used on a wider scale. Altogether, the use of advanced concepts and innovations will garner huge overall investment towards the research and development of advanced machines. As per Fortune Business Insights’ latest study, the global helicopter market will be worth $68.36 billion by the year 2026. Through technological interventions, we can soon expect low-cost helicopters and services in the near future.
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