Eurocopter’s X³ demonstrator combines the efficiency of a turboprop engine with the excellent hover flight capabilities of a helicopter. This hybrid aircraft platform has already been recognised as a major breakthrough in high-speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) concepts and contributes to reinforce Eurocopter’s image as a leader of innovation. Currently on its test flight campaign, the X³ has reached speeds of more than 230 kts (425 km/h) in level flight while using less than 80% of available power during its US tour in the summer of 2012. Eurocopter has targeted the next decade for entry into service of the X³ hybrid helicopter.
X³ helicopter: innovation as good as it gets
The X³ demonstrator is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. At takeoff, the X³ behaves like an ordinary helicopter. It is only during the acceleration to horizontal flight that the wing propellers take over to increase speed and wings take over from the rotor to keep the machine in the air. Beyond its excellent flight qualities, manoeuvrability, outstanding acceleration and deceleration capabilities, the X³ hybrid aircraft has shown exceptional climb and descent rates along with very low vibration levels. Based on a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe, the development of the X³ triggered many other innovations at subsystem and component level, and more than 20 patents were filed on X³-related topics. Additionally, new manufacturing methods and materials were extensively used.
X³ concept: suited to a wide range of missions
The X³ concept is specially suited to missions where the cost and duration will depend directly on the maximum cruising speed. Therefore, the X³ hybrid platform will mainly target civil passenger transport, offshore missions, inter-city shuttle services, long-distance search and rescue (SAR) missions over land or sea, coastguard duties and border patrols. The concept may also be suitable for military customers interested in rapid, long-range intervention capabilities.
EUROCOPTER X3 IN FIGURES
2.5 Number of years the Eurocopter’s X3 demonstrator went from kick-off to first flight for a fraction of the cost of traditional helicopter developments
230 kts Speed already reached by the X3 during its test flights 06.09.2010
Date of the X3 hybrid aircraft’s maiden flight at the French Armed Forces’ Istres Flight Test Centre near Marseille
2,556 Number of patents registered by Eurocopter (as of end of 2011)