Helicopter manufacturers all over the world are trying to find ways to make the aircraft faster, and yet keep the ability to hover in tact. With designs and concepts out in the world, only a few companies have been able to get working prototypes up into the air. In the United States, United Technologies' unit Sikorsky is hard at work on their own prototype, called the X2, so it's no surprise that the largest civil helicopter manufacturer in the world, Eurocopter, is tossing their hat into the future-copter market. They officially unveiled their X3 prototype on Monday.
The X3 prototype combines forward-facing propeller engines, with two short aircraft wings and overhead rotor blades. The hybrid helicopter was officially unveiled today at Eurocopter's factory in Southern France. The manufacturer is hoping that, by combining the traditional flying methods of a helicopter, with the fixed-wing aircraft model, they can make the X3 fly at speeds of up to 220 knots, and keep the stability of a standard helicopter. As of now, our helicopters in use today can reach up to speeds of 140 knots.
Reportedly, the US-based Sikorsky's X2 prototype reached unofficial speeds of 250 knots less than two weeks ago, so it makes perfect sense that Eurocopter would come out of secrecy, and make their X3 official. Sikorsky's X2 prototype made its first flight back in 2008, and Eurocopter is saying that their X3 flew for the first time on September 6th of this year. The manufacturer is hoping that their x3 is a success when more official flights are taken, so that it can be marketed to military's, as well as long-distance search-and-rescue teams, or even inter-city shuttle services.