Virtual swashplate technology for faster helicopters

This project involved a feasibility study of new swashplate designs for HyperQ Aerospace, which has the potential to become the world’s fastest and most efficient helicopter.

Hyper Q logo

Robotics and automation

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Duration

1 year

Academic team

Dr Nick Bennett
Dr Felix Kong
Dr Imamul Hossain
Dr Suvash Saha
Prof Rob Fitch

Lab

Engagement model

Funding

Defence Innovation Network
HyperQ

Future applications

Emergency services
Transport and logistics
Humanitarian aid
Military operations

Challenge

A helicopter swashplate is a mechanical system that enables pilots to control the movement of the main rotor blades. Most helicopters use swashplate technology from the 1950s, which constrains the blades to a limited set of motions. These limited motions cause retreating blade (the blade moving away from the direction of flight) to stall during fast forward flight, which limits the top speed of helicopters to around 150-200 knots (270-370km/hr).

HyperQ proposed that this speed limit can be increased by mitigating retreating blade stall using updated swashplate technology to allow more freedom of movement. They identified a set of possible designs and enlisted the expertise of the UTS Tech Lab team to understand feasibility and potential.

 

Solution

The UTS Tech Lab team conducted a feasibility study of Hyper Q’s designs. They investigated new blade motions in simulation, which could allow a potential speed increase of 50 knots (93km/hr) but possibly much faster. The project was a significant early step in the development of HyperQ’s helicopter, which will be the fastest on the market when it becomes available. The results of the UTS study directly supported a HyperQ patent application, which was granted in June 2021.

Faster helicopters will be a game-changer for many industries, extending the capabilities of emergency services and military operations. Enhanced efficiency will also extend the range of search-and-rescue operations, improve mission endurance for situation monitoring (e.g. bushfires, riots) and emergency communications (e.g. replacing a downed phone tower after an earthquake), and increase load-bearing capacity for the delivery of supplies during disaster relief.