Friday, April 27, 2012

No. 498: Developing a single-seater electric helicopter (April 28, 2012)

Electric vehicles are challenging the dominance of the gasoline-engine vehicles. It is by no means strange that electric helicopters will begin the battle with gasoline-engine helicopter. GEN Corp. in Nagano Prefecture developed a single-seater electric helicopter driven by motor and storage battery. The company succeeded in the test fly last December. This helicopter has the same structure of GEN H-4 driven by engine contained in the Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. In addition, it was certified by the Guinness World Records as the world’s smallest single-seater helicopter.

Most parts are automobile standards with only a few aluminum parts to commoditize the electricity-driven helicopter. For example, the company replaced the fuel tank with a Chinese lithium-polymer battery. However, it can fly only for about five minutes because of the low quality Chinese lithium-polymer battery. The company is confident that its electricity-driven helicopter can fly longer by replacing the current battery with more reliable high-performance battery. A lighter and higher-output laminate type lithium-ion battery can be recommended because it can dissipate heat.

An electric helicopter is quieter than a helicopter driven by engine. In addition, motor revolution is more easily controllable than engine revolution. Stable revolution increases the stability of hovering. Wings are made of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP). The helicopter is hardly detectable by radar, if its body is made of FRP and the motor and battery are covered by electromagnetic absorber. GEN built an unmanned electric helicopter, and it successfully flied with a 150 kg cargo by wireless control.  

A demonstration flight of the GEN-H4 helicopter from GEN Corp.

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