Here’s What It Would Take for Helicopters to Be as Big as Planes
Since the invention of flight, planes seem to have only gotten bigger. But what about helicopters? Why are they still so small?
Helicopters are impressive machines, but is there an upper limit to how big they can get? We spoke to this engineer at Boeing and here’s what we learned: One. Engineers are super into what they do, and that is awesome. Two. The bigger and heavier a helicopter gets, the more lift it needs. The rotor blades are like spinning wings so they have to do the heavy lifting.
Helicopters can create more lift by adding more wing area, so a large helicopter would need as long a rotor blade as possible, but this creates all sorts of problems. Helicopters can create more lift by adding more wing area, so a large helicopter would need as long a rotor as possible. However, this creates all sorts of problems. For example, the tips of the rotor blades can’t go faster than the speed of sound or the turbulence will make the blades less efficient. The longer the blades get, the faster the tips travel.
If the helicopter has an enormous and fast spinning rotor, it won’t be able to fly very fast because the blade that’s spinning in the same direction the helicopter is moving, will be traveling through the air at its speed. plus, the helicopter’s speed. This brings it closer to that speed limit. So, longer blades would have to spin slowly, but that would require a lot of torque to move.
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