European group Eurocopter recently unveiled the X3 hybrid helicraft. The hybrid helicraft combines forward-facing propellers astride two short aircraft wings with the familiar overhead rotor blades seen on a regular helicopter. By combining the advantages of a fixed-wing aircraft with those of a standard helicopter, the half-plane, half-helicopter design can fly at impressive forward speeds of 220 knots (400 kph). Normal helicopters usually cruise at a maximum speed of 130-140 knots.
The X3 hoverplane, sporting black-and-white striped propellers, had its first flight on September 6th at a European military base. Eurocopter chief executive Lutz Bertling said, “We just wanted a place where we knew we were alone, no plane spotters.” The X3 was unveiled following months of secrecy to counter U.S. based rival Sikorsky.
The objective of the X3 helicraft is to deliver more speed without losing efficiency. Typically the faster a helicopter flies, the less efficient it is when hovering and vice-versa. Helicopter manufacturers have devoted years of research to solving this problem. The X3, for now, is a concept helicopter but if successful will be sold in the usual helicopter form or with X3-type wings. Eurocopter refused to publicly announce development costs or future market potential. They did mention that such a helicopter might cost 20-25 percent more and go 50 percent faster than most normal helicopters. Check out the video below to learn more: