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Tue, Nov 08, 2005

Groen Brothers Wins DARPA Contract For Heliplane Proof Of Concept

Long Term Gyroplane/Rotordyne Research Starting To Pay Off?

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected a team led by Groen Brothers Aviation, Inc. (GBA) to design a proof of concept high speed, long range, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft designed for use in Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) roles. 

The US Air Force is currently conducting an evaluation of helicopters for CSAR, to replace the HH-60 fleet. The HH-60 is too small, too slow, and has far too little range to do the mission even as well as the Vietnam-era HH-3 Jolly Green Giants and HH-53 Super Jolly Greens did.

The GBA prototype's purpose is to investigate technologies that may be used in the rescue-craft-beyond-next.

David Groen, President, CEO and one of the eponymous brothers) of Groen Brothers Aviation, said, "DARPA is a vastly diverse and capable organization charged with developing the world’s most advanced science in military technologies of every kind. The DARPA team is an amazing collection of scientists, engineers, and management and administrative cadre, the likes of which have no equal.  We are most impressed with their dedication and are delighted with having been selected."

The team is led by GBA, but includes other notable industry firms. Jay Groen, GBA’s Chairman of the Board, (and the other Groen Brother), said, "Our team includes The Georgia Institute of Technology, Adam Aircraft Industries, Williams International, and a highly renowned team of aerospace consultants."

Phase one of this potentially multi-year $40 million four phase program, begins with a fifteen month $6.4 million award to develop the preliminary design and perform key technology demonstrations.  This modern rotorcraft, named by DARPA as the “Heliplane” is designed to exploit GBA’s gyrodyne technology, offering the VTOL capability of a helicopter, the fast forward flight of an airplane, and the safety, simplicity and reliability of a GBA gyroplane.  This aircraft type could be the next generation rotor wing aircraft, meeting economy and performance goals not considered achievable by any other type of VTOL aircraft.

DARPA is the central research and development organization for the US Department of Defense (DoD). It tries to develop technologies that will give US armed forces an advantage.

The GBA contract with DARPA is based upon the "gyrodyne" concept.  A gyrodyne looks like a winged helicopter, and like a helicopter is capable of hovering and vertical takeoff and landing. But the gyrodyne rotor is powered by a reaction jet, and is only powered during hovering or vertical flight. In forward flight, the gyrodyne's rotor autorotates like a gyroplane. The classic example of a successful gyrodyne was the early-1960s Fairey Rotodyne, which was canceled by one of the sporadic reorganizations of the then-nationalized British aero industry.

Previous GBA gyrodyne proposals, as shown here, have been based on the concept of a recycled C-130 Hercules fuselage, or at least, been of C-130 size. While these images illustrate the gyrodyne concept, the DARPA craft is likely to be smaller.

The gyrodyne offers the possibility of making an aircraft -- a "convertiplane" -- combining the advantages of fixed-wing speed and rotary-wing vertical take off and landing. The tilt-rotor concept, as exemplified by the V-22 Osprey aircraft being introduced in the US military now, can do this already, but the gyrodyne concept is vastly more simple and economical.

GBA has previously developed several gyroplanes, including the Hawk 4 (the world's first turboshaft-powered gyroplane) and the Sparrowhawk amateur-built experimental and Light Sport gyro, which is sold through the dealer network of Groen Brothers Aviation's subsidiary, American Autogyro Incorporated.



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