Russian engineers do not indulge us with news about their new developments for some reason. However, the reason why is rather simple, and we won’t dwell on that, but even groundbreaking news remains unnoticed sometimes.
Some Russian Internet publications reported about the unique development of the Omsk aerospace association Polyot (Flight), which developed a backpack helicopter: Yula. This aircraft does not have any analogue in the whole world. The weight of the helicopter is 20 kilos, the flight speed is 120 kilometers per hour, the flying height is 1000 meters, and the active time of the flight is 25 minutes. When the helicopter is folded, it looks like a roll 50 cm long.
The creator of the project, Vyacheslav Kotelnikov, told a Strana.Ru journalist that Yula was meant for hitting ground targets as well rescue work, its hull is of a telescopic construction, and the aircraft is equipped with a two-blade propeller. The power source consists of two poly-fuel jet engines, which are situated inside the blades of the propeller with air inlets on consoles.
The aerodynamic capacity allows to the copter to perform an emergency landing, even if a section of the propeller is lost. This is possible due to the balance between the gravity centers of the aircraft. The machine is of a low metal consumption: four times less in comparison with a usual chopper, the carrying capacity increases three or four times with each kilogram.
Omsk engineers developed a unique propeller engine, for which centrifugal force is used to help. The industrial association Polyot invented new basic elements of the machine, beginning with the engine and finishing with the control system and the wobble plate. These helicopters will be of great value to special troops. Detailed information about the new development is not to be exposed to the public eye. The most interesting thing here is the fact that the new development of Omsk engineers was known of in 1999. The backpack helicopter project was presented at an aviation exhibition, but Russian media did not show any interest in it for some reason, maybe because of the fact that the detailed information was secret. It is known that American engineers showed some interest in the new helicopter and they even offered good money to the engineers to share information with them, but the Russians refused.
The idea to develop a backpack helicopter is not new. The first attempt was made in 1945, when an American engineer developed an aircraft that was called the Hoppycopter. The device did not actually fly, it hopped. The British Defense Department became interested in the hoppycopter and British funds helped the engineer to develop an aircraft with a more powerful power source. However, the project faded away in the end and hoppycopters are not in use now.
However, this project stirred up the interest of the American Defense Department. The department ordered the California firm Rotorcraft of Glendale to create a backpack helicopter, weighing up to 40 kilos, with an almost “noiseless” jet engine. The new aircraft was tested in complete secrecy in 1951. Everything seemed to be fine, but American military men did not rush to launch the series into production. Test pilots complained that it was hard to control the helicopter, especially close to the ground, and that it was very hard to land it. In addition, the fuel consumption was too large, the range was too narrow, and the carrying capacity was low as well as the speed, which is why further development of the project was cancelled.
Soviet engineer Pyatov worked on similar projects in the USSR, but he paid more attention, not to backpack helicopters, but to common choppers. He developed very light, mobile helicopters easy to control. One of the best models was called the MAI X-5; it was successfully exhibited in Havana, Milan, and LA. However, the production of that model failed to be launched as well. Both American and Soviet engineers were dealing more with technological decisions, working on those models, and using the new experience for production of traditional choppers.
The idea itself did not die, and the new development of the Omsk enterprise is a good example. We have to say that it is the most successful example to date. The USA has also developed a similar aircraft, but its success is rather humble for the time being: it can fly only 1.5 meters in height, and the flight lasted 33 seconds.
Nothing definite can be said about the fate of the Russian helicopter; let’s hope that everything will be fine.
Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov