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Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors
Feb
22
2021

Editor's Letter - Singularity: Is the future of rotorcraft finally here, or still a pipedream?

Posted 277 days ago ago by Admin

 

The “singularity,” according to Wikipedia, is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.

Only on two other occasions have I confessed publicly that I am a helicopter geek to the degree that I actually own a 75-year-old copy of the first helicopter magazine ever printed. The year was 1945 and the month was December when the first issue of American Helicopter magazine rolled off the printing press.

The 1945 cover read, “Man’s Newest Conquest” as the ads and editorial pointed to the helicopter as having the potential to be used for such lofty missions as “suburban air ambulance, commuter service, forest fire control, pipeline patrol, and Coast Guard rescue.”

For the most part, the overarching concept of the helicopter and the missions that it’s traditionally used for, have not changed since that first issue of American Helicopter magazine 75 years ago: a pilot in the cockpit with a cyclic, collective, and pedals; a powerplant or two along with an airframe, main rotors and a tail rotor—and that’s been about all that was needed to perform the aforementioned missions all these decades.

According to the law of accelerating returns, the pace of technological progress—especially information technology—speeds up exponentially over time because there is a common force driving it forward. Are we starting to see this in our industry now?

Inside this issue, we highlight technology that was only a concept 10 years ago, and only being seriously discussed as a potential 5 years ago, yet, this technology is now here. We can touch it. It’s actually flying or being used.

Were you aware that the first flight on the surface of another planet will be attempted via helicopter? By the time you’re reading this, the NASA Mars rover will have landed on the Red Planet and will prepare to drop from its belly a special aircraft named Ingenuity—the Mars helicopter! Interestingly enough, the more traditional, yet futuristic Airbus Helicopters H135 will be back here on earth supporting NASA’s space exploration missions. You can see that story on page 46.

On the maintenance side of the equation, we speculate on page 74 that in five years helicopter maintenance won’t be the same. HUMS (health and usage monitoring systems) have become so advanced and so lightweight that even the smallest helicopters can benefit from such systems. Predictive maintenance and decision-making can be guided remotely using WiFi, cellular service, the cloud, and mobile device apps, sometimes without a mechanic having to touch the aircraft.

Finally, on page 62, we delve into the subject of urban air mobility, where the advances in unmanned and drone technology may change the way people are moved around urban areas forever. This concept is no longer just a discussion as companies like Airbus, Bell, and Jaunt Air Mobility are flying actual aircraft. Like it or not, the future has arrived!