MD Helicopters is developing a new scout helicopter that could feature a hybrid-electric power system, lightweight composites built using additive layer manufacturing techniques and possibly its proprietary NOTAR rotor-less tail system.
A mock-up of the new design could be unveiled at next year’s Heli-Expo convention, says MD Helicopters owner Lynn Tilton. But the aircraft will not likely enter service for several years, she adds.
Tilton wants to design an aerial scout that could compete with next-generation rivals, but fit within the light, single-engined architecture of its current aircraft.
“I’d like to do it with a single engine,” Tilton says. “I don’t know if I can do it yet.”
That means MD Helicopters must invest heavily in new technologies, she says. To conserve engine power for thrust, Tilton will seek to offload systems power to an electric power source. To reduce airframe weight, she also wants to shift to airframe structures developed using 3D design and printing techniques.
Bell Helicopter already uses 3D printing for non-load-bearing structures, but Tilton hopes to take the technology to the next level.
The new design overshadowed MD Helicopters' release of new details about the MD 530G – the latest variant of its armed aerial scout – which is scheduled to receive certification later this year.
It will be followed by the more powerful MD 540A in 2015, but Tilton is not worried that the next-generation design will cannibalise or distract attention from her existing models.