NASA on 10 March destroyed a fully instrumented but otherwise standard MD-500 helicopter fuselage in the second phase of a research program to evaluate the benefits of a new crash-protecting energy absorber system.
Phase one, a drop test that occurred in December, saw the agency plummeting the same MD-500 at the Langley Research Centre’s landing impact research facility in Virginia, but with a deployed Kevlar energy absorber attached under the cabin.
Engineers will compare data from the two tests to determine the effectiveness of the new protection technology. Future versions of the honeycomb Kevlar “cushion” would include a version stored in low-profile packaging similar to an air bag in an automobile and deployed, accordion-like, before impact. Unlike airbags, the Kevlar material remains deployed after a crash.
In test two, which duplicated the previous impact parameters – a drop from 10.6m (35ft) high with a 33 degree flight path angle, resulting in combined forward and vertical speed of 29kt (53.1km/h) but without the Kevlar energy absorber – resulted in three-times the G forces, says NASA.
NASA recorded 160 channels of data during the test, including instrumentation on four crash test dummies, three with full bodies and a fourth with a torso only with simulated internal organs.
Here is the video of the December drop with the Kevlar absorber attached.
The work is part of the agency’s subsonic rotary wing project, part of its fundamental aeronautics program.