NASA recently held a design competition for engineering students. The objective was to design a tiltrotor helicopter that could take off from the water. Such an aircraft, NASA hoped, could be used in future maritime rescue operations. The winning design, pictured above, was submitted by students at Virginia Tech:
The winning design, dubbed the Rescue Amphibious Firefighting Tiltrotor (RAFT), was developed by 10 engineering students at Virginia Tech. It features two flying-boat style hulls joined by a central wing to form a catamaran for landings on water even in quite rough seas (up to sea state four). Projecting wings on either side carry swivelling nacelles like those of today's V-22, but more powerful and featuring larger propellor/rotor blades.
According to the designers' calculations the RAFT would be able to cruise at 300 knots and offer range of 800 nautical miles on a fill of just over 4½ tonnes of fuel. It could carry up to 50 passengers or approximately 5½ tonnes of water for firefighting purposes, which it could easily scoop up by making a brief touchdown on a handy body of water. The powerful catamaran flying-boat/copter would weigh in at a hefty 28+ tonnes all up.
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