Kawasaki's K-Racer Flies Faster Than Conventional Helicopters

The VTOL vehicle is powered by a Ninja H2R engine with a compound helicopter configuration.
Chris Young

Kawasaki's recently unveiled K-Racer drone, or compound helicopter, has two small wings with motors on either side of the chassis for forward flight and a horizontal stabilizer rotor.

The company says that recent test flights have proven that its newly-developed autonomous drone can fly at "high speeds that were not technically possible for conventional helicopters."


K-Racer's compound helicopter configuration

The test aircraft's distinctive configuration — wings and propellers on both sides instead of a tail rotor — is called a compound helicopter.

The left and right propellers counter the torque associated with the main rotor's rotation at the same time as generating thrust to move the helicopter forward.

During forward flight, the main wings share lift and also reduce the load on the main rotor, which has a diameter of 157.4 inches (4 meters)

Kawasaki say that their new drone is actually named the K-Racer as an acronym standing for Kawasaki Researching Autonomic Compound to Exceed Rotorcraft.

Kawasaki's K-Racer Flies Faster Than Conventional Helicopters
Source: Kawasaki

So there are no plans to race this thing — very cheeky of them — though it would likely do pretty well against other UAVs.

The test aircraft was developed by Aerospace Systems Company, and is powered by the supercharged engine used Kawasaki's motorcycle Ninja H2R.

A new addition to Kawasaki's helicopter fleet

Last month, Kawasaki conducted its first successful test flight of the K-Racer Taiki-cho Multi-purpose Aviation Park in Hokkaido, Japan.

"We have been introducing a wide range of helicopters, including the BK117 helicopter series, which plays an active role for firefighting, disaster prevention, and EMS (Emergency Medical Service) purposes," a Kawasaki press release explains.

"We will use the results obtained from this test for the development of VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicles, including manned/unmanned helicopters, and for the development of aircraft operation systems in conjunction with various services."

For a look at Kawasaki's K-Racer drone in action, check out the video below.

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