Demand increases in Asia for combustion engines for unmanned helicopters

German engine manufacturer 3W-International GmbH saw increased demand for heavy fuel (HF) and gasoline combustion engines in 2016, especially for use in unmanned helicopters. The reasons for this are manifold.

A micro air vehicle flies over a simulated combat area during an operational test flight. The MAV is in the operational test phase with military Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to evaluate its short-range reconnaissance capabilities. 3W Photo
A micro air vehicle flies over a simulated combat area during an operational test flight. The MAV is in the operational test phase with military Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to evaluate its short-range reconnaissance capabilities. 3W Photo
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3W motors have been known for their use in vertical take-off aircraft since before the T-Hawk micro air vehicle (MAV) unit from Honeywell.

“Traditional helicopter manufacturers have always counted among our customers. But in 2016, we received many enquiries for their application in helicopters especially from China and Southeast Asia,” said Karsten Schudt, managing director at 3W-International GmbH. “There are many reasons for this. Vertical take-off and landing [VTOL] at arbitrary locations is extremely interesting precisely in countries where most airports and airfields are military or at least state-owned, because private persons are often restricted or even prohibited from using such facilities.”

The helicopters’ deployment areas are added to this. “Many enquires came from agricultural areas. Here the helicopters generally come into use for sowing seed or for pest control,” added Schudt. “However, vertical take-off aircraft are also used for observing fish stocks or for recording forest stands.”

Vertical take-off and landing enables the helicopters to be deployed more quickly and in the direct vicinity of the usage site.

“Electrically-driven systems are often still used for these tasks. However, as soon as a greater payload has to be transported or longer deployment times are needed, the manufacturers’ considerations begin to shift to the combustion engine.”

Added to this is the fact that, precisely in agricultural regions, transporting fuel is often easier than charging batteries.

Consequently, many manufacturers slowly come around and build on engines made in Germany. With more than 120 standard engines and a multitude of options, 3W-International offers the right engine for every application area.

“We have customers who offer their customers both the gasoline and the HF engine in one and the same model matched to the application area,” said Schudt.

All of the engines can be used for both fixed-wing aircraft as well as for helicopters and VTOLs.

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The helicopter versions in use are very diverse. “We have requests for the traditional helicopter design up to Flettner double-rotor systems and traditional hexacopters and octocopters,” said Schudt.

Besides agricultural applications, 3W-International’s customers also deploy combustion engines in other areas in which the helicopter clearly plays off against its advantages. Thus 3W-driven helicopters will be used in the oil and mining industry in future.

The delivery of urgent consignments such as first-aid kits or medical products is involved here. The intent is to deploy the helicopters via autopilot especially in remote regions of Southeast Asia.

But security applications also lie within the helicopters’ scope of application, whether for traffic monitoring, border control, or in the Army, Air Force, and Navy area. HF engines are deployed in unmanned helicopters particularly in the last.

“I take it for granted that vertical take-off and landing is assuming importance in unmanned flight,” concluded Schudt. “VTOLs combine these capabilities with the speed and flight stability of fixed-wing aircraft. That is why we are counting on demand for our engines for vertical take-off and landing to increase further going forward. VTOLs will certainly play a leading role here.”

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