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Cristian Andrei IONESCU


Abstract: The objective of this paper is to analyze the role of helicopter rotor, to classify them by type, and
to imagine new types of helicopter rotors that can equip future helicopters. Finally, the author shows a
coaxial rotor 3D model such a best alternative to equip the new helicopters.
Key words: main rotor, rotor head, tail roto, blade.

Helicopter main rotor is a type of fan that is used to
generate both the aerodynamic lift force that supports the
weight of the helicopter, and thrust which counteracts
aerodynamic drag in forward flight. Each main rotor is
mounted on a vertical mast over the top of the helicopter,
as opposed to a helicopter tail rotor, which is connected
through a combination a drive shafts and gearboxes
along the tail boom. A helicopter's rotor is generally
made up of two or more rotor blades. The blade pitch is
typically controlled by a swash plate connected to the
helicopter flight controls.
Rotors give the helicopter its lifting capacity in much
the same way as wings do for an airplane. The rotors can
be viewed as rotary wings (fig.1). In contrast to fixed
wings, rotors are much thinner and more flexible and,
due to the high rotational speeds they achieve, the
structural forces upon them are significant, and rotors
must be able to cope with these. Another important
aspect of rotor design requires account to be taken of the
fact that they move about a lot. This movement is not
only in the plane of rotation, but the rotors also lead and
lags in this plane and flap up and down.

composite materials are frequently used, because of their

combination of strength and low density, together with
their good damping qualities.
The rotor head (Fig.2) is the result of a very complex
engineering effort. Its purposes are to control the amount
of lift generated by the rotors, and to provide direction
control by tilting the rotor disc. Both of these tasks are
accomplished by changing the rotor blades pitch.
The amount of lift is controlled by changing the blade
pitch of all of the blades simultaneously by the same
amount. The control that the pilot uses for this purpose is
called the collective. Direction control, by tilting the
rotor disc, works by changing the blade pitch of each
blade individually. The amount of pitch now depends
upon its position in the circle of rotation. The control
used by the pilot in these circumstances is called the

Fig. 2 Rotor head.

Fig. 1 Main rotor.

Rotor designs use different profiles, and they can be

constructed in many different ways. The same holds true
for the materials used. A common design is the use of a
symmetrical profile with a D-shaped extrusion, with the
remainder of the chord made up of thin sheet metal
comprised of an aluminum honeycomb. Today,

The collective and cyclic pitch settings are transferred

from a stationary mechanical system (the helicopter) to a
rotating one (the rotating rotors).
This is carried out by a device which is constituted of
two discs, called swash-plates. One swash-plate does not
rotate and is called the stationary swash-plate, whereas
the other does (with the main rotors). The two plates are
connected to each other with a bearing. The input
controls are connected to the stationary plate.
The control rods which connect to the blades (in
order to set the desired pitch angle) are connected to the
rotating swash-plate. In this way, mechanical control
input is transformed from the stationary to the rotating
rotor system, where the desired blade angles are realized.

Helicopter rotor design

As a result of various physical laws, the rotor blades
tend to lead, lag and flap up and down.
This results in very high moments and forces in the
rotor head construction at the position where the rotors
are attached to the main shaft.
There are several different designs of rotor heads.
One of these uses hinges to prevent the moments from
being transferred to the shaft, and in another, the
resulting forces are absorbed by elastic materials.
Furthermore, a rotor head must be able to withstand the
high centrifugal forces placed upon it by the high angular
velocity of the rotor blades.
The tail rotor (Fig.3) is a smaller rotor mounted so
that it rotates vertically or near-vertically at the end of
the tail of a traditional single-rotor helicopter. The tail
rotor's position and distance from the center of gravity
allow it to develop thrust in a direction opposite of the
main rotor's rotation, to counter the torque effect created
by the main rotor.

tail rotor. The arrangement of two rotors side by side was

never very popular. The most common tandem rotor
helicopter today is the CH 47 Chinook (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4 Robinson Helicopter.

Fig. 5 CH 47 Helicopter.
Fig. 3 Tail Rotor.

Tail rotors are simpler than main rotors since they

require only collective changes in pitch to vary thrust.
The pitch of the tail rotor blades is adjustable by the pilot
via the anti-torque pedals, which also provide directional
control by allowing the pilot to rotate the helicopter
around its vertical axis (thereby changing the direction
the craft is pointed).

3. 3 Intermeshing
The twin-rotor synchropter is a system with two
rotors that mesh into each other, much like a gearwheel.
Like the tandem rotor, this configuration doesn't need a
tail rotor because the torque is compensated for by the
opposite rotation of the rotors. This system was
developed during the early days of helicopter flying but
fell into disuse (fig.6).

3. 1 Single main rotor
The most common configuration is the combination
of one main rotor and one tail rotor. The tail rotor
compensates for the torque that is produced by the main
rotor. The tail rotor also controls the helicopter along the
vertical axis during hover flight. (Fig. 4)
3. 2 Tandem
The tandem rotor (or twin-rotor) configuration is used
mainly with large helicopters. Because of the opposite
rotation of the rotors, the torque of each single rotor is
neutralized. The construction of the control system is
much more complicated compared to a helicopter with a

Fig. 6 Flettner Fl 265.

3. 4 Coaxial
One rotor is located on top of the other. The two
rotors turn in opposite directions. Depending on which

Helicopter rotor design

rotor produces more lift, the helicopter will turn to the
left or right, because of the torque. Helicopters with this
configuration cannot reach a high cruising speed because
the drag is too large.
Only after the development of the rigid rotor was it
possible to build the two rotors closer together and
reduce the drag considerably.
This configuration has been chosen mainly by
Russian Kamov helicopters (Fig. 7).

A blade with a good lift/drag performance has a

fineness ratio of about 15%, with its maximum chamber
being a quarter of the way back from the leading edge. A
typical lift/drag value for a helicopter blade is 30:1.
The types of aero foils used with a rotor blade differ
(Fig.9). For a long time, most of them were symmetrical.

Fig. 9 Airfoil.

A higher lift/drag ratio is possible with nonsymmetrical versions. Due to the greater internal forces
occurring in these types of blades, they only came into
existence when the appropriate composite materials were
developed. These can cope with the high internal strain,
while their weight is kept low.
Fig. 7 Ka 52 Helicopter.

The blades of a helicopter are ,,wings which produce
aerodynamic force, when are exposed at relative motion
of air on their surface. The relative motion of the engine
hub, produce this relative movement, both forward,
sideways and back. The blades are designed to geometry
adapted to different flight conditions.

Due to improvement aerodynamics configurations

and composite materials, future helicopters will be more
manoeuvrable, faster and lighter in weight than today
5. 1 Blade
Starting from current blade models, is designed a new
3D model, which has a special configuration (this fact
means that, at the end of the blade must be a special aero
dynamical profile), for high-speed helicopter (Fig.10).

4. 1Types of blades
In the figure 8 some types of blades are presented.

Fig. 8 Types of blades.

4. 2 Airfoils
The single most important rotor design parameter is
its lift/drag ratio, which should be as high as possible
(this ratio depends on the design of the aerofoil).

Fig. 10 High Speed Blade.

This type of blade will also help to reduce noise.


Helicopter rotor design

5. 2 Rotor Design
For the rotor 3D model is chased a coaxial rotor,
because that is the best alternative to equip future
helicopters (fig.11).

Coaxial rotor resolves the angular momentum

problem and dissymmetry of lift in forward flight, while
it increases the manoeuvre ability and reduces noise.



Fig. 11 Coaxial Rotor.

a), b) different plans for view.

[1] Zarioiu, Gheorghe, (1975). Aviatia moderna, Editura
Scrisul Romanesc, Bucuresti, Romania.
[2] www.wikipedia.com
[3] www.helistart.com


Eng. Cristian Andrei IONESCU, University
Politehnica of Bucharest, Faculty of Aerospace
Engineering, Email :ionescucristianandrei@yahoo.com.