Some of the Technion team – the GrassChopper met the demands of the competition in having space for two pilots and cargo, and being able to remain static in the air for two hours. Thirteen engineering and aeronautics students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in cooperation with students at the Pennsylvania State University, have won first prize in an international competition for helicopter design run by Bell Helicopters and the American Helicopter Society. It was the first time that students from two different universities in two countries collaborated on the final project for their Bachelor’s degree.
Dubbed ‘GrassChopper’, the judges panel found the winning model much superior to the other designs in altitude and speed. It met the demands of the competition in having space for two pilots and cargo, and being able to remain static in the air for two hours.
Prof. Omri Rand, dean of the aeronautics and space faulty at the Technion in Haifa, took the initiative along with Prof. Ed Smith, head of the Center for Excellence in Helicopters at Penn State. They decided that just as in the world of industry, student groups could cooperate on a project long distance.
“The challenge that stood before the students was to design a two-seater helicopter powered by a turbine engine, rather than the piston engine conventionally used in light helicopters. Turbine engines are known for their good performance and for being very quiet,” said Rand, who was one of the team’s advisers. “Planning a new turbine engine rather than an off-the-shelf one was a challenge on its own. The helicopter had to be very low in price to compete with existing models of piston engines.”
The two teams – who communicated via e-mail and Internet-based phone conversations – split the tasks between them, with each doing work in the specialty in which it was strongest. In general, the Technion students planned the helicopters aerodynamics, including the two rotors and the shape of the helicopter, and also made performance calculations.
The Penn State group developed the engine, and calculated its ability to withstand a crash and the cost of manufacture. The two teams cooperated fully on the model’s internal structure with the principle aim of bolstering its ability to survive a crash, pilot safety and minimum weight.
The Technion students, working under the direction of faculty members Rand, Dr. Gil Yosilevsky and Chen Friedman, were Grigory Hodus, Galit Kipruser, Oleg Prokopov, Elad Rind, Gabriela Adler and Ilanit Schreiber.