Drive System Design Methodology for a Single Main Rotor Helicopter

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Bellocchio, Andrew Thomas
Schrage, Daniel P.
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The transformation of Joint forces to be lighter, more lethal, and capable of deploying from multiple dispersed locations free of prepared landing zones requires a dedicated heavy lift VTOL aircraft capable of rapidly delivering large payloads, such as the 20 to 26 ton Future Combat System, at extended ranges in demanding terrain and environmental conditions. Current estimates for a single main rotor configuration place the design weight over 130,000 pounds with an installed power of approximately 30,000 horsepower. Helicopter drive systems capable of delivering torque of this magnitude succeeded in the Russian Mi-26 helicopters split-torque design and the Boeing VERTOL Heavy Lift Helicopter (HLH) prototypes traditional multi-stage planetary design. The square-cube law and historical trends show that the transmission stage weight varies approximately as the two-thirds power of torque; hence, as the size and weight of the vehicle grows, the transmissions weight becomes an ever-increasing portion of total gross weight. At this scale, optimal gearbox configuration and component design holds great potential to save significant weight and reduce the required installed power. The drive system design methodology creates a set of integrated tools to estimate system weight and rapidly model the preliminary design of drives system components. Tools are provided for gearbox weight estimation and efficiency, gearing, shafting, and cooling. Within the same architecture, the designer may add similar tools to model subcomponents such as support bearings, gearbox housing, freewheeling units, and rotor brakes. Measuring the relationships between key design variables and system performance metrics reveals insight into the performance and behavior of a heavy lift drive system. A parametric study of select design variables is accomplished through an intelligent Design of Experiments that utilizes Response Surface Methodology to build a multivariate regression weight model. The model permits visualization of the design space and assists in optimization of the drive system preliminary design. This methodology is applied to both the Boeing HLH and the Russian Mi-26 main gearboxes. This study applies the drive system design methodology to compare the Mi-26 split-torque gearbox over the Boeing HLH multi-stage planetary gearbox in a single main rotor heavy lift helicopter.
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