By Andrew Liszewski
When someone mentions airbags, you usually think of the emergency safety devices that explode from the dashboard of your car when you get in an accident. But for many years now, NASA has been successfully using airbags to land their rovers on Mars. In a manner of speaking, the rovers basically crash onto the planet’s surface after a parachute descent, and it’s those large airbags that ensure they end up in full working order once they’ve touched down. So engineers at Bell Helicopter (makers of the famous Huey and other highly recognizable whirlybirds) figured that similar airbags could do the same thing for choppers forced to make a crash landing.
The airbags (and necessary inflation systems) would be mounted to the underside of the aircraft and would be automatically triggered before the helicopter hit the ground at a high velocity. (I assume the criteria for inflation will be a lot more complex than my brief summary.) And unlike the airbags used in a car which are pretty much useless after they’ve been triggered, the airbags on these helicopters will still be able to re-inflate after the initial deployment so they can serve as flotation devices should the crash occur in the water.
Also, why is it that so many images submitted with patent applications look like they were hand-sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci? You’d think by the time the patent application was submitted that most companies would already have complex 3D models and images already created. I guess it comes down to keeping their IP and what the final product will actually look like a closely guarded secret.