<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p>NASA recently announced the winners of its college aeronautics contest to inspire designs for the next generation of search-and-rescue aircraft. The prize-winning concepts provide a glimpse at the vehicles that might be scrambled in response to future natural and man-made disasters.</p> <p>Teams were charged with designing a civilian aircraft that could deal with the varied, vital needs of aid workers. The vehicle had to land on both ground and water, have hovering capabilities and be big enough to transport 50 rescued survivors.</p> <p>In cruise mode, the craft had to reach a top speed of at least 345 miles (555 kilometers) per hour and have a range of 920 miles (1481 kilometers). If all that were not enough, the vehicle also had to be able to hold huge tanks of water for fighting fires.</p> <p>To achieve these goals, college students created so-called tiltrotor aircraft whose chopper-like propeller blades can be rotated horizontally to work like those on a familiar prop plane.</p> <p>This way, the vehicles combine the <a alt="((CONLINK|233|maneuvering%20versatility%20of%20a%20helicopter))" href="">maneuvering versatility of a helicopter</a> with the speed, range and carrying capacity of the fixed-wing aircraft that we depend on for air travel.</p> <p><a alt="((CONLINK|401|Disaster%20response))" href="">Disaster response</a> could greatly benefit from vehicles with these attributes. Vertically landing helicopters can reach survivors and drop off vital supplies when <a alt="((CONLINK|215|roads%20and%20airstrips%20have%20been%20destroyed))" href="">roads and airstrips have been destroyed</a> or flooded, for example. Airplanes, for their part, can deliver heaping quantities far more quickly and at greater distances.</p> <p>A helicopter-cum-airplane, tiltrotor craft finally became a reality three years ago in the form of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, which has been deployed by the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan.</p> <p>The V-22 served as inspiration for the more than 100 college students from the United States, Canada, China, India, Poland, Nigeria and the United Kingdom submitted entries either as teams or as individuals. The winning teams in the U.S. received a trophy, cash awards ranging from $5,000 for first place to $3,000 for third place and also some summer internships.</p> <p>Here is a look at five of the students' prize-winning designs for <a alt="((CONLINK|200|futuristic%20aerial%20vehicles))" href="">futuristic aerial vehicles</a> .</p> <p></p>

<strong>VT RAFT</strong>

<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p></p> <p>First place in the contest went to ten Virginia Tech undergraduate students with their catamaran-like Vertical Transport Rescue Amphibious Firefighting Tiltrotor (VT RAFT). The concept craft's <a alt="((CONLINK|482|dual%20fuselage%20configuration))" href="">dual fuselage configuration</a> served several useful purposes. This design eliminated the need for pontoons to help the VT RAFT float stably on water while providing a central rescue area shielded from the winds of the vertical propellers. These twin props, each spun by a 6,150-horsepower engine, tilt from facing up to facing forward in about 30 seconds, switching the VT RAFT from a helicopter to an airplane as shown here.</p> <p></p>

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<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p><strong>CAESAR</strong></p> <p>The runner-up in the NASA competition was the Civilian Aid, Emergency Search and Rescue (CAESAR) aircraft submitted by Georgia Tech and University of Liverpool graduate students. Utilizing four tiltrotors placed on two wings, CAESAR was designed with an eye toward actual production within 10 years. By being able to carry over 50 people or a payload in excess of 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), CAESAR would be valuable asset to incident commanders at <a alt="((CONLINK|422|natural%20disaster%20scenes))" href="">natural disaster scenes</a> , its designers asserted in their contest documents.</p> <p></p>

<strong>AVATR Soterion</strong>

<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p></p> <p>A 28 member-strong group of undergraduates from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville secured third place with the Advanced Virginia Amphibious Tilt Rotor (AVATR) Soterion. Unlike the V-22 Osprey and other contest winners, the Soterion's engines are fixed and center-mounted. The force they generate is shafted out to the wingtips where the rotor blades are located. This way, the team figured, salt water ingestion is kept to a minimum during water landings. To boost stability during marine operations, retractable floats can be launched from the rotor nacelles. Water tanks can go in the cargo area to douse flames in firefighting missions and the Soterion can scoop up and disperse flame retardants as well.</p> <p></p>


<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p></p> <p>The Geryon from The Ohio State University earned honorable mention in NASA's contest. The craft's quad tiltrotor, double-wing design imbues it with greater stability both in <a alt="((CONLINK|653|vertical%20and%20horizontal%20flight))" href="">vertical and horizontal flight</a> . This design also lets the vehicle tote a much heavier payload than twin-prop, single-winged aircraft. For example, Geryon's designers estimate it could carry twice the weight of a V-22 Osprey. Reinforcements in the wings would reduce the intense structural stress caused by the firing of all four engines.</p> <p></p>

<strong>The Pelican</strong>

<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p></p> <p>Also receiving honorable mention in the NASA competition was the Pelican. Created by five students at Trine University in Indiana, the tiltrotor Pelican employs four propellers and two wings to deal with the rigors of search and rescue.</p> <p>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|233|NASA%20Crashes%20Helicopters%20to%20Improve%20Safety%20))" href="">NASA Crashes Helicopters to Improve Safety </a> <br>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|482|'Green'%20Plane%20of%20the%20Future%20Might%20Have%20Two%20Cabins%20))" href="">'Green' Plane of the Future Might Have Two Cabins </a> <br>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|62|10%20Profound%20Innovations%20Ahead%20))" href="">10 Profound Innovations Ahead </a> <br><br></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

NASA Contest Inspires Futuristic Search-and-Rescue Aircraft