Feature Story

Cyclorotor proves worthy in competition

The X-51 WaveRider is installed on a B-52 for the X-51’s fourth flight May 1

Boeing

The winning Air Force Academy Capstone competition team poses for a group photo with Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

It’s extremely challenging to design, build and fly an airplane, but members of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Engineering Capstone competition team did just that. Well, sort of.

While the team didn’t build an airplane to scale, they did design, build and fly a smaller prototype. Called a cyclorotor, the model earned them top honors in the 2013 Boeing-sponsored Service Academy Engineering Capstone Project Competition.  The competition, in its third year, is an annual throwdown between the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy.

On Monday, Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg traveled to Colorado Springs to get a close look at the winning project.  He also presented the traveling trophy to the winning team, their second in three years. The Naval Academy prevailed in 2012.

The challenge Boeing presented for 2013 asked each Capstone team to design an airplane that could handle MEDEVAC as well as Search and Rescue, based on technology available for 2045 production.  Boeing issued a set of requirements with the challenge and each team took it from there.

A cyclorotor resembles a paddle wheel, where airfoils serve in place of the paddles. According to Pryor, it is capable of vertical takeoff and landing and can hover like a helicopter, but the design would improve fuel efficiency by 30 percent over current day helicopters and offer significantly higher cruising speeds.

Watch the video to see the team’s story.