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Post by kosovohp on Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:48 am

The number, size and type of engine used on a helicopter determines the size, function and capability of that helicopter design. The earliest helicopter engines were simple mechanical devices, such as rubber bands or spindles, which relegated the size of helicopters to toys and small models. For a half century before the first airplane flight, steam engines were used to forward the development of the understanding of helicopter aerodynamics, but the limited power did not allow for manned flight. The introduction of the internal combustion engine at the end of the 19th century became the watershed for helicopter development as engines began to be developed and produced that were powerful enough to allow for helicopters able to lift humans.

Early helicopter designs utilized custom-built engines or rotary engines designed for airplanes, but these were soon replaced by more powerful automobile engines and radial engines. The single, most-limiting factor of helicopter development during the first half of the 20th century was the amount of power produced by an engine was not able to overcome the engine's weight in vertical flight. This was overcome in early successful helicopters by using the smallest engines available. When the compact, flat engine was developed, the helicopter industry found a lighter-weight powerplant easily adapted to small helicopters, although radial engines continued to be used for lager helicopters.

Turbine engines revolutionized the aviation industry, and the turboshaft engine finally gave helicopters an engine with a large amount of power and a low weight penalty. The turboshaft engine was able to be scaled to the size of the helicopter being designed, so that all but the lightest of helicopter models are powered by turbine engines today.

Special jet engines developed to drive the rotor from the rotor tips are referred to as tip jets. Tip jets powered by a remote compressor are referred to as cold tip jets, while those powered by combustion exhaust are referred to as hot tip jets. An example of a cold jet helicopter is the Sud-Ouest Djinn, and an example of the hot tip jet helicopter is the YH-32 Hornet.

Some radio-controlled helicopters and smaller, helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicles, such as Rotomotion's SR20 use electric motors.[31] Radio-controlled helicopters may also have piston engines that use fuels other than gasoline, such as Nitromethane. Some turbine engines commonly used in helicopters can also use biodiesel instead of jet fuel

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