Russian designers are about to fulfill the dream of a truly affordable helicopter, with the launch of the Afalina, which is expected to cost about half the currently cheapest model on the market.
Yet not only will it be cheapest, it will also run on regular gasoline when it goes into production in 2016.
HeliWhale, from the Siberian city of Kemerovo, revealed its unique design at the HeliRussia 2015 exhibition, which took place in Moscow in late May.
The ultra-light, coaxial two-seater is called Afalina, the Russian word for bottle nose dolphin, given the rotorcraft’s hull, which resembles the marine mammal’s body.
The Afalina is capable of performing a variety of tasks, including the training of pilots, maintenance of pipelines and power lines, farm work, police patrolling, aerial surveillance transportation of personnel, and recreational flights.
Yet despite being cheap the model has advanced computer systems which allow the pilot to pick and choose his cockpit display layout from hundreds of devices and functions.
The coaxial positioning of rotors, where two sets of blades sping on top of each other, ensures that the aircraft is easier to pilot, quieter and more resistant to lateral wind gusts.
HeliWhale said that the patented new control system of coaxial rotors also provides the helicopter with high velocity of up to 250 kilometers per hour at max speed.
The aircraft, weighing just 600 pounds, is capable of carrying a payload of another 400 pounds, the company said.
Perhaps the most key feature for hobbyist pilots is that Afalina can refuel using 95 octane gasoline, with the consumption between 3 to 4 gallons per hour.
According to HeliWhale, the helicopter will cost $120,000, including heating and ventilation systems in the cockpit.
“Today nobody else produces aircrafts of this class, even the two-seater ‘Robinson’ is heavier than ‘Afalina’ and is, in fact, a completely different machine,” said Jacov Kolesnikov, general director of HeliWhale.
“The American Robinsons are also much more expensive. A two-seat helicopter costs $300,000,” he added.
The Afalina is an all Russian design, with HeliWhale producing all parts itself, except for the Austrian made engine, Rotax, which may be appealing to western buyers given the critical nature of the component.
“We are looking for domestic engines, and if there is a quality Russian engine, maybe we'll switch to it,” Kolesnikov said.
The company says it will be able to build between 10 to 15 of the helicopters every year.
Customers will receive their purchases as kit models for self-assembly in order to keep the price low, the developer said.
Besides Russia, HeliWhale is planning to sell to the U.S., Australian, and EU markets, saying that it already has orders for Afalina from abroad.
Given the self assembled nature, the aircraft will likely avoid most FAA regulations, which means you can have your very own helicopter for about the price of a Tesla Model S.