HAMPTON (AP) -- NASA researchers will drop a 45-foot-long helicopter fuselage from a height of about 30 feet on Wednesday. Researchers say it will reach about 30 MPH and they will be testing improved seat belts and seats.
Lead test engineer Martin Annett says nearly 40 cameras positioned both inside and outside will record how 13 crash test dummies react before, during and after impact.
The fuselage is painted in black polka dots as part of a photographic technique called full field photogrammetry, which will allow researchers to tell exactly how the fuselage buckled, bent, cracked or collapsed under crash loads.
The impact condition represents a severe but survivable condition under both civilian and military requirements, officials believe.
The Navy provided the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter fuselages, seats, crash test dummies and other experiments for the test. The Army contributed a litter experiment with a crash test dummy. The Federal Aviation Administration provided a side-facing specialized crash test dummy and part of the data acquisition system. Cobham Life Support-St. Petersburg, a division of CONAX Florida Corporation, also contributed an active restraint system for the cockpit.
For the first time ever in any test, technicians installed a video game motion sensor in the helicopter.
"We want to see if it is useful as an additional way to track the movements of the dummies," said test engineer Justin Littell.
The ultimate goal of NASA's research is to help make helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing vehicles more serviceable -- able to carry more passengers and cargo -- quicker, quieter, safer and greener, NASA said.
Improved designs could allow helicopters to be used more extensively in the airspace system.