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Kawasaki H2R takes to the Skies

We’ve heard of motorcycle-engined cars, and even boats, but helicopters? Well, not only has Kawasaki built a ‘copter powered by the supercharged H2R power unit, but it really does fly. The company has form here in any case – Kawasaki Heavy Industries already builds a line of conventional choppers from the small BK117 to big twin-rotor military machines.

This latest unmanned addition (a work in progress as yet) has adopted the 326bhp version of the H2R’s 998cc in-line four, and according to Kawasaki it can lift 200 kg at sea level, or just half that in the more rarified air at 3100m above sea level. The engine runs at a constant speed, so the H2R helicopter doesn’t sound much like a conventional chopper…or a Kawasaki hyperbike for that matter.

But what’s the point of it? Kawasaki says that the project, which started in 2021, has the aim of airlifting supplies to people in remote, mountainous regions of Japan and elsewhere. Unfortunately, it only has a flying range of 1 hour, or about 60 miles, so its practical use looks limited. Still, if the object of Big K was to bag some useful column inches, it’s obviously worked.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, liked the cut of the helicopter’s jib in any case: “Long before Kawasaki made motorcycles, they made aircraft, like the Ki 61, Ki 100 and N1K. The helo looks terrific, but it doesn’t matter what they do to a 4-stroke engine, it’s always going to look relatively weedy compared to a gas turbine. The arrival of the jet engine is what made the modern helo possible, it’s all about power to weight. For light use, like the H2R, the main benefit is that, compared to a gas turbine, it’s cheap. Typically, it’s possible to build an ICE powered helo for about the same price as a gas turbine. That’s a complete aircraft for about the same price as just an engine. ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Kawasaki Heavy Industries