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NASA risks then saves lives of dummies in helicopters with external airbags

Tim Stevens
Airbags have evolved from being in cars to on cars, so it's only natural that airbags in aircraft should be making the trip outside. NASA's Subsonic Rotary Wing Project is attempting to make autorotation landings a little bit softer by slapping a pair of expandable kevlar cushions between the skids, and the first test was a success. The helo was dropped at a height of 35 feet, achieving a speed of 48 feet-per-second before unceremoniously hitting concrete. The helicopter and its simulant occupants were said to be largely undamaged, giving hope that such a system could reduce injuries -- if you're not traveling downward at more than 48 feet per second, anyway. Future tests are said to be coming in the next year and, if all goes well, we hope to be seeing these on real whirlybirds soon.