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Airbus Helicopters Aims to Fly High-Speed Demonstrator in 2020

By S.L. Fuller | June 21, 2017
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EXPH-1710-2_ ©PAD Racer

Image courtesy of Airbus Helicopters

Airbus Helicopters has unveiled an aerodynamic configuration of its high-speed demonstrator. Making its debut at the Paris Air Show, the model shows what Airbus is developing as part of the Clean Sky 2 European research program.

“Today we unveil our bold vision for the future of high-speed rotorcraft,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters CEO. “This new project, pulling together the skills and know-how of dozens of European partners through the Clean Sky 2 initiative, aims to bring increased speed and range at the right cost, thanks to a simple, safe and proven aerodynamic formula. It will pave the way for new time-sensitive services for 2030 and beyond, setting new benchmarks for high-speed helicopter transportation.”

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Called “Racer,” the demonstrator’s name stands for “Rapid And Cost-Effective Rotorcraft.” The design has it cruising at more than 248.5 mph. Airbus said its simple architecture is to ensure safety and cost efficiency. An aerodynamic “box-wing” design would provide lift in cruise mode while isolating passengers during ground operations, Airbus said. The lateral rotors are designed to generate thrust in forward flight. Airbus said Racer is optimized for low acoustic signature, due to the lateral rotors and main rotors that would be powered by two Safran Helicopter Engines RTM 322s. The engine manufacturer, Airbus said, plans to test an “eco mode” to demonstrate an electric “start and stop” of one engine during flight. Racer would also have a hybrid metallic-composite airframe, and be equipped with a new high-voltage direct current electrical generation.

 

This project builds upon the X3 demonstrator, Airbus said, which validated the “compound” configuration. Final assembly on the Racer demonstrator is expected for 2019, with its first flight the following year.

Clean Sky 2 is a Joint Technology Initiative, which is a public-private partnership that brings together companies, universities, public laboratories, subject matter experts and the European Commission. It aims to develop and demonstrate technologies for the civil aircraft market, cutting noise and emissions pollution. The initiative started in 2014 and is set to run to 2024. It has a budget of more than $4.4 billion, funded by the European Union and industrial partners.

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