Airbus Helicopters is working on a hybrid powered helicopter and expects to make the first flight in 2020, it was announced at last week’s Paris Air Show.
The project, co-financed by the French Ministry for Transport (DGAC), will develop an electric backup system to power the rotor system for up to 30 seconds, without the use of the main gas turbine.
It’s not just a research project. Airbus intends to take the concept to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6, which is close to potential certification and industrialisation.
The testbed will be an H130 single-engine helicopter fitted with an electric motor provided by Thales, a battery pack developed by Airbus Defence and Space as well as electric converters provided by engineering company Centum Adeneo.
“The helicopter industry is transforming at a fast pace and I’m very excited about this new partnership with DGAC which helps us prepare the future of vertical flight‚” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO.
“If introduced on serial helicopters, this technology could deliver new standards in terms of safety by providing pilots of single-engine rotorcraft more flexibility to perform autorotation in case of an engine shutdown.
“Further evolutions of the same technology could also pave the way to a significant reduction in fuel consumption and sound levels, further increasing the acceptance of helicopters in urban environments.”