An Airbus H130 and H125 flying in Iceland. (Airbus)
Airbus Helicopters is integrating an electrical backup system into an H130 demonstrator as part of a research project.
In conjunction with the French Ministry of Transport (DGAC), Thales and Adeneo, the goal is to prove out the use of a hybrid-electric system onboard a single-engine helicopter. First flight is planned for 2020 with the rotor being powered exclusively by the electrical system for up to 30 seconds.
“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 Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. “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."
Airbus and the DGAC are hoping that the program, which will get to technological readiness level 6, can ultimately be brought to certification and production. As with the burgeoning air taxi market, the goal of integrating electrification is reducing fuel consumption and lowering noise levels during critical phases of flight in a bid to improve public acceptance.
Thales' role for the research project will be to provide the electric motor, while Adeneo will supply electric converters. The battery pack will come from Airbus' Defense and Space business, while Airbus Helicopters will do the primary work and provide the H130 for modification.
“This project will result in new technologies and a demonstrator that are essential for the development of a new generation of cleaner helicopters," said French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. "Thanks to the engagement of the French government and our business partners, France is demonstrating the leading role it intends to play for better environmental performance within our aviation sector”.
Want more eVTOL and air taxi news? Sign up for our brand new e-letter, “The Skyport,” where every other week you’ll find the most important analysis and insider scoops from the urban air mobility world.