oday's conventional helicopters are powered by thermal engines that convert fossil fuels into energy. Long considered ideal for air travel because of their ability to generate large quantities of power with a limited mass of fuel, fossil fuels are likewise notorious for producing emissions such as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide (CO2).
The aviation industry contributes around 2,5 percent of global CO2 emissions. Important efforts have already been made to limit fuel consumption in aviation, but clearly much more needs to be done – and helicopters are at the forefront of this effort. Thanks to their small size and low power needs compared with most fixed wing aircraft, helicopters are the ideal testbed for new technologies, and lessons learned can be extended to larger applications.
The solutions being tested today are many: from decreasing the emissions output of conventional thermal engines, to going for the holy grail of fully electric flight – and everything in between.
Airbus Helicopters’ long-term innovation roadmap involves exploring all options, brick by brick, and making incremental improvements towards an emissions-lighter future. Here’s a look at what’s happening now.