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Helicopters Europe takes the lead

For the past 60 years, helicopters have been built according to the same basic principle. Now, 40+ partners from across Europe are jointly developing a completely new design. This helicopter of the future will represent a new benchmark in terms of performance and efficiency while putting revolutionary development processes into practice. One bold vision is the RACER High Speed Helicopter Demonstrator, led by Airbus Helicopters. The project is part of the EU aeronautics research programme Clean Sky 2.

Smart solutions Made in Europe

Research and development in aerospace is currently undergoing a paradigm shift. Innovations and new products have to be brought to market with much greater speed. At the same time, customers demand a high degree of maturity. Airbus is a leading force for change in this area; for instance, collaborative virtual design processes are being implemented for the RACER project.

Airbus engineers are collaborating with their counterparts at partner companies to conceive a digital 3D model of the envisioned helicopter. This joint programme is being executed simultaneously at several dozen sites in thirteen European countries and includes SMEs and start-ups with highly specialised know-how.

Design of the future

The partners are jointly developing the high-speed helicopter of the future. The revolutionary design features wings with propellers while removing the rotor at the back. The results are impressive, especially in terms of:

  • Speed: The helicopter will be significantly faster than current models. Reaching a destination quicker can save lives on rescue missions.
  • Emissions: Despite being faster, fuel consumption will be lower. Moreover, optimised rotor blades will reduce noise emissions
  • Cost: Compared to today’s helicopters, the purchase price will be 25 per cent lower per nautical mile flown. Maintenance costs will also fall.

Airbus coordinates EU-wide cooperation

Airbus Helicopters has taken the lead in this complex development process and contributes the experience it gained with the pilot project X3. Airbus sites in Germany, France, Spain and Poland are responsible for around 50 per cent of development and manufacturing. Overall project management, assembly and flight testing are managed by Airbus. The project reached its first milestone in 2016 when the RACER architecture was finalised. In 2020, flight tests are to begin. The new generation of helicopters could enter into service in 2030. This would be a major achievement for the European aerospace industry and for the EU and its Clean Sky programme alike, as it highlights the success of a collaborative European approach to innovation. This is especially crucial while discussions on the Clean Sky 3 programme are ongoing.

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