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Airbus unveils its helicopter Flightlab to ‘test tomorrow’s technologies’

Posted on 07 Feb 2021 and read 506 times
Airbus unveils its helicopter Flightlab to ‘test tomorrow’s technologies’Airbus Helicopters has started in-flight tests on board its Flightlab, a ‘platform-agnostic’ flying laboratory exclusively dedicated to maturing new technologies. The aircraft provides an agile and efficient test bed to quickly test technologies that could later equip Airbus’s current helicopter range, and even ‘more disruptive ones’ for future fixed-wing aircraft or (e)VTOL platforms.

The company says it intends to pursue the testing of hybrid and electric propulsion technologies with its Flightlab demonstrator, as well as exploring autonomy and other technologies aimed at reducing helicopter sound levels or improving maintenance and flight safety.

Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters’s CEO, said: “Investing in the future remains essential, even in times of crisis, especially when those innovations bring added value to our customers by targeting increased safety, reduced pilot workload, and reduced sound levels.

“Having a dedicated platform to test these new technologies brings the future of flight a step closer and is a clear reflection of our priorities at Airbus Helicopters.”

Flight tests started last April when the demonstrator was used to measure helicopter sound levels in urban areas. First results show that buildings play an important role in masking or amplifying sound levels and these studies will be instrumental when the time comes for sound modelling and regulation setting, especially for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiatives.

Further trials in December evaluated the Rotor Strike Alerting System (RSAS) aimed at alerting crews about the imminent risk of collision with the main and tail rotors.

Tests this year will include an image-detection solution with cameras to enable low-altitude navigation, the viability of a dedicated Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) for light helicopters, and an Engine Back-up System that will provide emergency electric power in the event of a turbine failure.

Assessments on the Flightlab will continue in 2022 in order to evaluate a new ergonomic design of intuitive pilot flight controls intended to further reduce pilot workload, which could be applicable to traditional helicopters as well as other VTOL types.

Airbus already has several well-known Flightlabs such as the A340 MSN1, used to assess the feasibility of introducing laminar flow wing technology on a large airliner, and the A350 Airspace Explorer, used to evaluate connected cabin technologies inflight.