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Airbus launches DisruptiveLab to improve helicopter performance

Airbus has unveiled DisruptiveLab, a flying laboratory designed to test technologies that will improve aircraft performance and reduce CO2 emissions from helicopters.


The DisruptiveLab will evaluate a new aerodynamic architecture intended to reduce fuel consumption, as well as pursuing the implementation of hybridisation with a fully parallel hybrid propulsion system that enables battery recharge in-flight. The new demonstrator will take to the skies before the end of 2022 in order to begin flight testing and maturing these new technologies.

In a statement, Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, said: “The DisruptiveLab goes another step further in Airbus Helicopters' ambitious strategy to reduce the environmental impact of its helicopters and to lead the way towards a sustainable aerospace industry.

“The innovative architecture and the fully parallel hybrid propulsion system could only really be tested on a brand-new demonstrator in order to verify the combined impact in CO2 reduction which could be as much as 50 per cent.”

Airbus said the new architecture of the DisruptiveLab features an aerodynamic aluminium and composite fuselage designed to reduce drag and reduce fuel consumption. The blades are integrated into the rotor in a way that allows for a more compact rotor head, which reduces drag and improves energy efficiency while lowering perceived noise levels. Its lighter rear fuselage incorporates a streamlined Fenestron tail rotor that also contributes to improved performance.

The DisruptiveLab demonstrator is part of the French Council for Civil Aviation Research Conseil (CORAC)’s roadmap and has been partly financed by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) as part of the French Stimulus plan.

Airbus Helicopters started work on FlightLab, the company’s first demonstrator, in 2020. The FlightLab uses an existing H130 platform dedicated mainly to researching and developing technologies related to enhanced autonomy and safety.

In a separate development, Airbus and Neste have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly advance the production and uptake of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The focus will be on the technical development of SAF, fuel approval and testing of current and future production technologies, and investigating how 100 per cent SAF use can be realised.