Eurocopter demonstrates emergency electric motor

Eurocopter has incorporated an electric motor into one of its AS350 helicopters to demonstrate the system as an emergency auxiliary power source.

The centrally placed electric motor activates during an auto-rotation landing, which is performed by helicopter pilots in the event of a failure in the main turbo shaft engine.

In such an event, the electric motor, which is powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery, provides power to the rotor, allowing a pilot to control the helicopter during a descent.

‘The electric back-up system aims at easing the pilot’s work and reducing stress. I believe it will lead to even less fatalities, as well as less damages to the helicopter in case of engine failure in flight,’ said Jean-Michel Billig, Eurocopter’s executive vice-president of R&D.

‘It is all about improving safety by reducing the pilot’s stress and workload during an auto-rotation manoeuvre.

‘Integrating a system that included an engine, a converter and a battery into a helicopter, which already had a very complex system in terms of physical and technological characteristics, was very challenging,’ added Billig.

‘The power of the electric motor is sufficient to take over for a short period of time if the engine fails. Specifically, it comes into action at the two most difficult points of an auto-rotation landing: the beginning and just before landing. However, the power is not large enough to provide lift.’

Eurocopter recently demonstrated the electric motor in a test on the production version of its light single-engine AS350.

The EADS group subsidiary said its next step was to bring the concept to maturity and to evaluate its implementation on Eurocopter’s series production helicopters.

A spokesperson from Eurocopter told The Engineer that details relating to the size, weight and power rating of the electric motor remain confidential.