Aircraft

Airbus' new copter concept has wings

Airbus' new copter concept has...
The Airbus Racer may be making its first flight within three years
The Airbus Racer may be making its first flight within three years
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The Airbus Racer will be optimized for a low acoustic signature, along with a cruising speed of over 400 km/h (249 mph)
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The Airbus Racer will be optimized for a low acoustic signature, along with a cruising speed of over 400 km/h (249 mph)
The Airbus Racer may be making its first flight within three years
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The Airbus Racer may be making its first flight within three years
The Airbus Racer is being developed as part of Europe's multi-organization Clean Sky 2 initiative
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The Airbus Racer is being developed as part of Europe's multi-organization Clean Sky 2 initiative
Both the Airbus Racer's props and its main rotor will be driven by two RTM322 engines
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Both the Airbus Racer's props and its main rotor will be driven by two RTM322 engines
Adding to the Airbus Racer's efficiency will be a lightweight hybrid metallic-composite airframe
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Adding to the Airbus Racer's efficiency will be a lightweight hybrid metallic-composite airframe

If you want a helicopter to be faster and more efficient in forward flight, why not just give it some wings for added aerodynamic lift, and a set of propellers (aka lateral rotors) for forward thrust? That was the thinking behind the Eurocopter X3 demonstrator aircraft. This Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, Airbus Helicopters announced its plans to build on that concept, in the form of the code-named Rapid And Cost-Effective Rotorcraft – or Racer, for short.

Being developed as part of Europe's multi-organization Clean Sky 2 initiative, Racer is described as being "the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency, sustainability and mission performance."

It will be optimized for a low acoustic signature, along with a cruising speed of over 400 km/h (249 mph). Both its props and its main rotor will be driven by two RTM322 engines, although an "eco mode" may allow one of those engines to be electrically stopped and then restarted while in flight, in order to save fuel and thus increase range.

The Airbus Racer will be optimized for a low acoustic signature, along with a cruising speed of over 400 km/h (249 mph)
The Airbus Racer will be optimized for a low acoustic signature, along with a cruising speed of over 400 km/h (249 mph)

Adding to its efficiency will be a lightweight hybrid metallic-composite airframe.

Final assembly of the Racer demonstrator should begin in 2019, with a first flight taking place the following year. The aircraft is teased in the following video.

Source: Airbus

RACER - Introducing the Future of Speed

7 comments
S Michael
How many passengers?
MD
So though the "wings" may look "futuristic" or radical, they provide a lot more stiffness in the system than a single cantilevered plank, they also make it feasible to have shaft driven propellers on each side. There uis a rational explanation. Previously a similar concept was canned (well not put into production, because there was no prospect of military sales, placing a thrust pod on the side of a heli makes safe (powered up) ingress and egress impossible, and also obstructs the field of fire from a door gun. They need to incorporate stop-start "technology" to the side rotors/propellers/propulsor (at least one, the other will be required for counter torque control), allowing normal heli-ops to be performed, otherwise it will only be useful for shortfield corporate or scheduled air service (short hop).
MattII
Sorry, but this is not going to work, try coaxial rotors, or intermeshing ones, either of which at least deal with the issues of torque and dissymmetry of lift at speed.
riczero-b
The props are a lot closer to the rotor than the Eurocopter, raising the risk of a strike.
DFrancis
A lighter weight alternative to having two RTM322 engines, is to have the props driven by electric motors, the electricity being generated by just one engine for the main rotor.
DavidMGorjup
Big deal. The Army put a variable wing on a CH-47 back in 1969 in the BV-347 program. It also stretched the fuselage. The overall performance was not significantly improved over the then current CH-47C.
Grunt
The Fairey Rotodyne went down this route back in the 1950's. Tip jets on the rotors and two hefty turbo-props provided sufficient noise to put off most people, but the idea was sound (sorry). Sadly the idea was discarded in 1962. If only they'd had the courage of their convictions then, and the necessary government support, the history of the compound helicopter might have been very different. Good luck, Airbus. May be, sixty plus years on, you may be able to make a success of it. As a goal to aim for, Rotordyne carried fifty passengers! ☺