Airbus Helicopters single-joystick system simplifies copter controls
Airbus Helicopters' new FlightLab flying laboratory is already yielding results, successfully testing a fly-by-wire system for Airbus’ CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL prototype that reduces the primary flight controls to a single joystick.
If you look at the covers of enough popular science and mechanics magazines, you're bound to come across illustrations of a future where helicopters are as commonplace in suburban driveways as motor cars. It's a cool idea, but it's also one where you can hear the eyes roll in the sockets of professional helicopter pilots because it's completely ridiculous.
One of the biggest problems is that helicopter controls are so complex that you ideally need three hands to work them. This includes the Cyclic Control, which looks a bit like a joystick and controls the pitch of the main rotors and allows the pilot to move the machine forward, backward, left, or right; the Collective Control that is the stick at the side that controls the pitch of the blades to control lift, so the craft goes up, down, or hovers; and the Foot Pedals that control the tail rotor that controls which way the helicopter is pointing. If that isn't enough, there's also a throttle on the Collective Control to ensure that the engine power matches the blade pitch.
No wonder helicopter pilots tend to retire young.
By relying on computer assistance and fly-by-wire technology, Airbus has succeeded in simplifying the controls, reducing them to a single joystick that takes over all the functions. By manipulating the stick, the pilot can handle all maneuvers, including take-off, landing, climbing, descent, acceleration, declaration, turning, and approach.
The result is a control system that not only simplifies helicopter flying, but is suited for eVTOLs. In addition, it allows for easier to understand interfaces that concentrate on supplying the most important information to the pilot.
"From the start, we designed this system considering every certification parameter in mind as it will be a big step forward in validating the design of our urban air mobility eVTOL, CityAirbus NextGen," said Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters. "The advantage of an electric flight control system is enormous, especially when it comes to reducing pilot workload and ultimately enhancing mission safety. It is also a great example of how our demonstrators are used to mature the techno-bricks necessary to prepare the future of vertical flight."
Source: Airbus Helicopters