Airbus Helicopters has unveiled its latest technology demonstrator, designed to test technologies that reduce emissions, increase autonomy and integrate bio-based materials.
The PioneerLab is a twin-engine demonstrator, based on the popular H145 platform. It follows on the heels of the single-engine demonstrator aircraft FlightLab (based on an H130, and designed to test technology “bricks” that could be incorporated into the company’s existing fleet) and DisruptiveLab (a clean-sheet design created to test new architectures and concepts).
“With PioneerLab, we continue our ambitious strategy to test and mature new technologies on board our helicopter demonstrators,” said Tomasz Krysinski, head of research and innovation programs at Airbus Helicopters. “PioneerLab, which is based in Germany at our Donauwörth site, will be our platform to test technologies specifically dedicated to twin-engine helicopters.”
Through the use of a hybrid electric propulsion system and aerodynamic improvements, PioneerLab aims to achieve a 30 percent reduction in fuel compared to a conventional H145.
Airbus Helicopters will also flight-test structural components made from bio-based and recycled materials, with the aim of reducing the environmental footprint across the aircraft lifecycle. The company intends to produce the parts using processes that reduce material and energy consumption and improve recyclability.
The company said further research activities will include the integration of the latest digital technologies into the aircraft’s flight control system and associated sensors, which will provide increased autonomy and safety during critical flight phases such as takeoff and landing.
PioneerLab was unveiled during the German National Aviation Conference in Hamburg, Germany, and is partially co-funded by the BMWK, the Federal German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Actions through its national research program LuFo.
Airbus Helicopters said it has already begun the flight test campaign with PioneerLab at its German headquarters in Donauwörth, with a rotor strike alerting system being the first techno-brick tested on board the demonstrator. The next phase will be to test an automated take-off and landing system, the company said.