HAI Convention News

Bluecopter gets the green light

 - February 22, 2010, 3:26 PM

Blue is the new green. Prompted by environmental concerns–regulatory and otherwise– Eurocopter took advantage of the Heli-Expo platform to formally launch its Bluecoptor program.

Bluecopter first emerged from a demonstrator EC120 modified to use a “high compression” diesel engine instead of the usual 504-shp Turbomeca Arrius turboshaft engine. The helicopter OEM is expecting a 40-percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Here yesterday, Eurocopter formally introduced its Bluecopter program, referring to the blue of a clean, pollution-free sky. The idea, according to head of research and development Jean Michel Billig, is to introduce new standards in acoustics and emissions through technology. And the goal of the Bluecopter technology program is to develop and validate advanced technologies that offer environmental benefits for new Eurocopter aircraft.

This includes improved acoustics and lower noise levels both inside and outside the helicopter and reduced CO2 and NOx footprints over the lifecycle.

To this end, Eurocopter has embarked, as part of Bluecopter, on an effort to measure environmental performance parameters based on: the need for environmental information, such as that dealing with increasingly demanding environmental regulations; the need for specific indicators that are simple to understand, specific to helicopters and that might become industry standard; and the need for an additional benchmark tool for performance, safety, cost, comfort, etc.

At the Eurocopter booth (No. 3128), the company is displaying a new, compact, high-efficiency, high-compression, two-stroke engine called the OPOC (opposite piston, opposite cylinder), part of the effort to develop a light, single-engine helicopter powered by a diesel engine.

Among other innovations is a means to further silence main rotors and blades. This includes changing the shape of the blade using technology called Blue Edge and integration of “intelligent” piezoelectric actuators into the trailing edge of the blade, called Blue Pulse.

The program has also identified various phases of flight and how each contributes to more or less noise and emissions. For example, the operational phase represents about 70 percent of a helicopter’s total environmental impact, said Billig.

Billig said he does not expect the rest of the helicopter community to follow the Eurocopter example. What is important, he said, is that everyone recognizes the need for such programs as Bluecopter.

“These issues have top priority for us,” said Eurocopter president and CEO Lutz Bertling. “This year’s Heli-Expo [demonstrates] how our new technologies are being made ready for integration in Eurocopter’s product line, allowing our helicopters to
outperform ever-stricter and wider-ranging environmental and safety requirements...as well as contribute to reduced operating and maintenance costs.”