Airbus Helicopters will lead the design of a compound rotorcraft demonstrator dubbed “LifeRCraft” (low-impact, fast and efficient rotorcraft) as part of Europe’s recently launched Clean Sky 2 Joint Technology Initiative. The LifeRCraft architecture combines a main rotor for vertical takeoff and landing, fixed wings for energy-efficient lift and open propellers for speed. The company will use experience gained on its X3 compound demonstrator between 2010 and 2013.
Preliminary studies, architecture and specification activity will start this year, with development and testing of components and subsystems envisioned in the 2016 to 2018 time frame, with flight evaluations scheduled to start in early 2019. “This will position the European industry for the potential development of a commercial aircraft based on this concept, with reduced risk before a go/no-go decision is made,” said Airbus Helicopters vice president for research and innovation Tomasz Krysinski.
Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters appears to be downscaling some technology ambitions for its X4 medium twin, which will be unveiled next year at Heli-Expo. According to Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury, the X4 will now share its avionics and autopilot with the EC175. Previously, the X4 was to feature a radical new man-machine interface, including touchscreens and innovative controls. Further, Airbus is now working on only one version of the X4, instead of the two that were to appear in 2017 and then 2020.