Eurocopter expects that its recently tested helicopter hybrid power concept will enter commercial service, soon perhaps as early as next year. The system combines a turboshaft internal combustion engine with a “supplementary” electric motor to replace the main engine during what would otherwise be called an autorotation.
Once a formal go-ahead is decided next year, Eurocopter said it will take just “a few months” to assimilate the system into its entire range of single-engine helicopters–the EC120, AS350 and EC130.
Jean-Michel Billig, Eurocopter executive vice president for research and development director, told AIN that limiting the effect on payload and cabin volume will be critical. “If it is so heavy that you have to disembark one passenger, it is not viable,” Billig said, while expressing strong confidence that the added weight would be negligible.
He explained that the electric motor kicks in within one second if the conventional turboshaft fails. This keeps the rotor’s rotation speed constant. Then, at the end of the autorotation, the rest of the battery’s energy is used to power the rotor, which should make the flare easier.
Eurocopter is a division of EADS.