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Airbus Helicopters has conducted the full-scale demonstrator flight of its electric helicopter. The chopper is fully electric with a distributed drive system. It took off at 2,310 kg – the highest take-off weight of a full electric VTOL aircraft with a distributed drive system. In a tweet, the company said: “The 4-minute demo saw the 4-seat #eVTOL fly at an altitude of 20 metres.” A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft has the ability to hover, take off, and land vertically.
has a multi-copter configuration that features four ducted high-lift propulsion units. Its eight propellers are driven by electric motors at around 950 rpm to ensure a low acoustic footprint. The single failure tolerant architecture ensures safety. Its cruise speed will be approximately 120 Km/h on fixed routes with up to 15 minutes of autonomy. It has a capacity of four passengers that is ideal for aerial urban ridesharing.
The aviation industry contributes around 2.5 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Important efforts have already been made to limit fuel consumption in aviation, but clearly much more needs to be done – and helicopters are at the forefront of this effort. Thanks to their small size and low power need compared with most fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are the ideal testbed for new technologies, and lessons learned can be extended to larger applications.
The solutions being tested today are many: from decreasing the emissions output of conventional thermal engines to going for the holy grail of fully electric flight – and everything in between.
“Despite the engineering challenges in front of us, we see real possibilities in electrification,” says Luca Cossetti, Innovative Power Solutions at Airbus Helicopters. “Once the technologies are ready (e.g., batteries), the challenge will be to integrate them into an overall aircraft design and to devise or adapt systems which allow safe, efficient, emission-free flight.”