Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

EUROCOPTER Deutschland, the Daimler-Benz Aerospace part of the bi-national helicopter group, which includes Aerospatiale of France, is pulling together a four-year research programme aimed at achieving significant operational, environ- mental and safety improvements.

The DM120 million ($80 million) civil-helicopter research-and-development programme will be part-funded under the German Government's aerospace-support programme, which has pledged DM60 million for helicopter research up to 1998, on the condition that the industry itself invests a corresponding amount.

Under the banner "Helicopter 2010", Eurocopter Deutschland is attempting to meet performance-improvement targets laid down for the next generation of helicopters in the Government's report on its research-and-development support package, announced in 1994.

Among the targets are the reduction of noise emissions to 10EPNdB below current International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) limits and the reduction of vibrations and internal noise to less than 80dBA, compared with the 88-95dBA at present.

Operational costs are to be halved, and safety and speed increased - Eurocopter expects a possible boost in cruise speed up to some 190kt (350km/h). Research will be aimed at reducing helicopter empty weight by 20% and cutting fuel consumption by 30%.

The Government report also sets a goal of unlimited all-weather mission capability. Eurocopter is already working towards this goal with its rotor-mounted Heli-Radar - a rotating-antenna synthetic-aperture radar (ROSAR) system designed to give the pilot an artificial external view. The system is to be flight-tested on an Eurocopter BK.117 later this year.

According to Eurocopter engineers, the company's new EC135 light helicopter already emits 5-6dB less noise than ICAO demands. Further expected cuts, however, will require measures such as reducing the rotor speed by some 15% during take-off and landing and further optimisation of rotor-blade design - particularly the blade tips.

Eurocopter is also considering constant regulation of the angle of attack of individual rotor blades as a means to cut noise and improve performance, possibly introducing smart trailing-edge flaps into the rotor design.

The consortium says that it will not attempt to produce a no-tail-rotor system like the McDonnell Douglas NOTAR, concentrating instead on further developments of its fenestron design.

The company is also considering various methods of active internal-noise control, with the aim of achieving turbofan-airliner comfort for helicopter passengers.

Safety improvements are to be achieved by optimising the man machine interface and reducing the pilot's workload. Handling characteristics are also to be looked at for improvement.

Source: Flight International