Airbus Helicopters has introduced a third flying technology demonstrator, with the twin-engined H145-based PioneerLab the latest to join its line-up.
Based at the firm’s Donauworth, Germany site, the PioneerLab (D-HADS) is focussed on testing technologies designed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30%, increase autonomy, and integrate “bio-based” materials.
Unveiled at the German National Aviation Conference in Hamburg – the project is part-funded by the country’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Actions – the PioneerLab joins the airframer’s current single-engined FlightLab and DisruptiveLab demonstrators.
PioneerLab will “be our platform to test technologies specifically dedicated to twin-engine helicopters”, says Tomasz Krysinski, head of research and innovation programmes at Airbus Helicopters.
It features a hybrid-electric powertrain and aerodynamic improvements as the manufacturer targets the 30% fuel-burn saving. No details of the new propulsion system were disclosed; the standard H145 is powered by twin Safran Helicopter Engines Arriel 2Es.
Notably, the PioneerLab is based on an older four-bladed H145 demonstrator – a 2014-built aircraft – rather than the latest five-blade D3 standard.
In addition, the PioneerLab will flight-test structural components made from bio-based and recycled materials to help reduce the overall environmental footprint.
However, initial trials are centred on autonomous systems: tests of a rotor-strike alerting system are already under way and will be followed by evaluation of an automated take-off and landing system.
The existing FlightLab platform is based around a H130 light-single, while the DisruptiveLab – which will also be equipped with a hybrid-electric powertrain – is a clean-sheet design. Both are located at the manufacturer’s site in Marignane in France.