Airbus Helicopters is unlikely to repeat the record-breaking speeds of its X3 compound rotorcraft with its Racer demonstrator, as it looks to successfully validate the new configuration.
"The objective of Racer is to go much closer to a commercial demonstration, therefore we will not be looking for records," says Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Airbus Helicopters.
It unveiled the new compound helicopter at the Paris air show this morning, which it will develop under the European Commission's CleanSky 2 initiative.
Featuring a unique box-wing design and twin pusher propellers, It builds on technologies previously validated on the X3, which captured a number of speed records in the early part of the decade, before being retired.
Faury says that previous studies have shown that operators are willing to pay for higher speeds "but not speed at any cost".
Part of the Racer effort will focus on identifying the market for any production aircraft. "There's a lot of questions that we have to answer through the demonstration phase to be able to come to customers with a real value proposition to determine what the size of the market is."
The Racer is largely clean-sheet design – only the Safran Helicopter Engines RTM322 powerplants are already in production – compared with the "Lego" of the X3, which used the airframe, engines and dynamic components from a number of different platforms, says head of engineering Jean-Brice Dumont.
He says the aim of the demonstrator is to prove the eco-efficiency of the platform and to take the legacy of the X3 and "bring it in a configuration which can access markets".
Faury says the demonstrator aircraft, which is due to fly in 2020, will be slightly larger than the AS365 Dauphin-based X3, putting it into the "super-medium" category. "The objective is to come up with a demonstrator where we will combine the beauties and benefits of speed with the flight envelope of a helicopter."
Aside from the bold configuration, the Racer will feature two other innovative technologies: the ability to idle one of its engines in cruise while maintaining a speed of around 190kt (352km/h), plus what head of research and technology Tomasz Krysinski calls "low-cost fly by wire".
This will combine "smart actuators" with regular mechanical linkages to deliver "80% of the performance of normal fly-by-wire controls with only 20% of the extra cost".
Engine provider Safran will work with Airbus Helicopters to develop the so-called "sleep mode" for its RTM322 powerplants, which also requires a fast restart mechanism.
This will be provide by a high-voltage electric system, says Krysinski. Safran has previously performed bench tests of engine sleep mode, but has yet to undertake flight tests.