Airbus Helicopters' super-fast and efficient Racer

Airbus Helicopters’ super-fast and efficient Racer makes its maiden flight.

The Airbus Helicopters Racer high-speed compound helicopter made its first flight in Marignane, France, flying for about 30 minutes and signaling the launch of a two-year test campaign.

In 2013, Airbus Helicopters broke the helicopter speed record when its experimental X3 hit 293 mph (255 kt, 472 km/h). Now, with Racer, the company aims at adapting that technology as part of the European Research Clean Sky 2 project for the commercial market while making it more efficient and eco friendly.

Though it may look like a conventional helicopter, the Racer was designed for high-speed flight. The aerodynamics are optimized for high-subsonic speeds and forward propulsion is provided by two pusher engines mounted on box wings to provide lift while flying 50% faster than conventional copters.

Airbus Helicopters' super-fast and efficient Racer

According to Racer’s chief engineer, Brice Makinadjian, Airbus and its partners have taken multiple design options to reduce drag by around 25 percent. These include a new fairing design, narrowing the fuselage while not reducing the size of the cabin, an asymmetrical tail boom, and a box wing featuring an integrated landing gear. By having two smaller wings, there should be less downwash from the rotors, making for more efficient hover performance.

Powered by two Safran Aneto-1X turboshaft engines, Racer is designed to fly at more than 215 knots (400 km/h) while burning about 20% less fuel compared with current-generation helicopters.

Airbus Helicopters' super-fast and efficient Racer

The rotorcraft features a double-wing design with lateral pusher rotors on each wingtip. In cruise flight, Safran’s Eco-Mode hybrid-electric system allows one of the two engines to be switched to standby mode, according to Airbus, “generating further fuel savings of up to 25%.”

“With its 90 patents, Racer is the perfect example of the level of innovation that can be achieved when European partners come together. This first flight is a proud moment for Airbus Helicopters and for our 40 partners in 13 countries,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “I look forward to watching this demonstrator pioneer high speed capabilities and develop the eco-mode system that will contribute to reducing fuel consumption,” he added.

Airbus Helicopters' super-fast and efficient Racer.

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