High speed Racer helicopter to flight test Safran’s hybrid engine technology


Artist’s impression of Racer technology demonstrator (Image: Airbus Helicopters)

Safran is to flight test its hybrid engine technology for the first time on Airbus Helicopters’ Racer high-speed demonstrator.

Safran Helicopter Engines’ Aneto-1X engine has been selected by Airbus Helicopters to power the Racer (Rapid and Cost-Efficient Rotorcraft). Twin Aneto-1X engines will be used on the rotorcraft, which will have a cruise speed of up to 400km/h (250mph).

The Aneto engine will feature Safran’s Power Pack Eco Mode configuration, which uses a high-power density electric motor for more efficient use of the power generated.

Eco Mode enables a pilot to pause one engine while in the cruise to generate fuel savings of around 15% and greater mission range, according to Safran. When needed during maneuvers such as acceleration, landing or autorotation, the idling engine will rapidly and automatically be restored to full power using the electric motor.

The Power Pack Eco Mode concept has been validated during ground tests and will be flight-tested for the first time aboard the Racer. Final assembly of the Racer demonstrator is expected to start in 2019, with a first flight planned for 2020.

The 2,500shp Aneto-1X is one of a family of engines unveiled last October that, according to Safran, will deliver 25% greater power than existing engines of the same volume.

The Aneto engine (Photo: Safran)

Bruno Bellanger, executive vice president of programs for Safran Helicopter Engines, said, “Selection for such an Airbus Helicopters research program marks a major achievement for our Aneto program. We are convinced that the Aneto-1X will not only meet Racer’s performance and environmental targets but will also establish a strong basis from which Airbus Helicopters and its partners can satisfy the technology development objectives of this ambitious European research program.

“This new selection in less than six months clearly shows that Aneto is the right engine solution for a high-speed, cost-efficient helicopter with strong environmental targets”.

Tomasz Krysinski, Airbus Helicopters vice president for research and innovation, said, “The Aneto will help us achieve the demanding performance and environmental targets set out in the frame of this pan-European research initiative, thanks to the engine’s innovative eco mode.

“It will therefore play a key role in supporting the wider Racer demonstrator project, which brings together technologies from a wide network of more than 25 industrial, academic and research partners from across the European Union to make a significant and durable contribution to the competitiveness of the European aerospace industry”, he added.

Racer is a technology demonstrator funded through the EU’s Clean Sky 2 program. It uses an innovative “box-wing” design, optimized for aerodynamic efficiency, to provide lift in cruise mode while isolating passengers during ground operations from the “pusher” lateral rotors designed to generate thrust in forward flight.

The rotorcraft builds on research carried out on the Airbus Helicopters’ X3 demonstrator, which validated the aerodynamic configuration of combining a traditional main rotor with lateral rotors.

February 28, 2018

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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