Eurocopter highlights Innovation and Bluecopter® Technology at Heli Expo 2010i-Expo

Eurocopter highlights Innovation and Bluecopter® Technology at Heli Expo 2010i-Expo

21-Feb-2010 Source: Eurocopter

Eurocopter will unveil several of its latest Research & Development (R&D) programs at this year’s Heli-Expo, underscoring the company’s commitment to remaining a leader in helicopter innovation for current and future generations of rotary-wing aircraft.  The company has been at the leading edge of rotorcraft technology for the past decades, focusing particularly on technologies which provide optimum benefit to the customer – be it in terms of cost efficiency, safety, or environmental compatibility.
“These efforts are now being intensified, in order to comply with ever stricter and wider-ranging environmental requirements which – directly and indirectly – also contribute to reducing operating and maintenance costs”, stated Lutz Bertling, President and CEO of Eurocopter. “Revolutionary main rotor blade concepts reduce noise and vibrations. New software and cockpit technologies, combined with advanced training methods, assist in enhancing safety. These issues have top priority for us”, he added.
Bluecopter® technology targets delivering environmental performance
The aim of the bluecopter® technology program is to develop advanced technologies which offer environmental benefits for new Eurocopter aircraft. The type of benefits sought range from improved acoustics (both internal and external perceived noise) to decreased pollutant emissions (C02 and NOx). They also include neutral materials (carbon neutral and non- hazardous processes) as well as the ability to recycle when the helicopter reaches the end of its service life.
Eurocopter displays on its Heli-Expo booth a new compact, high efficiency, high compression two-stroke engine called the OPOC (Opposite Piston Opposite Cylinder). This is in line with Eurocopter’s project to perform a flight with a light single-engine helicopter powered by a diesel engine. The objective is to reach a power to weight ratio capable of challenging the advantages of a classic turbine. The OPOC engine is one of several options currently under investigation.
Eurocopter also utilizes Heli-Expo to introduce a new method to measure and benchmark progress in environmental performance. Based on certification data, the tool enables operators and their passengers to check the environmental rating of their helicopter.
Silencing main rotors and blades to protect the environment and extend service life
Eurocopter is exploring several ways of optimizing main rotors to reduce external noise and cabin vibrations. One way is to change the shape of the blade in an R&D program designated Blue Edge™. The other is to integrate “intelligent” piezoelectric actuators into the trailing edge of the blade, in a program named Blue Pulse™. Both systems are displayed on Eurocopter’s booth at Heli-Expo.
Blue Edgeâ„¢: This revolutionary main rotor blade reduces noise passively. It has a double swept shape, very different from present-day blades. The aim of this program is to reduce the noise generated by so-called blade-vortex interactions (BVI), which occur when a blade impacts a vortex, created at the tip of the blade of any helicopter. In certain flight configurations and mainly at a low speed approach, these vortices can become parallel to the leading edge of the blade during the interaction, generating an impulsive noise typical of a helicopter.
The double swept shape of the Blue Edgeâ„¢ blade allows to spread over time the interaction with the vortices and thus avoids strong acoustic waves. Consequently, the resulting noise level is greatly reduced, and the impulsive character of the acoustic signal fades as well. It has no negative effect on the vibration level of the helicopter. First flight tests with Blue Edgeâ„¢ blades have shown a noise reduction of 3 to 4 dB. Flight tests will continue on an EC155.
Blue Pulseâ„¢: This piezo active rotor control system has the primary objective of reducing the system-inherent noise level generated by the interference of the rotor blade tip vortices from one rotor blade with the following blades, i.e. blade-vortex interaction noise. At the same time, the vibrations will be reduced significantly in order to increase comfort of passengers and service life of sensitive components.
The control system uses three flap modules located at the trailing edge of each rotor blade.  The piezoelectric actuators integrated into the blades respond with a length change to varying electrical voltages and thereby move the rotor flaps 15 to 40 times per second. Actuation is commanded by a controller and transmitted by an optical waveguide without requiring pilot interaction. It completely neutralizes the slap noise typically associated with helicopters in descent. The asymmetrical incidence flow of a rotor generates vibrations that can be reduced by as much as 90 percent by generating counter-vibrations, which in turn increases the service life of important components and passenger comfort by an equal measure. First flight tests with the Blue Pulse™ system have shown a noise reduction of up to 5 dB. Flight tests will continue on an EC145.
Boosting safety by optimizing human-machine interface
Much R&D work is invested at Eurocopter in making helicopters easier to handle, increasing flight safety, increasing situational awareness of the crew, and providing pilot support/partial automation in planning and carrying out missions. Some examples are shown on the company’s booth.
PILAS (Pilot Assistance System): Eurocopter presents a demonstration cockpit which is used for the development processes of new concepts in pilot assistance systems. With especially HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) missions in mind, most parts of the system were designed to support the pilot in any stage of any mission.
Improvement of situation awareness is achieved using a synthetic vision system where all relevant information about terrain, obstacles, air traffic, weather and airspaces is displayed. Furthermore, on a planned route the pilot is guided by a tunnel in the sky assuring all the necessary safety margins. In the background the assistance system permanently tracks all the relevant sensor information. Using a cognitive system architecture, the assistance system leaves the course of conventional automation and opens the perspective to a cooperative system which acts more like a virtual co-pilot. Based on the current and expected situation, PILAS proposes actions to circumvent a potentially critical situation. It is then up to the pilot to accept or reject the action proposal of the system. Finally, a four-axis autopilot and an automatic route planning system using low noise procedures help executing the flight.
Appareo Vision 1000: This low-cost, light-weight, cockpit imaging and flight data monitoring system was developed jointly by American Eurocopter, Eurocopter Canada and Appareo Systems. It captures critical inertial and positioning data such as location, attitude, etc., as well as cockpit imagery such as instrument panel, flight controls, partial exterior view and ambient audio. The system records up to two hours of images and 200 hours of flight data, operates independently from aircraft systems, and weighs less than a pound. It includes a GPS, an inertial measurement unit and a three-axis accelerometer. Cockpit images are recorded at four frames per second. Appareo Vision 1000’s software allows flight analysis to be performed online and monitors pilot proficiency and adherence to procedures. Because of its light weight and ease of mounting, the Appareo Vision 1000 is the perfect flight data monitoring solution for any type of aircraft or operator to enhance safety.
Eurocopter Virtual Environment: This platform reproduces a helicopter cockpit and flight manoeuvers on a laptop. The user wears virtual reality glasses which reflect the computer images in front of his eyes, while his head movements are recognized by the computer to update the images into real time. This generates the feeling of total immersion into helicopter flight. The Eurocopter Virtual Environment technology assists in analyzing flight data in real time. Various flight situations from various positions can be visualized. Coupled with the Appareo Vision 1000 system, additional visual data can be fed into the system to add crew activity to the investigation. In addition, the system can be used with a new method called “Immersed Witness Interview” for flightpath reconstruction when no flight data or radar data are available. Eurocopter Virtual Environment is provided as a new service to improve flight safety.
Summary
Eurocopter utilizes Heli-Expo 2010 to highlight just a few examples of its intensive R&D work, into which the company continues to invest heavily. Dozens of innovations are incorporated into Eurocopter’s production helicopters every year to facilitate continuous product improvement and to keep the company’s helicopters at the leading edge of technology. All avenues of innovation are explored to enhance safety, environmental performance, comfort, cost reduction as well as broadening the helicopter’s mission spectrum. Based on the strength of its innovative capabilities, Eurocopter aims at remaining the No. 1 vertical lift solutions provider to its customers.
About Eurocopter
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion Euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Group’s products account for 30 percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 18 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centres. More than 10,500 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,800 customers in more than 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.

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