New Trends in Helicopter Technologies

In march 2017, the Rexnord Aerospace Team had the pleasure to participate in Heli-Expo and to present Rexnord products for helicopter application, along with our design capabilities. It was a great opportunity to learn about new trends in rotocraft technologies. Heli-Expo 2017 revealed future global helicopter concepts from major manufactures. Here are three trends that got my attention:

Trend #1: Single Engine Operative Mode

Single engine operative (SEO) mode which allows a twin engine helicopter to shut down one of its engines while in cruise to save fuel, and restart it again rapidly when needed. Airbus Helicopter presented the environmental Clean Sky 2 demonstrator to prove that new technology could make helicopters more environmentally friendly by reducing noise and emissions:
Key features:
  • SEO – Single engine operative mode which allows a twin engine helicopter to shut down one of its engines while in cruise, to save fuel, and to climb rapidly
  • Supercritical transmissions featuring fewer parts, which will make the system lighter and reduce maintenance cycles
  • Supplementing flight-by-wire with mechanical flight control, including smart functions such as auto trimming
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Airbus plans to undertake a preliminary design review of the Clean Sky 2 aircraft this year and critical design review during 2018, with a first flight to follow two years later.
I’m looking forward to Paris Air Show in June where the final design configuration will be revealed.  #Rexnord Aerospace at Paris AirShow 2017 – Booth D-103

Trend #2: Untraditional tail rotor and no horizontal stabilizers

Bell Helicopter has unveiled a new future helicopter concept featuring a range of next-generation technologies. I'm excited to see Bell pushing out in this new direction:
Bell Helicopter Prototype Design

  • Fly-by-wire and autonomous capabilities allow for single seat pilot
  • Electric hybrid system in the tail rotor for a hybrid anti-torque system.  Multiple fans and an allowance for a venting system on both sides of the tail, so that it can thrust in either direction.
  • No horizontal surfaces
  • Hybridized propulsion. This combines advanced thermal engine cores for the main propulsion with electric distribution and motors to drive the system for further control and rudimentary vehicle operations and maintenance
  • Various landing gear configurations are being considered
This futuristic looking rotorcraft impressed not only our team, but the whole audience of spectators. I’m looking forward to seeing the final design.

Trend #3: Civil Tilt Rotor Concept

Leonardo Helicopters has detailed plans to test and fly a prototype of a second-generation civil tiltrotor by 2023 as a successor to the developmental AgustaWestland AW609.
There were several new technologies revealed including:
  • New rotor blades, wings and ailerons that will first be tested using subscale articles on an AW609 testbed
  • Plans to replace the full engine tilting of the AW609 by simply tilting the gearbox and rotor blades
  • Fly-by-wire systems for advanced flight controls
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Leonardo’s engineers have launched a long-term program to develop an electric-powered tail-rotor.  Timing for qualifying a production version hasn’t been confirmed yet.

About Rexnord Aerospace:
Rexnord Aerospace provides many products for all major Helicopter Companies including Main and Tail Rotor Bearings, and Engine/APU Dynamic Seals.

Rexnord Aerospace

For over 60 years, Rexnord has provided quality bearings, seals, gears and electrical components used in the aerospace industry all over the world. As the premier leader in the supply of highly engineered specialty bearings and mechanical seals, Rexnord products can be found in every aspect of the aerospace industry, from engine systems and flight controls, to landing gear and aircraft structures.