Airbus Helicopters announced this week that it had started testing an electric engine back-up system (EBS) on its H130 Flightlab test bed.
The 100 kW electric motor is connected directly to the main gearbox and is designed to provide 30 seconds of power after an engine failure, giving the pilot time to maintain the rotor speed.
An EBS is considered a critical component of any future hybrid powerplants fitted to helicopters, and is intended for use largely in single-engine aircraft.
"The engine back-up system is a good example of the incremental approach in our innovation strategy," saidTomasz Krysinski, Head of Research and Innovation at Airbus Helicopters.
“The current EBS flights are a very important first step towards a future hybrid propulsion system and we already foresee a second phase of the project with more energy and power on board.
"We are looking at developing a fully parallel hybrid propulsion system mixing thermal and electrical energy together with the aim of optimising fuel consumption and enabling hybrid single engine flights over urban areas."
Airbus says that by giving the pilot extra time to react and maintain rotor speed, the EBS contributes to a safer and smoother autorotation. The current flight tests include simulating engine failure in different phases of flight, including take-off and landing.
The flight test program campaign also aims to demonstrate a performance increase, thanks to the prompt electric power input. The potential benefit in terms of MTOW is to compensate for the weight of the EBS system itself and to provide operators with additional payload.