After decades of churning out updated versions of helicopters that first rolled out in the 1960s and 1970s, aerospace manufacturers are finally starting to look at new forms of small vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft as several companies try to pair electric energy sources with new propeller layouts. Airbus Helicopters is one such company, and this month it completed a full-scale test of the propulsion system for its CityAirbus concept — a small eight-rotor VTOL craft designed for cities.
Still in engineering and prototype build stages, the CityAirbus envisions an electrically powered four-passenger craft meant for short flights — from an airport on the outskirts of a major city to a city center, for instance — powered by 100-kW Siemens electric motors for lift and for forward flight, drawing juice from a 140-kWh battery. The quad-fairing design uses a total of eight propellers and promises a much lower acoustic footprint, according to Airbus, in addition to greater safety and stability.
"We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator," said Marius Bebesel, CityAirbus chief engineer.