Airbus Helicopters wins funding for blade, armor research and development

One program will develop technology to measure composite blade deformations in flight; the other will develop lower-weight, lower-cost composite armor for helicopters.

Airbus Helicopters (Oxford, UK) reported on Nov. 17 that it has received funding from the UK Department for Business Innovations and Skills (BIS) for two separate projects: one supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the other through Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI). 

The first project, worth £2 million and partially funded by government through the ATI, will partner Airbus Helicopters with Cranfield University, BHR Group and SME Helitune Ltd. With the aim of developing technologies to measure blade deformations in flight, the project will create a unique tool for future research into rotorcraft blade dynamics and allow engineers to actively monitor rotor blade performance during flight tests. Airbus Helicopters says this will have a major impact on flight safety, operations and maintenance, and will help reduce point-to-point travel time.

The second project, worth £1.2 million and supported by BIS’ AMSCI, will see Airbus Helicopters partner with project lead NetComposites under the Dual Use Technology Exploitation (DUTE) cluster to help develop and manufacture lower-weight, lower-cost helicopter armor at an increased rate and enable more flexibility in military helicopter design. This project will help bring maturity to existing technologies, reducing the time to market from up to 15 years down to three. The technology will also have the potential to be used more widely in areas such as personal protection and body armor, a global market estimated to be worth $2.4 billion in 2013.

Business Minister Anna Soubry says, “Airbus Helicopters is the largest turbine helicopter manufacturer in the world and these innovative projects backed by government can only strengthen our capabilities in this field. The government will continue to back our world leading aerospace sector to keep driving innovation, economic growth and creating skilled jobs.”

Colin James, managing director for Airbus Helicopters in the UK says, “Unlike the rest of Airbus Group, which has a balance of core business activities spanning France, Germany, Spain and the UK, Airbus Helicopters still has, by comparison, an underdeveloped industrial presence in Britain and we mean to change this.”

Gary Elliott, CEO of the ATI, says, “The UK blade research program with Airbus Helicopters is a good example of how a major global prime can be attracted to locate its R&D in the UK because of the strength of our research centers, supply chain and the government’s support for innovation.”