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Lightweight and rEliable Emergency exits and cabin footstep for fast Rotorcraft

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - cLEvER (Lightweight and rEliable Emergency exits and cabin footstep for fast Rotorcraft)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-07-31

Since the development of the Tiltrotor in 1955, fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off or landing vertically, it’s been more than 60 years since a similar innovation has led to civilian applications. But now, successful experiments with the Airbus Helicopters X3 demonstrator, have enabled them to design and develop a hybrid aircraft, combining the helicopter’s low-speed hovering with the high-speed flight comfort of an airplane, that’s extremely effective in terms of both performance and cost.
That’s why the IADP FRC program, capitalizing on X3 demonstrator, intends to develop a new Low Impact Fast & Efficient RotorCraft (LifeRCraft) for civilian customers, a large-scale compound rotorcraft demonstrator to enhance the European aviation industry competitiveness. The goal is to combine vertical take-off and speed in safe conditions and at an optimised cost.
The LifeRCraft architecture combines fixed wings for energy-efficient lift, open propellers for high-efficiency propulsion, and a main rotor that provides vertical takeoff and landing flight capabilities. Such a future compound aircraft would combine higher cruise speeds with excellent vertical takeoff and landing performance at affordable operating costs, making it well-suited for such vital public service duties as emergency medical airlift, search and rescue, coast guard and border patrol operations, while contributing to the overall enhancement of mobility through operations ranging from passenger transport and inter-city shuttle services to off-shore airlift for the oil and gas sector.

The LifeRCraft project aims at developing and flight-testing in 2020-2021 a full scale demonstrator which embodies the new European compound rotorcraft architecture. In 2017, the involvement of all Core Partners and Partners of the Clean Sky Programme will allow completing the Preliminary Design phase. The individual technologies of the Clean Sky Programme (Green Rotorcraft, Systems for Green Operations and Eco-Design ITDs) aiming at reducing gas emission, noise impact and promoting a greener life cycle will be further matured and integrated in this LifeRCraft demonstration.
LifeRCraft will flight close to 480km/h which is 1.6 faster than conventional helicopters by evolving in a height about 10 000 feet. These performances confirmed by X3 demonstrator offers important market perspectives but conventional concept associated to specific technology/material has to be replaced due to increase of airloads and environmental constraints:
• The emergency exits rubber seal with zipping systems will not support the maximum speed and will be directly pull-out due to aerodynamic loads.
• The conventional cabin footstep which is fixed and metallic will create too much drag and will endanger the stability and safety of the helicopter.

That’s why the cLEvER project is needed. The main objectives of the cLEvER project are to develop new innovative composite emergency exits and electronic cabin footstep based on carbon material, to be assembled on LifeRCraft (Fast Rotorcraft). The different materials and processes and the overall structure should lead ultra-high reliable and safety systems while operating in the high strain and vibration conditions which are met by the Fast RotorCraft (FRC) whilst also decreasing costs (recurring and operating, 10% cheaper than existing products thanks easier industrialization process and cost-effective materials) fuel consumption (5% less, by decreasing weight and aerodynamic drag), and noise (5% less than actual rotorcrafts).
Since start of CLEVER project, Vision Systems has developped with CS2 partners the two systems that allow:
- To define the system and technical specification,
- To freeze the different concepts,
- To freeze detailed design,
The different milestones have been passed and validated with Topic Manager: KOM, PDR and CDR. (feb 2020)

Main results achieved on different objectives:
Objective 1: To develop innovative lightweight flightworthy emergency exits with carbon composite frame which will ensure weight and cost reduction and safety performance. (Weight -18%/Recurrent cost -14%)
Objective 2: To develop innovative electronic moveable cabin footstep with carbon composite components optimized. (Weight around 14.9 kg)
Objective 3: To develop new manufacturing process to reduce energy consumption and production time of the emergency exits and the cabin footstep. (Energy saving at 69%/Production time -10%)
Objective 5: Suitability for safety requirements as specified in applicable aeronautical standards (CS29 requirements, EASA and UK CAA Standards)

The design of both systems has been frozen with detailed design of all components ans associated documentation which represents an important milestone in the project. All opened points highlighted during CDR phase has been closed.

For emergency exits, the design has been validated by first qualification parts which have been manufactured in line with quality requirement.

For electrical footstep, the design has been also totally completed with lots of iteration of movable composite steps.
The innovation proposed for this composite movable step has been confirmed by specific prototype and associated mechanical testing.

All toolings and detailed components have been procured for qualification parts and for flighworthiness parts.
Next steps will be manufacturing of flightworthiness parts in parrallel of the technical qualification.
Improvments done on emergency exits based on H160 concept allow to reinforce position of Vision Systems in AIRBUS Helicopters for new development and confirms emergency exits concept efficiency.
For electrical footstep, concept has been proven through demonstator and confirms the feasability. Design developped by Vision Systems including movable step in composite represents an innovation in helicopters market.
It will be a first time that an movable electrical step in composite will be used during flight.

As definition is frozen, manufacturing steps is the next milestone integrated the qualification of both systems expected for Q1-2021. (Covid Impact)
Delivery of flighworthiness parts is planned for February 2021 with associated Permit to Fly.

The innovative technology will lead to bring the requested performances to stand out Vision Systems Aeronautics and AIRBUS Helicopters from competition.
Also, by helping the development of the Fast rotorcraft for the SAR and EMS missions, the project will indirectly contribute to some social benefits.

The emergency exits will enable the Lifercraft to lead rescue missions during natural disasters more efficiently than before. Indeed, the limited speed and range of standard helicopters are often the main cause of death. Indeed, the Lifercraft can reach a disaster faster than a standard helicopter, does not need a take-off runway and can lead operations which require hover flight abilities.
For Europe, having an operational and reliable exit door will help civil society to protect its citizens. In addition, the Fast Rotorcraft will include the capability to land on unprepared surfaces with nearby obstacles, and to load and unload rescue personnel and victims while hovering. As the current world helicopter speed record-holder, this architecture developed within Europe by the concerned FRC Leader under private funding is clearly poised to bring game-changing mission capability to the market once matured and validated.