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Given the range of new rotorcraft that Airbus Helicopters has under development, 2017 promises to be a busy time for the company. For example, the twin-engine H160 helicopter, which was unveiled at HAI 2016, has already logged more than 280 flight hours on two prototypes. Since the H160 is the company’s first full composite civil helicopter, this is no small achievement. A third prototype will start flying in 2017. Furthermore, Airbus Helicopters has validated the H160’s aeromechanical configuration, and put it through hot weather testing. Cold weather testing will occur in 2017.


“In September 2016, the first customer pilots flew the aircraft,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus Helicopters’ executive vice president of engineering. “Their testimonies were extremely positive on all aspects of the H160, including the breakthrough design with its modern feel, its low sound and vibration levels, its stability, and its excellent visibility.”


If all goes to plan, the H160 will enter service in 2019. “Its configurations include offshore transportation, business and private aviation, emergency medical services, public services, and commercial passenger transport,” Dumont said.


Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters is working on its high-speed, compound helicopter, which combines an overhead rotor and two front-facing propellers for maximum speed. The company validated the design last year, and is now working on building a prototype for first flight in 2019.


“The high-speed, compound helicopter


draws upon our earlier X3 demonstrator,” said Dumont. “It brings the compound aerodynamic configuration closer to an operational design, in our pursuit of increased speed, better cost-efficiency, and dramatic reductions of emissions and emitted noise.”


On the unmanned aircraft side, Airbus Helicopters and partner DCNS have joined to build France’s new VSR700 aerial vehicle. Airbus Helicopters is responsible for designing and developing the VSR700 and the “see and avoid” technologies that will help the drone fly self-directed missions in real time.


Finally, Airbus Helicopters is working on the concept for its X6 heavy helicopter, which is aimed at the civilian market into the 2020s. “The X6 will benefit from the full Airbus Helicopters’ DNA, with commonalities with the recently delivered H175 as well as the recently unveiled H160,” Dumont said. “Its positioning will be consistent with the new evolution in market expectations, as well as the current and near-future competitive landscape.”


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