Aerodynamic and sustainable rotor head developed by FURADO for RACER aircraft

Clean Sky Press Release | June 29, 2020

Estimated reading time 2 minutes, 48 seconds.

Airbus Helicopters’ RACER (Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft) demonstrator is combining the best of fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft to develop a new configuration of helicopter that will enable fast and efficient forward flight while enabling vertical take-off and landing. Not only that, but the speed and versatility gains will be complemented by cost-efficiency and sustainability attributes.

CFD simulation of the full RACER configuration showing near wall and flow field vortical structures. Clean Sky Image

“A major aspect of the challenge was to reconcile the environmental targets – to reduce CO2 by 20 percent, NOx by 20 percent and noise by 20 percent. Considering the complexity of the defined architecture, this means having to integrate new techno-bricks, lighter materials and innovative design solutions,” said Clean Sky 2’s FRC project officer, Antonello Marino.

One of the key challenges involved in developing RACER is aerodynamic efficiency. The high cruising speed of RACER gives rise to technical obstacles in this area, and that’s where Clean Sky’s Full Fairing Rotor Head Aerodynamic Design Optimization (FURADO) project comes in. FURADO is focused on optimizing the aerodynamic design and thermal flow analysis of a semi-watertight full fairing rotor head for RACER while reducing drag.

The first step in the project was to produce a tool that allowed for a fully automated aerodynamic shape development by using CFD simulations for the evaluation of objective functions. This tool enabled the project to optimize the shape of rotor head fairings to achieve maximum versatility and speed while respecting the environmental constraints. Promising shapes that reduced drag were selected to be investigated in more detail and compared to the current RACER blade-sleeve fairing.

CFD simulation of the isolated rotor head showing the vortical flow structures. Clean Sky Image

FURADO successfully reduced drag by 5 percent and increased lift by 24 percent on the isolated rotor head, meaning full speed ahead for this contributor to RACER.

Finally, an aerothermal risk assessment was performed for the newly developed RACER rotor head fairings, so as to ensure a long-life operability of the techno brick.

The FURADO project is a complementary Grant to the FRC-IADP. Activities were performed by the Technical University of Munich supported by Airbus Helicopters SAS and Airbus Helicopters Germany. The project ended on Feb. 29, 2020 and its budget was US$448,653 (€399,000).

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