New High-Speed, Sustainable Helicopter Concept Whirls into Air Show

A new rotorcraft design was presented by Airbus Helicopters at the Paris Air Show this week, and Airbus claims it can reach a cruising speed of 250 mph (400 km/h) without a deafening roar or trade-off in sustainability.

The copter concept — code-named "Racer," for Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft — was designed as part of the Clean Sky 2 European research program, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lessen noise levels produced by aircraft.

The helicopter has a main rotor and a "box-wing" design with additional smaller rotors, which offers more efficient aerodynamics by providing lift and forward momentum while the copter cruises, according to Airbus Helicopters officials. [Supersonic! The 11 Fastest Military Airplanes]

"[Racer] aims to bring increased speed and range at the right cost, thanks to a simple, safe and proven aerodynamic formula," Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters CEO, said in a statement.

The new helicopter could reach speeds of nearly 250 mph (400 km/h), thanks to new technology and an advanced aerodynamic design. (Image credit: Airbus Helicopters-PAD)

The craft's rotors are also optimized to minimize noise, according to the German Aerospace Center, which helped Airbus Helicopters design the new helicopter.

An "eco mode" will add to the helicopter's fuel efficiency. The option is still being tested by the engine manufacturer, but according to Airbus Helicopters, it would allow for an electrically powered "start and stop" of one engine in flight to save fuel and increase range. A low-weight body also adds to fuel efficiency and aerodynamics, according to Airbus.

Construction of a demonstration Racer craft is expected to begin in 2019, with initial flight tests planned for the following year.

Another aerospace advancement announced by Airbus this year is the Pop.Up, a "multimodal transportation concept." The futuristic passenger capsule concept could transform into different modes of transit, with attachable wheels for driving, propellers for flying or the ability to join a train-like transit system, such as the high-speed transit concept known as the Hyperloop.

Original article on Live Science.

Kacey Deamer
Staff Writer
Kacey Deamer is a journalist for Live Science, covering planet earth and innovation. She has previously reported for Mother Jones, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, Neon Tommy and more. After completing her undergraduate degree in journalism and environmental studies at Ithaca College, Kacey pursued her master's in Specialized Journalism: Climate Change at USC Annenberg. Follow Kacey on Twitter.