Eurocopter demonstrates new emergency backup electric motor for helicopters

Oct 14, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Eurocopter demonstrates new emergency backup electric motor for helicopters

(PhysOrg.com) -- Normally, when a helicopter loses power in flight due to engine failure, the pilot reverts to using a technique called autorotation to avoid crashing. What happens is the rotors keep spinning automatically due to the air rushing past as the aircraft descends, which prevents the aircraft from picking up speed as it descends, eventually leading to a reasonably safe landing. The problem though, is that controlling such a descent is quite difficult due to the lack of power adjustments to the angle of the rotors, which can lead to pitching. In a sense it’s much like the difference between regular and power brakes. The pilot is forced to rely on a lot of muscle power. To make things easier for pilots, and thus safer for all concerned, Eurocopter, the biggest maker of helicopters in the world, has come up with a way to allow a pilot to more easily maintain control of the rotors while descending and landing using an electric motor add-on.

Traditionally, the most difficult parts of using the autorotation technique, is the beginning of the event and the landing. The beginning is difficult because more often than not the helicopter is leaning towards its destination to head forward in that direction, thus the aircraft needs to be leveled off. Landing is always the most difficult part of flying a helicopter because of the many tiny adjustments that need to be made just as the aircraft touches the ground; doing so with no engine power is far more complicated due to the inability to alter the speed of descent and the difficulty in changing the rotor angle. Plus, the pilot only gets one shot.

To help in both cases, the engineers at Eurocopter have developed an electric motor and battery system that can be used in the event of . It appears that the backup motor doesn’t actually make the rotors go around, but instead allows the pilot to effortlessly adjust the rotor angle, which allows for much easier stabilization both during the initial switchover and during landing.
In the demonstration, a AS350 helicopter outfitted with the new motor was able to land very nearly as easily as it would have using its normal gas engine.

Eurocopter is a global company with main offices in France, Germany and Spain. It makes both commercial and military . As part of its announcement, the company said it plans to implement the new technology in all of its aircraft and will continue to look into using what it’s learned with the to help in the development of true hybrid helicopter technology to help cut fuel consumption.

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antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Oct 14, 2011
To help in both cases, the engineers at Eurocopter have developed an electric motor and battery system that can be used in the event of engine failure. It appears that the backup motor doesnt actually make the rotors go around, but instead allows the pilot to effortlessly adjust the rotor angle, which allows for much easier stabilization both during the initial switchover and during landing.

Great bost for helicopter safety.

Now they just have to add software which automatically manages the stabilizing adjustments in the event of a power failure (or at the very least at the touch of an 'emergency' button) and then they've really got something.
dschlink
not rated yet Oct 14, 2011
Equally useful on automobiles, electric steering and braking boost can reduce fuel consumption by shutting down when not needed and providing boost even when the engine fails.
robnarly
5 / 5 (2) Oct 14, 2011
i can't believe this hasn't been thought of before!
droid001
5 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2011
Brilliant idea ! Humanity still have a chance. Eat this, Watson.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (2) Oct 14, 2011
Equally useful on automobiles, electric steering and braking boost can reduce fuel consumption by shutting down when not needed and providing boost even when the engine fails.

a) They are already shut down when not needed (as long as you don't triger them they don't draw power)
b) The event of an engine failure is so unlikely in cars/trucks..and even if: in those cases both can e gotten safely to a halt within seconds anyways.

There is no added benefit for road vehicles here (quite the opposite as the weight of such a system would continually add to fuel consumption)

that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2011
@antialias - I agree with the fuel consumption issue, and unnecessary expense and complexity such a system would add to vehicles, but you are quite a bit off on point B.

There are a number of ways a car can stall from lack of fuel (sadly more common than you think), to unexpected issues, like a radiator leak, etc. To issues caused by poor maintenance.

On most cars, if you stall, the breaks will quickly become stiff, and almost impossible to use (You can always use the mechanical emergency break if you have the presence of mind). Same thing with power steering. You may have 5 to 10 seconds before the car becomes very difficult to drive.

This is generally a good safe window for most occasions, it is not without some perils.

adding this to a car would be pointless and impractical due to the increased cost, lowered fuel efficiency, and limited risk the problem causes...and if you have electric, rather than hydraulic brakes, you wouldn't need this because you have a battery..
david_king
1 / 5 (6) Oct 15, 2011
Since automobile brakes are vacuum assist, all that would be needed is a small electric vacuum pump or a larger vacuum reservoir. Leaving a standard transmission car in gear will keep the vacuum maintained as well. Power steering would really only require a small electric power steering pump in the event of a broken belt going to the mechanical pump, the mechanical pump should still work while the car is still moving and engine is still spinning via the transmission.
Ideally we will be moving towards smaller, lighter cars what won't need assist.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2011
[q9On most cars, if you stall, the breaks will quickly become stiff, and almost impossible to use
I've actually experienced this once in a small van (I was being stupid and turned the motor off because I was sitting in a traffic jam on an steeply descending bit of road. When it moved a few meters I released the brakes to simply roll ahead and was almost unable to stop the van again before rearending the next car because the brakes had become unworkeable)

But for emergencies (stalling motor, etc.) I think the car battery should be enough to keep the system working until you can stop at the roadside. In that event you're not going to go much further, anyways (i.e. for a car this emergency lasts seconds until the car is stopped, whereas for a helicopter it can be minutes)
that_guy
not rated yet Oct 17, 2011
I've actually experienced this once in a small van (I was being stupid and turned the motor off because I was sitting in a traffic jam on an steeply descending bit of road. When it moved a few meters I released the brakes to simply roll ahead and was almost unable to stop the van again before rearending the next car because the brakes had become unworkeable)


I stupidly did nearly the same thing a while ago. i ran into an unexpected traffic jam because of an accident, and i started running really low on fuel. I turned it off and just used the brakes to roll down a hill. The brakes stopped working and I nearly freaked. Fortunately, it did stop once I jammed the e-brake.
scohn
not rated yet Oct 24, 2011
And yet another Plus for electric cars!
I haven't had the Fun & Excitement of a loss of power for a rather long time but I do remember it well, especially when the power assist systems first became pretty much universal and now that one must pay extra to retain manual transmission.

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