Airbus has introduced DisruptiveLab, a brand-new flying laboratory that will focus on developing new technologies to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry. The DisruptiveLab will test and evaluate various innovative solutions, including a fully parallel hybrid propulsion system, redesigned rotor hub, landing gear, fuselage, and Fenestron designs, and reversible hybridization to transmit power from turbine to batteries.
The aviation industry is responsible for approximately 2.5% of global carbon emissions. To address this issue, Airbus has made it a priority to reduce the carbon footprint of its products. Although helicopters currently represent less than 1% of aviation CO2 emissions, Airbus is committed to the IATA target of flying net zero by 2050. The DisruptiveLab is a crucial part of Airbus’s strategy to achieve this target.
The DisruptiveLab will evaluate an efficient propulsion system by testing a fully parallel hybrid propulsion system that enables batteries to be recharged in-flight. This new aerodynamic architecture will reduce fuel consumption by reducing mass and drag. The DisruptiveLab’s new rotor hub design includes an entire blade concept with integrated dampers, which is completely compacted, resulting in a 40% reduction of drag compared to previous helicopters.
The DisruptiveLab will also test a new landing gear concept that is highly integrated and allows for a significant reduction in drag. The shape of the fuselage will also be redesigned to improve efficiency, and 40 different configurations of the fuselage will be tested in a wind tunnel. The selected design enables a 20% reduction in drag compared to the previous version. Airbus has also simplified the tail to reduce maintenance.
The Fenestron has been redesigned to reduce the number of mechanical parts by 40%. The modulated Fenestron is quieter, easier to maintain, and has a reduced diameter of the hub, which consequently reduces drag. The DisruptiveLab will introduce reversible hybridization, which allows transmission of power from the turbine to the batteries and vice versa. This will result in a huge reduction of CO2 emissions.
Tomasz Krysinski, Vice President of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters, said, “At Airbus Helicopters, we are committed to the IATA target of flying net zero by 2050. This is a key driver for our innovation strategy. We have a strong roadmap to meet IATA’s target, which includes different solutions: starting with the use of alternative fuels and further developing hybridization and electrification – like the CityAirbus NextGen, our Advanced Air Mobility prototype. With the DisruptiveLab, we will test and feature many innovations to reduce carbon emissions.”
The DisruptiveLab is a brand-new demonstrator that flew for the first time on January 13, 2023, with a totally new architecture. Airbus relies on several flying laboratories to quickly mature new technologies. However, the DisruptiveLab is specifically designed to develop the next generation of innovations, which will reduce carbon emissions. Testing new innovations to reduce mass and drag, the DisruptiveLab will play a significant role in Airbus’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 50%. The DisruptiveLab is a state-of-the-art testbed for evaluating efficient propulsion systems, including fully parallel hybrid propulsion systems that recharge batteries in-flight. This new aerodynamic architecture aims to reduce fuel consumption by minimizing mass and drag. The DisruptiveLab’s rotor hub, responsible for about 40% of drag during a flight, includes a new blade concept with integrated dampers that reduces drag by 40% compared to previous helicopters. The landing gear is also being tested for its impact on aerodynamic performance and the DisruptiveLab’s new design significantly reduces drag. The fuselage has been tested in a wind tunnel and the selected configuration reduces drag by 20% compared to the previous version. Additionally, the Fenestron has been redesigned to reduce the number of mechanical parts, reducing the overall drag. With reversible hybridization, the DisruptiveLab aims to transmit power from the turbine to the batteries and vice versa, resulting in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Through the DisruptiveLab and other innovations, Airbus Helicopters is committed to achieving the IATA target of flying net zero by 2050.