RACER: Airbus’s Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft Project

by Abubakar Shoaib
Artist illustration of the RACER helicopter.

The Airbus RACER (Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft) is an experimental high-speed compound helicopter developed by Airbus Helicopters from the Eurocopter X³. Revealed at the June 2017 Paris air show, the final assembly will start mid-2020 for a 2021 first flight. Cruising up to 400 km/h aims for a 25% cost reduction per distance over a conventional helicopter.

Financing and Development

The RACER project is financed by the H2020 Framework Program (Horizon 2020) of the European Union through Clean Sky 2 to offer these new aircraft the best solution between speed, profitability, sustainability, and mission performance.

Airbus RACER

Source: Airbus

The project will build on the three companies’ specialized additive manufacturing skills and their knowledge of sensor and instrumentation modules. These companies include Vectoflow GmbH, a young and innovative company that develops dynamic fluid metrology devices, Evolution Measurements, a provider of physical and consultative solutions for measurement problems, and Any Shape — Additive Technologies for Industry, which specializes in additive manufacturing. The combination of their skills will make the innovative flight test instrumentation tailored to the specific needs of the RACER.

Design of the Project

RACER Airbus project is optimized for a cruise over 400 km/h, and it is 50% faster than a conventional helicopter. It will consume 15% less fuel per distance at 333 km/h than a helicopter at 241 km/h and aim for a 25% cost reduction per distance.

The lateral pusher propellers generate thrust and are isolated from passengers during ground operations by the box wings, which create lift at cruise velocity. This allows the main rotor to be slowed by up to 15% as the craft’s airspeed increases and prevents the rotor from breaking the sound barrier, reducing performance. Driven by two engines, one can shut down and restarting once inflight to save fuel and increase range. It will have a low weight and low maintenance hybrid metallic-composite airframe and lower weight high voltage direct current electrical generation.

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