Airbus Helicopters has announced that its demonstrator FlightLab has successfully tested an electric flight control system that could pave the way for user-friendly electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The flight tests involved a single piloting stick which replaces the three conventional pilot controls (cyclic, pedals, collective) and is able to control all aircraft axes.
Airbus said that the advanced electric flight control system is in preparation of a new human machine interface (HMI) that will equip CityAirbus NextGen, Airbus’ eVTOL prototype.
The single stick control marks a first in the helicopter industry and “represents an important step towards ushering in a new generation of electric powered urban air mobility aircraft”.
The single stick control will allow pilots to complete all maneuvers including take-off and landing, climb, descent, acceleration, deceleration, turn, and approach.
The single stick takes up less space, offers improved visibility to the pilot and is combined with a revised HMI which uses simple displays, providing a selection of information specifically tailored to eVTOL aircraft.
“From the start, we designed this system considering every certification parameter in mind as it will be a big step forward in validating the design of our urban air mobility eVTOL, CityAirbus NextGen. The advantage of an electric flight control system is enormous, especially when it comes to reducing pilot workload and ultimately enhancing mission safety. It is also a great example of how our demonstrators are used to mature the techno-bricks necessary to prepare the future of vertical flight,” Tomasz Krysinski, head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters said.
After the success of the flight test campaign Airbus Helicopters is working on finalizing the details of this new system before new tests are conducted in the framework of Vertex, a project conducted in partnership with Airbus UpNext that will advance autonomy even further by managing navigation and simplifying mission preparation.
In September 2021, the company unveiled its fully electric eVTOL prototype, CityAirbus NextGen.
Airbus Helicopters’ FlightLab is a platform-agnostic flying laboratory exclusively dedicated to maturing new technologies.
It was established to quickly test technologies that could later equip Airbus’ current helicopter range, and even more disruptive ones for future fixed-wing aircraft or eVTOL platforms.