Airbus Helicopters kicks off tests with Flightlab, a flying laboratory

Airbus Helicopters has announced that it has launched its flying laboratory Flightlab for in-flight tests, enabling the company to evaluate new technologies that may eventually make their way to Airbus helicopters and, in the more distant future, eVTOL and fixed-wing aircraft.

This Flightlab laboratory is based on the H130 helicopter and it will provide a new way to test technologies that require more than just wind tunnels and virtual simulations. Airbus notes that it started testing the demonstrator vehicle in April 2020, then again in December 2020.

A number of new tests are planned for this year, including ones that will involve an Engine Back-up System, a camera-based 'image-detection solution' for low-altitude flights, and whether a dedicated Health and Usage Monitoring System is viable.

Airbus plans to continue testing with the helicopter Flightlab through 2022 to study 'a new ergonomic design of intuitive pilot flight controls' that may make their way into helicopters and other VTOL vehicles. This is the latest Flightlab demonstrator, joining the A340 MSN1 and A350 Airspace Explorer Flightlabs used for other testing.

As part of the announcement, Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said:

Investing in the future remains essential, even in times of crisis, especially when those innovations bring added value to our customers by targeting increased safety, reduced pilot workload, and reduced sound levels. Having a dedicated platform to test these new technologies brings the future of flight a step closer and is a clear reflection of our priorities at Airbus Helicopters.