Klaus-Dieter Pahlke (DLR), Blanche Demaret (ONERA) and Roger Ferrer (Eurocopter)
Why this cooperation between ONERA and DLR?
Klaus-Dieter Pahlke: This is an historic partnership. For almost 30 years, Germany and France have been building bridges between their aeronautical research centres in order to stimulate innovation and drive their industries.
Blanche Demaret: Since 1998, one of these bridges has been a joint research partnership in the field of helicopters. We have set up a joint research programme and we try to harmonise our work as much as possible.
What types of research do you conduct together in the field of helicopters?
K. P: We cover a wide variety of subjects including aerodynamics, structures, dynamics, noise, and assisted flight control.
B. D: Generally speaking, we develop simulation and computational tools. Take, for example, the SHANEL (Simulation of Helicopter Aerodynamic Noise & ELasticity) project which we have been working on for two years. This Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) code is used to model the airflows around the helicopter as accurately as possible, which is a complex and difficult task because of their unstable nature. This research is central to developing the designs and profiles of the helicopters of tomorrow.
K. P: Then there is the Helicopter Overall Simulation Tool (HOST). Numerous studies have gone into this software, which has many uses ranging from research to its use as the “driving force” behind the training simulators for civil and military (Tiger) pilots at Eurocopter.
What projects are you currently working on?
K. P: We are currently working on a silent rotor programme, which involves optimising the blade shape and modifying the takeoff and landing procedures to limit the noise on the ground.
B. D: This also involves developing an assisted flight control system for the pilot to ensure these procedures are followed correctly.
What will the helicopter of tomorrow look like?
B. D: We think that enormous progress will be made in the field of active materials, as this technology is still quite young. These composite microfibers, which are deformed by a pulsating electric current, can be incorporated into the blades to improve their efficiency and, therefore, the behaviour and performance of the helicopter.
K. P: The helicopter will be smarter. At the moment, the pilot handles all the controls and we want to provide the pilot with the tools that will progressively facilitate his or her job. This will reduce the pilot’s workload and allow him or her to carry out complicated missions such as rescues more safely.