GRC4: Integration of a Diesel Engine on a Light Helicopter


 EC-120 Turbines have an excellent power to weight ratio and are therefore used since decades for helicopters where empty weight is critical. Nevertheless, their fuel efficiency compared to piston engines is poor, especially for small units.

Outstanding technical breakthroughs implemented on Diesel engines over the last 15 years allow now to envisage adapting them on helicopters as already achieved for some general aviation aircraft.

This is expected to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission by 40% on the next helicopter generation. The use of technologies already proven in automotive domain will bring additional environmental benefits (suppression of particulate matter) and will make solutions available at affordable price.

Considering present high-power automotive Diesel engines and the weight challenge, the first application will be in the low-end helicopter segment with a specific engine for a first demonstration planned in 2014.

Questions & answers

Project Facts
  • Leader: Eurocopter
  • Partners: AustroEngine; TEOS Powertrain Engineering
  • For the product: Low-end single engine helicopters of EC120 class, long missions (transport, police, electric lines survey...)
  • Budget: 9.4 Mio EUR
  • Duration: 39 months
  • TRL target: 5 
Goals & Objectives
  • Demonstrate significant fuel burn and associated Direct Operating Costs savings
  • Demonstrate strong reduction of pollutants compared to turboshaft: NOx -53%, CO -80%, CO2 -40%
  • Minimize the Diesel engine weight impacts to maintain useful load as far as possible 
Technology Challenges
  • Damp vibration levels of engine (torque modulation, structure vibrations)
  • Adapt engine cooling , transmission and controls for helicopter
  • Achieve high power to weight ratios of complete Diesel engine installation with good reliability
  • Maintain low acquisition cost of piston engines in aeronautical environment 
  • Project Kick-Off: June 2011
  • Ground Tests results: Early 2014