The use of helicopters has been concentrated until now on activities such as medical evacuation, rescue, civil protection, aerial work and law enforcement and such operations are expected to grow sharply in the near future. In addition, the rotorcraft traffic for passenger transport representing today only a marginal activity is expected to develop rapidly (2 to 3 fold increase in 2015-20 period). For example, helicopter shuttle operations from city
heliports to airports, or even between cities without airports or connecting islands to mainland with limited ground infrastructure. In the meantime, thanks to their capability to operate independently from runways and higher speed compared to helicopters, tilt rotors are expected to play a key role as complement of turboprop airplanes feeding major airports with passengers starting from secondary ones.
As a consequence of such traffic growth, the rotorcraft contribution to environmental impact, negligible today, would become more significant in next decade unless a major initiative succeeds in keeping it under control.
The Green Rotorcraft ITD, a component of the Clean Sky initiative, together with other already launched technology programmes at European or national levels responds to the challenge of halving the specific impact of any rotorcraft operation on the environment. It should be noted that the results of some of those European programme launched in the 6th Framework Programme (FP6) will be raised to a higher maturity level within Clean Sky.
The Green RotorCraft ITD (GRC-ITD) gathers and structures all activities concerned specifically with the integration of technologies and demonstration on rotorcraft platforms (helicopters, tilt-rotor aircraft) which can not be performed in platform-generic ITDs. In line with the ACARE environmental objectives for 2020 (SRA2 addendum 2008) and the general Clean Sky objectives, the GRC top-level objectives are to:
- reduce CO2 emission by 25 to 40% per mission (for rotorcraft powered respectively by turboshaft or diesel engines);
- reduce the noise perceived on ground by 10 EPNdB or halving the noise footprint area by 50%;
- ensure full compliance with the REACH directive which protects human health and environment from harmful chemical substances.
The status of the global helicopter fleet in the year 2000 constitutes the baseline against which achievements will be assessed. Progress toward these goals will result not only from GRC internal activities but also from the collaboration with the relevant cross-cutting activities in SAGE (turboshaft engine), SGO (electrical systems), and ED (ecodesign).
Rough orders of magnitude of gains expected from individual components along with the rationale for their combination in overall environmental benefits are shown in the diagram. Beside the direct effects, particular attention is devoted to weight changes which impact dramatically both fuel consumption and noise emission.