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Airbus Helicopters and EASA to cooperate on eVTOLs and other tech

Airbus Helicopters and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will work together to advance the next generation of vertical-lift platforms, including eVTOLs.

CityAirbus eVTOL
CityAirbus is one of the eVTOL demonstrators that Airbus is developing with an eye toward future urban air mobility. Airbus Photo

The manufacturer and regulator announced the signing of a memorandum of cooperation on Oct. 2, with the aim of “harnessing their respective experience and know-how” to develop both new VTOL platforms and the regulatory framework necessary to support them, according to a press release.

“I am very pleased to be joining efforts with EASA to build a common framework for the next generation of vertical-lift solutions over the next decades,” stated Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. “We are committed to working hand in hand with the authorities on our innovation projects with the same professional approach that drives the design and certification of our current product range.”

The agreement explicitly covers “the thermal/electrical hybridization of rotorcraft, including [eVTOLs].” Airbus has already developed two eVTOL demonstrator models — the single-seat Vahana, and the larger CityAirbus — and is actively pursuing a number of projects related to urban air mobility.

The memorandum also extends to the certification of new piloting assistance systems such as Airbus’s Eye for Autonomous Guidance and Landing Extension (EAGLE) system. EAGLE is a real-time computer vision system that could someday be used to conduct fully autonomous approaches to helipads.

Airbus EAGLE helipad

In its current form, the EAGLE prototype consists of three high-definition camera systems within a gyrostabilized pod, and a many-core processor that is able to equate advanced algorithms. According to Nicolas Damiani, senior expert in systems simulation at Airbus Helicopters, EAGLE applies mathematic algorithms to detect helipads and other “expected” features in the environment, and machine learning algorithms to identify unexpected “intruders” like birds and private drones.

Other areas of cooperation covered by the agreement include condition-based maintenance, and high-speed flight with Airbus’s Racer demonstrator, an evolution of its record-setting X3.

“Partnerships with industry are part of our strategy to ensure that innovation in the aviation market happens safely,” stated EASA executive director Patrick Ky. “The knowledge we gain from cutting-edge technology plays a significant role in helping us to prepare our certification methodologies for these new advancements. Cooperating on innovation with Airbus Helicopters represents an important contribution to this strategy.”

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