Airbus Helicopters is to institute a series of modifications on the H145 that will increase the payload of the light-twin by 150kg (330lb).
Key to the upgrade is a new bearingless five-blade main rotor – the first commercial application of technology tested on the manufacturer’s H135-based Bluecopter environmental demonstrator.
The improved rotor – which gains an additional blade over the current iteration – helps lift maximum take-off weight by 100kg, to 3.8t.
Although the extra blade adds weight, savings elsewhere enabled by its performance result in a net reduction of the helicopter’s empty weight by 50kg.
The removal of the rotor head saves 53kg alone, while the lower vibration levels from the new design also enable two damping systems to be taken off: the light anti-vibration system which sits below the floor, and four cross-tube mounted 3hz dampers. These changes save 28kg and 60kg, respectively.
That design leans heavily on the rotor system of the H135. The blades no longer attach to a rotor head but are mounted straight onto the mast and feature the latest aerofoil design.
In addition, the new blades are shorter than those on the current model, cutting rotor diameter by 20cm (7.8in), to 10.8m.
Aerodynamic improvements have also enabled drag to be kept to the same level as the four-bladed version, says Humpert.
Initial trials of the Bluecopter took place in 2015, with the same rotor design then transferred to the H145 in 2017.
Blade folding has also been simplified. The new design is essentially a two-piece blade, with the 1m-long inner portion – the “cuff” containing a flex-beam – attached to the outer part by a single bolt. Once that is removed the blades can fold, reducing the overall width of the helicopter to about that of the horizontal stabiliser.