Rescue helicopter 2030

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)


Outlook: Helicopters fly rescue missions day and night regardless of the weather.

Requirements: Rescue helicopters are expected to reach the destination where they are needed in a quick, safe, quiet and flexible way - over long distances, in all weather conditions, and at any time of day. A disproportionately large number of traffic accidents occurs at night and in poor visibility. The replacement of ambulances by rescue helicopters is one aspect of future HEMS missions (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services). With the growing number of offshore wind farms, the areas of operation of rescue helicopters are increasingly extending to more remote offshore locations. For this reason, rescue helicopters need to be prepared for such missions, too. Moreover, obstacles, such as high-tension wires and difficult terrain in mountainous regions and cities - not to mention frequent deployments and a wide range of tasks - place particularly high demands on the pilots when they are flying. Helicopter accidents caused by human error and a lack of situational awareness still occur. Helicopters save lives. DLR wants to equip them better and make them safer.

Objective: DLR will design a helicopter configuration specifically tailored to these missions. Selected technologies will be tested using DLR’s large-scale research facilities - from wind tunnel tests and system simulators to flight tests. To ensure safer and more versatile deployments of rescue helicopters around the clock, new pilot assistance systems which assist pilots in their tasks need to be developed. They take over flight control functions, compile sensor data and detect obstacles. They can assist pilots in avoiding them or, in extreme cases, intervene automatically. Commonly used standard and future flight procedures will be investigated to determine the effects of pilots’ fatigue on shift work and night shifts.

Lighter and thus more efficient rescue helicopters could expand their radius of action and carry more or better medical equipment. A key to this is the increasing use of lightweight fibre composites. Research projects include the structural integrity of lightweight materials, for example, in the event of a crash or a bird strike. To reduce the costs of these components, more costeffective and more efficient lightweight components and the required automatic production processes need to be developed.

Aerodynamic improvements of the rotor blades promise additional increases in performance and a reduction in noise. Noiseoptimised approach paths further diminish the noise impact on local residents. Moreover, active rotor control which generates less vibration in the rotor and also in the cabin helps to reduce the noise level which is particularly high when the helicopter is approaching to land. This will be beneficial for the crew and the passengers.

It remains to be seen which mission of those mentioned above will gain in importance. It will then be decided how rescue helicopters can be further enhanced in the future, for instance, in their outer appearance.

Last modified:
14/11/2017 15:13:51