Covid-19 has not stopped new rotor blade research and patents at Airbus and Bell. Earlier this month, Airbus announced its $2.5 million BladeSense project, which uses interferometric fiber-optic sensors for real-time monitoring of blade strain and shape using an Airbus Helicopters H135 light twin testbed. The work appears to build on research first promulgated in a 2013 conference paper published by the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing, which outlined the usefulness of such technology as part of a health and usage monitoring (HUMS) system.
Meanwhile, Bell has received U.S. patents related to split-tip main rotor blades and a new form of anti-torque control that uses a “centrifugal blower system” embedded in the tail boom mated to “variable aperture” ducts. In an e-mail to AIN, a Bell spokesman declined to comment on the company’s specific plans for the technology. “Our teams are continuously designing and assessing new concepts to anticipate the evolving needs of our customers around the world,” he said.
However, in its patent applications, Bell notes that both technologies hold the promise of less noise, increased performance, and reduced complexity. In the patent filings, the company also claimed the new split-tip blades could reduce fuel consumption by more than 15 percent.