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The RACER is a high-speed helicopter Research demonstrator currently being developed by Airbus Helicopters as part of the Clean Sky 2 European research programme. Airbus Helicopters relies on a wide network of companies, Research Centers, and SMEs spread across all European Union. Airbus Helicopters works with about 25 consortia, made of about 40 partners in 13 EU countries. They have been selected via an open selection process managed by Clean Sky 2 framework.


Building upon the achievements of the company’s X3 technology demonstrator, RACER helps refine the aircraft’s aerodynamic configuration and brings it closer to an operational design with the objective of meeting future requirements for increased speed. While the aim of the X3 was to validate the chosen architecture for getting high speed at the right cost, RACER goes further and aims to demonstrate compliance with potential future operational requirements. As such, RACER is also a Mission demonstrator.

The simplicity of the concept is one of the main assets of the aircraft’s new configuration, which combines fixed wings for energy efficient lift, propellers (so called lateral rotors) for energy-efficient propulsion and a main rotor that provides energy-efficient VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) flight capabilities. A key feature to demonstrate is box-wing with pusher propellers concept, which is key for achieving safety, and environmental performance of RACER demonstration in Clean Sky 2.

Optimised for a cruise speed of 400 km/h, the Racer features a variety of innovative technologies, including:

  • A characteristic box-wing designed for aerodynamic efficiency
  • A hybrid metallic-composite airframe designed for low weight
  • A new high-voltage, direct-current electric generator
  • A rear fuselage with an asymmetric cross-section profile, designed to optimise hover performances without penalising the forward and cruise flight phases


Improving the environmental and acoustic performance of helicopters is a key focus area of the Racer demonstrator programme. The dynamic configuration enables 15% less fuel burn per nautical mile at 180 kts compared to a conventional helicopter at 130 kts. The innovative Safran Eco-Mode hybrid-electric system – which allows one of the two Aneto-1X engines to be switched to stand-by while in cruise flight – generates further fuel savings of up to 30%. The distinct architecture of the Racer formula also contributes to lowering its operational acoustic footprint.


The Racer intends to demonstrate the advantages of high speed for a wide range of missions. These missions include the following:

  • Emergency medical services (where the greatest chance of saving lives depends on help arriving within the first “golden hour”)
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Public service
  • Commercial transportation


The European aeronautical sector is a global leader, comprising the talent and initiative of Europe’s centres of industry. With a steady rate of growth and need for aircraft in the thousands over the next decades, concerns have been raised about the sector’s environmental impact. Clean Sky is the European Union’s response.

Clean Sky is a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the European aeronautics industry (Airbus, Airbus Helicopters, Fraunhofer, Saab, Liebhrerr, Rolls Royce, and others), and is part of the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Its mission is to develop innovative, cutting-edge technology with the goal of making a substantial positive impact on noise reduction, CO2 emissions, and fuel economy.

With a budget consisting of contributions on a 50/50 basis, made by the Commission and the aeronautical industry, Clean Sky delivers technology demonstrators in all segments of civil air transport, grouped into areas called integrated technology demonstrators (ITD).

Under the management of the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking (CSJU) the programme’s fi rst phase, Clean Sky 1, put each ITD under the leadership of two industry leaders. Examples of successful demonstrators include Airbus Helicopters’ Bluecopter which, by optimising the design of certain shapes on the fuselage of an H135 helicopter, successfully showed improvements in drag reduction; and the Tech 800 demonstration engine, which showed advances for small- and medium-size helicopter engines with savings of 15 percent fuel burn.

“Such demonstrators incorporate mature technology – developed through the talent of industry, universities, research centres and small and medium–size enterprises – into full-scale demonstrators. The result is a rapid evaluation and testing that helps bring advanced levels of maturity to projects’ designs and techniques,” said Éric Dautriat, Executive Director of Clean Sky. “With this, the hoped-for end result is implementing innovative technology in future products and markets.” The technology of the Tech 800 demonstration engine, for example, was integrated into the product development of the new Turbomeca ARRANO engine, recently selected as the engine of Airbus Helicopters’ H160.

Following on the progress of CS1, Clean Sky 2 – which represents a budget of €4 billion over seven years (2017 to 2024) – will deliver break-through technology which will be incorporated, from 2025 onwards, into future generations of aircraft

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