ERICA [Enhanced Rotorcraft Innovative Achievement]
NICETRIP [Novel Innovative Competitive Effective Tilt Rotor Integrated Project]
A tilt-rotor is a vehicle which is designed to take off and land vertically like a helicopter and cruise like a fixed-wing aeroplane by tilting its propellers. The USA has a lead over Europe as the only country with flying tilt-rotors. The European rotorcraft community has been engaged in studies on the tilt-rotor concept since the mid 1980s, particularly within the EUREKA programme (EUROFAR project). This initiative led to further studies and the bases were defined for a program aiming to fly a tilt-rotor demonstrator by the early 2010s, opening the way for a possible first commercial aircraft. A research and development roadmap was defined and progressively implemented through several projects. In particular, several EU-funded projects were conducted such as RHILP, ACT-TILT, DART, TRISYD, TILTAERO and ADYN. Studies and development were also conducted under national support, more specifically for the tilt-rotor blade development under French government support. Besides generating important knowledge, these projects have demonstrated technical feasibility in relation to key tilt-rotor specific issues in aerodynamics, dynamics, mechanics, rotor or flight contro ERICA [Enhanced Rotorcraft Innovative Achievement], a 10-tonne, 20-passenger civil tiltrotor, is the European helicopter industry’s answer to the American V22. The difference is that, on the V22, only the engine nacelle tilts. On ERICA, the outside wing tilts along with the engine nacelle while the aircraft shifts from airplane to helicopter mode. This reduces resistance and saves fuel. In addition, while the V22 has three large blades that touch the ground, ERICA has four smaller ones that remain above the ground. This allows ERICA to take off like an airplane, whereas the V22 can only take off like a helicopter.
Europe is continuing on a very liesurely path of development of its first tiltrotor, with few signs of progress. The development roadmap defined by the European rotorcraft community aims to develop a civil tilt-rotor aircraft. A key target of the road map is a flying demonstrator in the 2010 decade.
Major partners on the ERICA project are Agusta, Eurocopter, Westland, Onera, and DLR. Netherlands' National Aerospace Laboratory [NLR] is involved in a number of subprojects, all subsidised by the European Union. Having designed and produced model rotor blades, NLR will soon participate in testing their load, noise, and aerodynamic properties in the DNW’s low-speed wind tunnel. In 2010 NLR delivered a 1/8th-scale powered model of the ERICA tiltrotor/tiltwing aircraft to AgustaWestland for low- and high-speed windtunnel testing.
The ERICA concept and architecture are very much innovative for tilt-rotor. Their implementation requires the development of new features and achieving technological breakthroughs, as was done in previous EU projects with full-scale manufacturing of a rotor hub and a gearbox, elastomeric components, mixed metallic/composite material pieces, advanced manufacturing processes, optimised rotor blades, advanced control features, fly-by-wire/light technology, active side-stick, enhanced flight mechanics models, etc.
The NICE-TRIP project will continue along this innovation track and develop new features. All European rotorcraft manufacturers and most of the major European research organisations and universities are working together in a integrated project, partially funded by the European Commission: the NICETRIP [Novel Innovative Competitive Effective Tilt Rotor Integrated Project] project.
This 35.56 million euro proposal has been prepared in the framework of a research and development roadmap defined by the European rotorcraft community that aims to develop a civil tilt-rotor aircraft. A key target of the road map is a flying demonstrator in the 2010 decade. NICETRIP specifically addresses the acquisition of new knowledge and technology validation concerning tilt-rotor.
The main project objectives are:
- To validate the European civil tilt-rotor concept based on the ERICA architecture;
- To validate critical technologies and systems through the development, integration and testing of components of a tilt-rotor aircraft on full-scale dedicated rigs;
- To acquire new knowledge on tilt-rotor through the development and testing of several wind tunnel models, including a large-scale full-span powered model;
- To investigate and evaluate the introduction of tilt-rotors in the European Air Traffic Management System;
- To assess the sustainability of the tilt-rotor product with respect to social and environmental issue s and to define the path towards a future tilt-rotor flying demonstrator.
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