VR Technologies outlines fast pace of VRT500 development

VR Technologies has unveiled ambitious plans for its developmental VRT500 light-single helicopter, including final assembly of the type in Italy and potential hybridisation of the platform.

Alexander Okhonko, general manager of VR Technologies, says the first flight of the 1.6t VRT500 will come next year, followed by initial certification by the end of 2022.

Okhonko was speaking at the show shortly after Pratt & Whitney Canada was revealed as the type’s engine supplier and parent company Russian Helicopters announced that it planned to sell a 50% stake in the company to the UAE’s Tawazun Economic Council.

Final assembly will be at a facility near Rome, says Okhonko, which means that it is also likely to require a European type certificate.

Meanwhile, research is being carried out with an undisclosed Western partner into the potential addition of a battery and electric motor onto the VRT500 to provide redundancy in case of engine failure or a power boost at take-off.

“It would give the pilot time to find somewhere to land,” says Okhonko; he expects to be able to deploy the system by 2023.

Okhonko says the company selected “mature technologies” for the VRT500, which, aside from the P&WC PW207V engine, include a Thales avionics suite and glass cockpit.

“What we deliver to our customers should be 100% safe,” he says.

Capacity is projected to be five passengers and one pilot, while maximum range is nearly 460nm (860km).

Okhonko sees the VRT500 as offering strong potential in the urban air mobility market, where its coaxial rotor and consequent small footprint will allow it relatively confined spaces.

Russian Helicopters expects to conclude its transaction with Tawazun in early 2020. Chief executive Andrey Boginsky says the partners will together inject "at least" €400 million ($442 million) into VR Technologies.

Boginsky says Tawazun showed "strong interest" in the VRT500 and unmanned VRT300 – full-scale models of both are displayed at the show – and may seek future involvement from UAE companies in the programmes.