Russian Helicopters is to build its new VRT500 single-engine light helicopter in Italy.

The move, detailed by the Technologies General Manager, Alexander Okhonko, at the Dubai Airshow on November 18, appears to a radical departure for the OEM who has traditionally built its helicopters domestically. The 1.65 metric ton, single-engine, co-axial helicopter was already designed by Italy-based automotive design house, Italdesign, and already features significant Western content, with Russian Helicopters announcing the use of a Pratt & Whitney Canada engine in the aircraft during the airshow along with a Thales-developed avionics suite. 

Okhonko said the company already has a factory with a “daughter company” near Rome but did not provide further details.

Production plans emerged as Russian Helicopters revealed that Emirati holding company Tawazun would purchase a 50% stake in VR-Technologies, the design and development house which had developed the VRT500 and the VRT300 rotary-wing unmanned air system. Together, the two companies plan to invest €400 million, “which will help make the company's products competitive and in demand all over the world,” said Russian Helicopters CEO Andrey Boginskiy.

“I am sure that the investments of our partners will speed up the development of VRT300 and VRT500 projects and will give impetus to new developments of advanced helicopter and UAV systems,” said Sergey Chemezov, CEO of the Russian Rostec State Corporation. 

Abdullah Nasser Al Jaabari, head of the Tawazun Strategic Development Fund, said: “This agreement stems from the fund’s commitment to support the UAE’s strategic vision of investing in advanced industries and transferring relevant technologies".

The aircraft has already secured orders from Malaysian company Ludev Aviation and, it emerged here at Dubai, from a Swedish company, Rotorcraft Nordic.

Russian Helicopters see the VRT500 as a stepping-stone for the development of urban air mobility services, long before introduction of electric vertical take-off and landing air vehicle will be able to provide such services. The company says the type’s co-axial configuration is safer for operations in the tight landing zones associated with urban areas than a traditional helicopter with a tail rotor. The company is also exploring the addition of a hybrid propulsion system which could provide more power at take-off but also provide emergency power in the event of an engine failure.