With new contracts, partnerships and flight tests spanning multiple countries and companies, efforts are advancing to develop electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) and electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM) applications.
Safran ACHIEVE Test of Tech TP engine
On Jan. 10, Safran Helicopter Engines completed ground tests of a “more-electric” variant of its Tech TP turboprop engine, the company announced on Feb. 17. The tests occurred at Safran’s plant in Tarnos, France, and involved a “more powerful electrical motor-generator” integrated with the Tech TP propeller and accessory gearbox. The Tech TP demonstrator is derived from Safran Helicopter Engines’ Ardiden 3 turboshaft engine and is designed for use on regional turboprop aircraft. The Tech TP is supported by technologies developed by the ACHIEVE project, an initiative funded by the European Union (EU) Clean Sky program. Work on the Tech TP is meant to support the goals of the EU’s Hybrid-Electric propulsion system for regional Aircraft (HE-ART) project, for which Safran Helicopter Engines serves as the technical coordinator.
Lockheed Backs Electric Aviation Firms
Lockheed Martin Ventures, the investment wing of the global aerospace and defense firm, has invested in several companies working on electric aircraft and power systems. On Feb. 28, H3X Technologies said that it had received an investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures to advance the development of a family of advanced electric motor drives. The Louisville, Colorado-based company’s HPDM family of electric motor drives currently includes three products that range in power from 30 kW to 3 MW.
On March 22, REGENT Craft, Inc. announced that it has received a strategic investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures to adapt its electric seagliders for defense missions. REGENT (which stands for Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport) completed a series of flights with its electric seaglider demonstrator last September and, in November, formed an advisory board to explore the defense applications of its aircraft. Neither H3X nor REGENT disclosed the amount invested. The investments come as Lockheed Martin is scaling up its investments in technology firms; in August 2022, the company announced it would double the size of its investment arm to $400M.
Universal Hydrogen Flies Dash 8 on Hydrogen
On March 2, Universal Hydrogen completed the first flight of its modified De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 using hydrogen fuel cell propulsion. The flight occurred at Grant County International Airport (KMWH) in Moses Lake, Washington, and lasted 15 minutes, during which time the aircraft reached an altitude of 3,500 ft (1,066 m) above mean sea level. For the demonstration, Universal replaced one of the turboshaft engines on the Dash 8-300 with a powertrain that combines a MagniX magni650 motor and Plug Power’s ProGen family of fuel cells. This is the largest aircraft flown to date using hydrogen fuel cells; a standard Dash 8-300 has a 50-seat capacity and a maximum weight of 43,000 lb (19.5 t). The flight occurred less than a month after Universal Hydrogen, which has headquarters in southern California and Toulouse, France, secured an experimental certificate from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and begins a two-year test campaign. In addition to the Dash 8-300, Universal Hydrogen is also working on conversion kits for the 50,700-lb (23-t) ATR 72-600, which typically flies with 72 seats.
Lufthansa to Purchase eDA40 Trainer
Lufthansa Aviation Training will become the launch customer for Diamond Aircraft’s eDA40 all-electric trainer, Diamond Aircraft Austria announced on March 7. The two companies signed a letter of intent that includes the purchase of an unspecified number of eDA40 aircraft for Lufthansa’s flight training program. The purchase will supplement Lufthansa’s existing fleet of conventionally powered DA40 NG aircraft. The partnership also covers a series of trials to evaluate how the electric aircraft will fit into the flight training program. Trials of the eDA40 are expected to take place at Lufthansa’s facility in Grenchen, Switzerland, at the end of the 2023 or beginning of 2024. The eDA40, which Diamond revealed in October 2021, is a derivative of the four-seat DA40 and, according to Diamond, will be able to fly for up to 90 minutes. It is powered by an ENGINeUS electric smart motor from Safran Electrical & Power and uses the EPiC energy storage and fast charging system from Utah-based Electric Power Systems (EPS).
Energica Moves on Electric Ultralights
On March 15, high-performance electric motorcycle manufacturer Energica Motor Company said it is working on a trio of projects aimed at breaking into the market for electric ultralight aircraft. Founded in 2010, the Modena, Italy-based company is collaborating with the French consulting firm Phenix Air Corp. on pairing the Energica powertrain with an airplane propeller and assessing whether the system could be installed on a seaplane. Separately, Energica is working with a team of engineers in California on integrating the powertrain into a purpose-built airframe of a Sonex ultralight. Energica is also working with Pure Flight, a France-based manufacturer of conventional and electric ultralight aircraft, on integrating the Energica powertrain into the ΦNIX airplane (shown). These partnerships, said Energica Inside General Manager Carlo Iacovini in a statement, are designed to “accelerate the time to market of our solutions.”
Heart Partners with BAE on Battery
Heart Aerospace announced on March 30 that BAE Systems would develop a battery system for Heart’s ES-30 regional electric airplane. BAE’s UK-based Controls and Avionics Solutions will work on the system at its facility in Endicott, New York. Other Heart partners on the ES-30 project include Siemens Digital Industries Software, which joined the project in January, as well as Saab and Aernnova. The 30-seat ES-30 is the latest iteration of Heart’s regional airliner and replaced the company’s design for the 19-seat ES-19 last September. Air Canada has confirmed a purchase of 30 ES-30 aircraft to serve regional and commuter routes.
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