A glimpse into the future of electric aviation

General News
29th November 2018

In less than two years we could be hailing an electric air taxi using our phones and by 2035 boarding hybrid electric airliners that produce less than half the carbon emissions of existing commercial aircraft. That’s according to Dr. Mykhaylo Filipenko of Siemens eAircraft, one of the keynote speakers at the IAT Showcase 2018 at the University of Nottingham.

The team at Air Race E was invited to attend the University’s Institute for Aerospace Technology event to hear about innovation in electric aviation from academic and industry leaders including Dr. Filipenko, Rolls Royce’s John Salmon, Mark Scully of the Aerospace Technology Institute and Serhiy Bozhko, Director of the IAT.

Air Race E has partnered with the University of Nottingham to develop the world’s first electric race airplane, the prototype that will help to shape the model and rules for the inaugural race in 2020. Technology from the project will help to drive innovation in electrified propulsion, including how it could be adapted from a race airplane into a commercial aircraft. The project, part of the university’s Propulsion Futures Beacon initiative was featured as one of a number of innovative and pioneering research programmes being carried out at the University.

A common theme discussed throughout the day was how to overcome the battery challenge, with existing technology being too heavy, large and lacking the capacity needed to power commercial flights. Prototypes are being worked on to power small to medium sized aircraft in the near future, with a view to scaling up to 200+ seaters by the year 2050.

Experts discussed how one of the big commercial advantages of electric aviation is the reduction in fuel consumption, lower exhaust emissions and the potential to cut noise, with electrified propulsion cutting noise by up to 70% for some types- good news for those living beneath flight paths. Regulation like we’ve seen at Heathrow, which has some of the tightest noise restrictions of any airport in the world, is hoped to help spur on innovation in the sector, with airlines looking for ways to circumvent restrictions around take-off and landing noise.

During the afternoon we joined a tour of the Advanced Manufacturing Building (AMB) to get a glimpse of the University’s research into future aerospace manufacturing, where it is developing and testing new concepts which could one day be used on passenger aircraft. Partnerships with Airbus, BAE, GE, GKN and Leonardo are helping to accelerate innovation, with £100 million being invested into the facility.

Concepts include smart sensors which can be installed on composite airplane parts to feed real-time information on damage or potential failures back to a hub on the ground. This would allow airlines to monitor and predict issues before they have the potential to impact the airplane.

If you are interested in finding out more about the topics mentioned above go to https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/aerospace/ or read about Air Race E here on our website.

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