The Royal Aeronautical Society, also known as the RAeS, is a British professional institution dedicated to the global aerospace community. In this month’s blog, we spoke to Anthony Bishop who is a long-standing member of the RAeS General Aviation Committee and is organising this year’s RAeS Light Aircraft Design Competition in association with Air Race E.

For those that don’t know, can you explain what the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) is?

The Royal Aeronautical Society is the world’s only professional body and learned society dedicated to the entire field of aerospace. The vision of the Society is to be the leading independent professional community and source of knowledge in aeronautics and aviation.

Established in 1866, the RAeS has 67 branches across the globe and over 24,000 members. It is committed to maintaining professional standards in aerospace and advancing the aerospace profession.

How did you first get involved in aviation and specifically with the Royal Aeronautical Society?

I’ve always been fascinated by aviation. I built models and learnt to fly in my teens, and then went on to read aeronautical engineering at Imperial College, which is accredited by the RAeS. So I became a student member of the RAeS early in life, later becoming a full Member.

I’m a member of the RAeS General Aviation Committee which helps drive innovation through helping to reduce regulation (the E Conditions that some UK entrants are using for Air race E), regular lectures, the annual Light Aircraft Design Conference (18 November 2019 in London) and the annual Design Competition. We also helped establish the Barclays Eagle Lab for aerospace innovation at Cranfield University

What has been your involvement in aviation, and what drives you to continue to love your job?

From college, I joined the Future Projects department at Hawker Siddeley (HS) Hatfield to work on vertical take-off civil airliners (such as the HS141) – it was my dream job.  I then studied the use of computers in design (CAD was just beginning) at Cambridge University before moving to HS headquarters in Kingston where I focused on the introduction of computers in design across the group. Much later (after ‘retiring’) I became interested in light aircraft and went on to build one, which I now fly today. This experience, and a design competition, inspired me to found a light aircraft startup and I’m currently working on another startup – this time a small commercial electric aircraft.

We’re living though what’s been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For air racing it means electric power, new materials, better analysis and simulation tools and techniques such as 3D printing. This gives us the opportunity to test radical concepts to achieve more sustainable flying. Working with small aircraft speeds this process enormously. It’s a fantastic time to be involved in aeronautics.

What is the Royal Aeronautical Society’s connection with Air Race E?

I’m organising this year’s RAeS Light Aircraft Design Competition, and wanted to focus on electric aircraft. So when I read that Jeff Zaltman was starting Air Race E, I immediately contacted him and we partnered to create this exciting design competition. It’s attracted enormous interest from designers around the world and the winners will be announced at our Design Conference.

How do the RAeS design competition rules differ from Air Race E, and why?

Our competition is based on Air Race E rules, but with variations to allow more radical designs (for example our designers can use as many motors as they like up to 150 kW, and they can place them anywhere). And the winner will be first round the circuit in a simulator, which should look almost as spectacular as the real thing! We’ll show video clips at the award ceremony….

I very much hope that winners from this year’s design competition will become future competitors in Air Race E. Also our more relaxed rules may influence those for Air Race E in the future.

What excites you the most about the prospect of the world’s first electric air race in 2020?

Firstly, it’s the excitement of innovation – no-one knows what to expect, and we’ll see some fascinating designs emerge. Secondly, the torque of electric motors is amazing, so we should see some spectacular acceleration off the start line.

Why is developing electric-powered aviation sport so important for the environment?

We are committed to a ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050, and we so we have to electrify energy and transport as far as possible to minimise the use of fossil fuels. Surface transport is already undergoing a revolution, and air transport is not far behind – for smaller aircraft at least.

Sport drives innovation and inspires the next generation of engineers. Which is one of the key reasons why the RAeS is pleased to partner with Air Race E. It marks an important step to drive a positive change.

What do you think will be the main differences between standard air racing with fuel compared to the battery electric format?

Electric motors are much smaller, lighter and simpler than engines, but batteries are much heavier than fuel. The first E racers will mostly use existing airframes to save time, but in the future they will look radically different. Just look at the designs emerging for urban air transport, with multiple rotors and propellers in novel places!

There’s an interesting balance to be made between battery weight and the energy used – should we use more battery so that we can run at full power throughout in a heavier aircraft, or go lighter and less powerful? And with energy storage at a premium I expect more efficient aerodynamics to be vital.

What are you most looking forward to seeing from Air Race E over the next ten years?

Many companies around the world are putting vast efforts into researching electric powertrain technologies – batteries, controllers and motors. So we’ll see a major improvement in performance as the results emerge, not just in urban air mobility and racers, but right through to commercial aircraft. Exciting times!

Air Race fans can come along to the next Light Aircraft Design Conference – ‘Electrifying General Aviation’. We have an exceptional series of lectures, including Richard Glassock’s work on the Air Race E prototype at Nottingham University, the results of the Design Competition and the announcement of next year’s design competition. Details are here