Electric Flight at AIAA AVIATION 2017


June 20th, 2017, by Ben Brelje

AIAA recently posted a live stream from the "Aircraft Electric Propulsion: Transforming Aviation" track at AIAA AVIATION 2017. I wasn't able to attend in person, so it was great to be able to review the panel discussion and questions.

The panel featured speakers from E/S Aero, the American Helicopter Society, NASA Glenn, CALSTART, and Zunum Aero.

As far as I know, this is Zunum Aero's first public talk since emerging from stealth mode with Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Ventures backing in April. It's exciting to see a commercial start up at the upper end of the size range, when most of the other activity in the industry now consists of NASA-funded demonstrator projects and electric vertical takeoff and landing (E-VTOL) personal vehicles. Matt Knapp, CTO and founder of Zunum, outlined an aggressive 2020 flight test demonstration target. 

Joseph Oldham of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center covered the introduction of electric trainer aircraft and fielded questions about the impact of electric propulsion on maintenance costs and schedule.

Amy Jankovsky of NASA Glenn discussed NASA strategy for electrification: namely, designing and flying successively more complex (higher power, higher voltage) demonstrators as quickly as possible.

NASA has identified a sort of divide at ~150 pax size where below this line, it is possible to eliminate superconductors and the associated cryogenic systems.

Jankovsky also mentioned 'thermal management of low quality heat' as a universal challenge for these larger aircraft concepts and pointed out that USAF work on this topic may benefit the commercial sector. There's a great chart at 1:14 outlining the high-level technology risks associated with the NASA STARC-ABL and SUGAR Volt studies.

Header Image: NASA (public domain)


Tags: AIAA, AHS, E-VTOL, NASA, zunum
Posted in Electric Flight |