The technology demonstrator that flew last week is a converted TBM900 aircraft
EcoPulse, the hybrid-electric technology demonstrator aircraft being jointly developed by Daher, Safran, and Airbus, has started its flight-test campaign. On Tuesday, the partners announced that the first flight happened on November 29, with the converted Daher TBM 910 taking off from Tarbes Airport in the southwest of France for a 100-minute sortie.
During the flight, pilots deployed all parts of the powertrain, including the six 50-kilowatt electric power units, the turbogenerator, and six sets of electric thrusters, or “e-propellers,” installed along the wing. The flight tests will validate the results of earlier ground testing and also 10 hours of flight tests that were conducted without the electric propulsion system functioning in May and June. The first test evaluated the flight control computer and high-voltage battery pack.
Safran is responsible for the integrated motor/thruster units, as well as for the turbogenerator, which combines a gas turbine with a generator. The French aircraft engines and systems group has also developed EcoPulse’s power distribution and rectifier unit that protects the high-voltage network, as well as the power harnesses.
Airbus developed the high-energy-density battery pack, which is rated at 800 volts DC and can deliver 350 kilowatts of power. The European airframer also made aerodynamic and acoustic modifications to the TBM900 testbed aircraft, as well as developing the flight control computer.
The partners introduced the EcoPulse program four years ago at the June 2019 Paris Air Show. As part of efforts to decarbonize aviation, it is being supported by France’s CORAC Civil Aviation Research Council, the DGAC aviation regulator, and the France Relance government economic recovery plan. It has also received some funding from the European Union.
The program is intended to demonstrate how a new propulsion system architecture using a single independent electrical power source can support multiple electric motors. The demonstration work will evaluate the operational advantages of integrating a hybrid-electric distributed propulsion to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and noise.
In March, Daher confirmed that by 2027 it plans to offer hybrid-electric versions of its TBM aircraft family. “The flight campaign will give Daher invaluable data on the effectiveness of the onboard technologies, including distributed propulsion, high-voltage batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion,” said Daher’s chief technology officer Pascal Laguerre. “We’re working to converge practical and significant know-how on design, certification, and operation to shape our path toward more sustainable aircraft for the future.”
The Airbus sustainable aviation portfolio includes the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft and plans for hydrogen-powered airliners through its ZeroE program. “High-energy density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility or large hybrid-electric aircraft,” commented the group’s chief technical officer Sabine Klauke. “Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid electric flight and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonize the aerospace industry as a whole.”
Daher and its partners are presenting the EcoPulse demonstrator at the Green Aero Days event being held in Pau, France, on December 6 and 7.