Collins Aerospace to build US$50m electrical systems testing lab


Collins Aerospace Systems plans to build what it is calling the aerospace industry’s most advanced electric power systems laboratory in Rockford, Illinois.

The 25,000-square-foot high-power, high-voltage laboratory, which Collins is calling The Grid, will be used to design and test systems like the high-power generators that will be used in more electric aircraft for commercial, military, business aviation, drones and air taxis.

Collins Aerospace expects the US$50 million laboratory to be complete and fully operational by 2021. The Grid is part of a US$150 million investment in electrical systems testing infrastructure the company plans to make during the next three years.

Collins Aerospace CEO Kelly Ortberg said, “The Grid positions us to remain the world leader in the electrification of aircraft for decades to come.

“In the not-too-distant future, hybrid-electric and fully electric aircraft will revolutionize air travel as we know it—opening up new markets like urban air mobility, while re-invigorating others like regional service to underutilized airports.”

Among the first platforms to be supported by The Grid will be the recently unveiled United Technologies Corp (UTC) hybrid-electric flight demonstrator, Project 804. The goal of Project 804, developed by the company’s advanced products group, is to re-engine and fly a regional turboprop aircraft powered by a 2MW-class hybrid-electric propulsion system.

The advanced projects group combines the engineering expertise and experience of Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney and UTC’s research centre.

Collins Aerospace will use The Grid to help design and test a 1MW motor, motor controller and battery system in support of this goal. The 1MW motor will be the aerospace industry’s most power dense and efficient to date.

The new motor and motor controller will be used to assist the demonstrator’s fuel-burning engine as part of its hybrid-electric propulsion system. The Grid will be one of a handful of facilities in the world with the capability to test complete electric propulsion systems of this capacity.

Collins Aerospace, formerly Rockwell Collins, was acquired by engineering conglomerate UTC in November 2018.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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