The electric motor that will be used by the Airlander 10 airship is being built by Collins Aerospace in the UK after engineers completed its critical design review.
The 500kW motor is being developed by a partnership which includes Airlander’s manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham. The motor is expected to be qualified for use in flight during 2023, by which time HAV plans to be using three airships for flight testing and to have started the civil certification process.
HAV plans to begin regional passenger-carrying services with the Airlander 10 in 2025. The airship will carry up to 100 passengers, have a range of 4,600 miles (7,400km), a top speed of around 85mph (km/h) and will be able to stay airborne for up to five days.
The Airlander 10 uses two front and two rear diesel engine-driven ducted propellers. HAV plans to first replace the two front engines with 500kW motors by 2025 and then the two rear engines by 2030.
Collins Aerospace is designing and testing the motor at its Electronic Controls and Motor Systems Center of Excellence in Solihull, UK, where it recently invested US$18 million (£13 million) to expand the campus and add power electronics and motor development capabilities.
Marc Holme, senior director of electronic controls and motor systems for Collins Aerospace said, “Airlander 10 has the potential to be the world’s first zero-emission aircraft, while pioneering game-changing electric flight technologies in the process.
“As the aerospace industry continues to look for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, electric propulsion offers a significant solution that will create a more sustainable future for our industry and our planet.”
The E-HAV1 research project to develop the prototype 500kW electric motor for ground testing and productization has been co-funded by the UK Government through the Aerospace Technology Institute.
Mark Scully, the Aerospace Technology Institute’s head of technology – advanced systems and propulsion said, “The Hybrid Air Vehicles Airlander 10 offers a unique opportunity to deploy innovative, high performance motor technology from Collins Aerospace initially in hybrid propulsion and, in the future, all electric propulsion configurations. These technology developments will enable economic growth and jobs in the UK aerospace sector.”
Development of the Airlander 10 began in 2009, initially for the US Air Force. After the program was cancelled, HAV switched it to a commercial project. The airship made its first flight in August 2016.