Collins Aerospace has produced the first working prototype of a 500-kW electric motor suitable for powering the Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) Airlander 10 helium-buoyed hybrid airship. Collins also has begun basic characterization testing of the motor at the University of Nottingham.
Collins said its targets are specific power density levels of 9 kilowatts per kilogram and 98 percent efficiency through the use of a novel motor topography and composite construction. The permanent magnet electric motor will operate at 2,000 rpm.
Known as the E-HAV1, the Airlander 10 project benefits from co-funding by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) program, a joint government and industry investment to cement the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture.
Evoking the golden age of airships in the early twentieth century, which came to a tragic end on May 6, 1937, with the conflagration of the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg in the U.S., the E-HAV1 provides a maximum payload of 10 tonnes, a range of 4,000 nm, five days of airborne flight, a ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a promise of zero-emissions flight by 2030.
Last month, HAV announced the “reservation” for 10 of its Airlander hybrid airships by Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum. The aircraft can take off and land anywhere, with no need for ports, roads, or runways, HAV claimed.
Collins said the Airlander 10 is scheduled to begin hybrid-electric operation in 2026, followed by all-electric, zero-emission operation in 2030. “To achieve this, the aircraft’s four fuel-burning engines will be replaced by Collins’s 500-kW electric motors—beginning with the two forward engines in 2026 and the two rear engines in 2030,” it said.
“With a goal of becoming the world’s first zero-emission aircraft, Airlander 10 is blazing a trail in the development of sustainable electric propulsion systems,” said Marc Holme, Collins Aerospace senior director for electronic controls and motor systems. “Collins is working closely with Hybrid Air Vehicles and the University of Nottingham to turn this goal into a reality, while at the same time developing new technologies that will advance the aviation industry’s efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Last month, Collins said it begain designing and testing the motor at its Electronic Controls and Motor Systems Center of Excellence in Solihull, UK, where it recently invested $18 million to expand the campus and add power electronics and motor development capabilities.
“The development of electric motors for Airlander 10 is a crucial part of our pathway towards a future of passenger and freight transport that produces zero emissions,” said HAV CEO Tom Grundy. “It is great to see the program develop with the different organizations working in unison to deliver the right electric motor for the job.”