A Belgian multinational enterprise has developed a fault-tolerant drive for electric brushless DC motors that can be used in various applications. They are currently looking for engineering companies or academics to help develop a green, reliable and modular motorization for light aircrafts or drones and hybrid-electric propulsion systems via research or technical agreements. Their intention is to build a demonstrator and achieve a successful TRL6.
The European Green Deal favoured efforts to decarbonize aircrafts, creating a unique framework to develop innovative propulsion solutions.
Currently, drones and electric propulsion pods are both limited in terms of flight duration and range due to the limited autonomy of batteries. Customers require urgent & secured delivery of packages on long distances by transport drones, not affected by traffic jams. Other customers look at detecting defects on electrical lines or wind turbine blades by BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) inspection drones flying a whole day without the need for recharging. Populations around airports are sensitive to the acoustic noise of aircrafts and ask for peace. New applications require directional fans of airships and hybrid-electric propulsion of large drones.
The Belgian company is a multinational company active in the aerospace field. The company is addressing these antagonist requests : larger flight autonomy with decarbonized and silent propulsion. The intention is to design and develop a hybrid-electric powertrain, complying with these requirements and supplied with green power fuel cells and to fit it in an existing propulsion platform for flight testing.
To accomplish that, the company is in need of different companies or academic profiles to conclude research or technical cooperation agreements in the fields of engineering for light aircrafts or drones and green propulsion. The objective is to develop a modular, reliable and green aircraft at a TRL 6 in a time horizon of 5 years.
Reliable operation will be ensured through a fault-tolerant architecture of the electric motor drive, associated with mechanical redundancy and partial discharges controls. Safety and regulation analysis will be part of the process.
Modular: The purpose is to build a modular architecture that can be scaled-up to various sizes of propulsion systems and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) platforms. There will be a possibility to upscale (or downscale) solutions successfully tested.
Green: Biofuel-based fuel cells associated with high performance batteries will constitute the primary source of energy. Several biofuels will be traded-off in their liquid or vapour phases : Hydrogen (H2), Methane (CH4) and Ammoniac (NH3).
Aircraft. The final product addresses light aviation motorization delivering powers of 20 to 100 kW at a successful TRL 6.
The technology developments will be enriched with economic and business assessments during the development of the product. A five years horizon will be considered for the business case. An estimation of the total cost of ownership and a business plan for deploying the technology in various aeronautic applications, within five years, will be produced.
- Type of partner sought: The company is looking for expertise and knowledge in the following areas :
• Engineering related to light aircrafts or drones:
o Aircrafts dynamics
o High performance DC brushless electric motor – axial flux type, in the range 20/100 kW
o Mechanical power transmission systems (shafts, gear-boxes)
• EASA certification
• Propulsion or energy for light aircrafts or drones:
o Power biofuel-based fuel cells between 20-100kW
o Hydrogen storage tanks, gaseous (350-700 bars) or liquid (20K) other fuels are also possible methane, ammoniac etc
o Batteries and battery management system
o Heat exchangers (passive and/or active)
- Specific area of activity of the partner: It is expected to conclude research or technical cooperation agreements with the following types of institutions:
• Engineering organisations to work on :
o aircraft dynamics for aircraft, modular architecture, mechanical power transmission, certification to EASA standards
o High performance DC brushless electric motors : To manufacture/deliver electric motors. The electric motors will need to be fully certified and further tested.
• Drone related companies or universities:
o that can develop a drone to transport 20kg load and flight for 8h without charging stops, with a long action range
o a drone producer to develop its motor on hydrogen.
• Propulsion or energy related companies or universities to work on:
o fuel cells modules between 20-100kW,
o heat exchangers,
o High performance batteries : to manufacture and deliver batteries. The battery pack and battery management system will need to be fully certified and further tested.
o Storage Tank Manufacturers with expertise in biofuels. To manufacture/deliver hydrogen storage tanks. The storage tanks will need to be fully certified and further tested.
NDA. Clients who are interested in learning more about this profile will need to sign a non-disclosure agreement before further sensitive information can be exchanged.
Available for demonstration - The fault-tolerant drive (FTD) architecture is available for use and currently rated TRL8. The FTD architecture will be used in space applications. It is ready for technology transfer to other domains.
Patents granted - The considered fault-tolerant architecture is patented since 2018.