If you’ve ever had the good fortune of visiting an archipelago in a place like the Caribbean or the South Pacific, you’re familiar with the small aircraft used to ferry locals and tourists from one island to the next. The British government is taking steps to develop technology that electrifies these island-hopping planes.
- Cranfield Aerospace Solutions has received an $11.6 million grant from the British government to develop a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft.
- The ultimate goal is to produce an electrified propulsion kit that can be retrofitted into the world’s fleet of island-hopping aircraft.
- The first of these retrofitted planes could be in the air as soon as 2021.
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions has built a name for itself as an aircraft integrator in green commercial aviation. The technology is being developed as part of Cranfield’s Project Fresson, a group initiative that includes several partners across Britain.
The technology’s power-management system will be contributed by Rolls-Royce, and the electric motors will be crafted by the Denis Ferranti Group. Delta Motorsport will provide the battery packs, and the University of Warwick will handle battery testing and characterization. The baseline aircraft will be provided by Britten-Norman. Cranfield University – the parent organization of Cranfield Aerospace – will be tasked with researching the technology solutions that are vital to the success of the project.
Green skies ahead
“The results of this exciting electric aircraft demonstrator project can be rapidly developed into an EASA/CAA (European Aviation Safety Agency/Civil Aviation Authority) certified modification kit, enabling the U.K. to lead the way with the first passenger-carrying sub-regional aircraft capable of all-electric flight” says Paul Hutton, Cranfield’s CEO. “The strength of the industrial partners involved in this project is underpinned by the world-class aerospace/manufacturing research capabilities of Cranfield University. This is going to accelerate our green transport revolution.”
Cranfield expects that the first prototype could fly by 2021. Production versions could be on the market by 2023.
WHY THIS MATTERS
While emissions from other sectors has been mostly on the decline, air pollution from the aviation industry has been rising. Bloomberg reports that, according to projections from U.N. agencies, the aviation industry could become the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide within three decades if cuts in other sectors come to pass. Innovations such as the one being developed by Cranfield are essential to putting the aviation industry on a greener flight path.