The EcoPulse hybrid-electric distributed propulsion aircraft project completed a successful first flight for its demonstrator model. The aircraft flew for approximately 100 minutes with its “ePropellers" powered by a battery and a turbogenerator, Airbus reported.
Airbus, working with aircraft builder Daher and aero-propulsion technology group Safran, established the EcoPulse project in 2019. It is supported by the French Civil Aviation Research Council (Corac), and co-funded by French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC). The goal for the demonstrator is to evaluate the operational advantages of integrating hybrid-electric distributed propulsion, specifically emphasizing the reductions in CO2 emissions and noise levels.
The aircraft is based on a single-engine, Daher TBM light aircraft, equipped with six integrated electric thrusters (e-Propellers, supplied by Safran), arranged along the wings. The propulsion system integrates an electric turbogenerator driven by a Safran gas turbine and an 800-V DC battery pack, supplied by Airbus.
A Power Distribution and Rectifier Unit (PDRU) protects the high-voltage network and distributes the available electrical power.
Airbus also developed the flight control computer that guides aircraft maneuvers using the ePropellers.
“This is a major milestone for our industry and we’re proud to have powered the EcoPulse demonstrator first flight with our new battery systems,” stated Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke. “High-energy density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility or large hybrid-electric aircraft. Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid electric flight, and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonize the aerospace industry as a whole.”
During the demo flight, the crew engaged the electric propellers and verified the proper functioning of the aircraft’s flight control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion and hybrid electric turbogenerator.
“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” stated Eric Dalbiès, Safran’s executive vice president, Strategy and CTO. “The lessons learned from upcoming flight tests will feed into our technology roadmap and strengthen our position as leader in future all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsive systems.”