Paris Air Show 2023: Airbus-Leonardo sign MoU on European advanced trainer

Hybrid-electric distributed aircraft EcoPulse makes its public debut


June 22, 2023

/ By / Paris

Paris Air Show 2023: Airbus-Leonardo sign MoU on European advanced trainer

The EcoPulse project aims to assess the benefits of using hybrid-electric distributed propulsion in aircraft, with a focus on reducing CO2 emissions and noise levels

On Day 3 of Paris Air Show, that is currently ongoing at Le Bourget near Paris, a unique hybrid-electric aircraft makes its debut, while European giants Airbus and Leonardo sign MoU on European advanced trainer jet.

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At the ongoing Paris Air Show 2023, EcoPulse, a hybrid-electric distributed propulsion aircraft demonstrator jointly developed by Daher, Safran and Airbus, made its first public appearance, revealing its final external configuration.

After passing successfully the first ground tests, the demonstrator will perform its first flight with hybrid-electric propulsion later this year.

This demonstrator, which has financially been supported by the French government, through the French Civil Aviation Research Council, and co-funded by the French Civil Aviation Authority through France Relance and NextGeneration EU, is one of the major collaborative projects in France in the field of aviation decarbonisation.

According to a press statement, the EcoPulse aims to evaluate the operational advantages of integrating hybrid-electric distributed propulsion, with specific emphasis on CO2 emissions and noise level reduction. This disruptive propulsion architecture enables a single independent electrical power source to provide power to several engines distributed throughout the aircraft.

The demonstrator will also evaluate the overall energy efficiency of the onboard system, including high-voltage electrical propulsion with battery and turbogenerator, and control laws involved in such architecture.

Based on a Daher TBM aircraft platform, EcoPulse is equipped with six integrated electric thrusters or e-propellers, that have been supplied by Safran, distributed along the wings. Its propulsion system integrates two power sources, a turbogenerator which is an electric generator driven by a gas turbine, supplied by Safran, and a battery pack, that has been supplied by Airbus.

At the heart of this architecture is a Power Distribution and Rectifier Unit, responsible for protecting the high-voltage network and for distributing the available electrical power, as well as high-voltage power harnesses, both of which have been provided by Safran.

The statement adds that since the announcement of this collaboration between Daher, Airbus and Safran at the previous Paris Air Show in 2019, the demonstrator has successfully passed key milestones, leading to its maiden flight in 2022 with its conventional thermal engine, without electric system operational. The ground and flight tests conducted recently in 2023 validated its aerodynamics and systems configuration.

“After endurance ground test campaign for the e-propellers, the first hybrid-electric flight with the six e-propellers activated will be an important milestone for our technology roadmap as Safran’s objective is to position itself as the leader in future hybrid and all-electric aircraft systems,” says Eric Dalbiès, Executive Vice President Strategy and Chief Technology Officer for Safran.

“Hybridisation and electrification are key to the aerospace sector’s decarbonisation journey. With EcoPulse, we learned a lot from developing the high-power battery pack entirely, from the monitoring system to the thermal runaway and short-circuit tests. Some of these key learnings are already applied in several of our demonstrators with the common ambition to lower emissions. We are now all eager to see this technology flying and continue to progress on our electrification roadmap,” said Sabine Klauke, Chief Technical Officer at Airbus.

“The demonstrator has so far amassed around 27 hours of flight time with the electric propellers feathered. Flight tests of the hybrid-electric powertrain are due to begin later this summer. We are going to learn a lot. From this demonstration programme, we plan to develop our future product roadmap and basically spec the hybrid aircraft we intend to produce by the end of our five-year plan. We expect by the end of 2027 to be able to offer our first hybrid aircraft to the market,” said Pascal Laguerre, Chief Technology Officer at Daher.

In another development involving two large companies joining hands, Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer signed a deal with GKN Aerospace to collaborate on potential hydrogen flight demonstrator. According to the two companies, the partnership is committed to expediting the implementation of hydrogen technologies in aviation and advancing decarbonisation of aerospace to zero emissions.

In a statement, Embraer adds that the agreement is part of its commitment to the global efforts to collaborate with the Air Transport industry’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Together, both companies will leverage their extensive expertise and resources to actively support the development of innovative Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, as well as optimise airframe systems integration. GKN Aerospace is at the forefront of ground-breaking collaborative hydrogen programmes across the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.

“The imperativeness of sustainability drives research and development programmes at Embraer, and the potential development of a hydrogen flight demonstrator represents an important milestone in our technology roadmap toward to the future of sustainable aviation. It is a pleasure to have GKN Aerospace as a partner in this technological journey with us,” said Luís Carlos Affonso, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Technological Development at Embraer.

In a related development, Embraer, which has also brought in its multi-role transport aircraft KC390 Millennium, gave an update about the status of the aircraft the increasing number of customers from around the world, with Portugal, the Netherlands and Sweden figuring among the confirmed buyers.

The aircraft maker says that KC-390 is South America’s premier tactical transport and has evoked significant interest from India also, where Embraer is competing with other manufacturers for a large order of up to 80 aircraft the Indian Defence Ministry.

Meanwhile, Airbus and Leonardo have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly promote integrated training systems and study the future solutions to tackle air dominance challenges.

According to a press statement, under this collaboration, both companies will jointly address and pursue business opportunities for the provision of advanced training systems leveraging on M-346 proven experience, thanks to over 100,000 flight hours performed worldwide by the aircraft. Airbus and Leonardo will also explore deepening ties and industrial cooperation to tackle future military pilot training domains.

All based on cooperation and synergies on specific platforms and programmes, also in the framework of a broader European and International collaboration.

The European Advanced Trainer market will account for more than 400 new aircraft deliveries in the next 20 years, plus an additional Eur 12 billion for the provision of advanced pilots training services.



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