The UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme is awarding a grant of more than £1 million (around €1.16 million) to Hybrid Air Vehicles, Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham. The partners will develop a novel all-electric propulsor for the Airlander 10 zeppelin.
As part of the British E-HAV1 funding scheme, the partners will initially develop a prototype with 500 kW electrical output for ground tests and technologies for future production. The solutions are to be directly transferable to the future Airlander 10 airship.
The vision associated with the Airlander 10 is to combine helium technology, aerodynamic lift and forward thrust to create an airship with significantly lower fuel consumption than other aircraft in terms of performance. The integration of electric forward propulsion will further enhance the unique selling proposition of the modern-day Zeppelin.
The partners combine various expertise. Collins Aerospace that belongs to United Technologies is a specialist in electric power system development, while HAV oversees the whole-aircraft design. Further research and testing of the electric propulsion will be done at the University of Nottingham. The latter expects this project to “benefit from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF) investment in our new Centre for Power Electronics and Electrical Machines, which will open early in 2020,” explains Prof Pat Wheeler, Head of the University of Nottingham’s Power Electronics, Machines and Control Research Group.
The partners see multiple use cases for the airship and state the Airlander10 could support any activities from passenger travel to fisheries protection generally pioneer electric propulsion in civil aircraft.
The E-HAV1 project is supported by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Programme, a joint Government and industry investment. The programme is delivered through a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK; addressing large-scale technology and capability challenges, principally over a rolling 5 to 15-year timeframe.
Additional reporting by Nora Manthey.