Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) specialist Blue Bear Systems Research, a UK Small to Medium Enterprise, has formed a seven-strong consortium to develop a next-generation, all-electric propulsion module to enhance aircraft performance while reducing operating costs. The propulsion module is a scalable design and is the first in a range of products that can be used for aircraft less than 5 tonnes in the near term.
The project—Integrated Flight Control, Energy Storage and Propulsion Technologies for Electric Aircraft (InCEPTion)—is supported and co-funded by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK and was launched this month. The 24-month project will deliver a highly power-dense, quiet and efficient propulsion module with zero emissions out.
The future electrification of aircraft propulsion will have a significant positive environmental effect, helping to reduce emissions and lower the carbon footprint of aviation. The InCEPTion consortiums propulsion module will bring game-changing technology to manned and unmanned aviation, delivering unrivalled performance and value in this newly emerging sector.—Yoge Patel, CEO of Blue Bear
The propulsion module will be inherently scalable, enabling different combinations of the same module to power multiple aircraft concepts, such as large cargo drones, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL), general aviation aircraft and sub-regional aircraft. This will enable a broad range of new mobility services across the UK, from large cargo delivery to regional commuting.
Integrated Propulsion Module
Blue Bear Systems Research will lead the consortium which includes:
- Dowty Propellers
- Electrified powertrain specialists, Drive System Design
- Electrified propulsion systems and thermal management, Ricardo
- Materials specialists, M&I Materials
- University of Cambridge’s Whittle Laboratory
- University of Salford’s Acoustics Research Center
The project is supported by the ATI Program, a joint Government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. The program, delivered through a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK, addresses technology, capability and supply chain challenges.
Blue Bear is also a member of the recently announced The Airspace of the Future (AoF) Consortium, which also comprises Thales, Cranfield University, Cranfield Airport Operations, Inmarsat, Altitude Angel, Ocado Group, Satellite Applications Catapult, and Connected Places Catapult. The group, which will work to integrate drone services within the wider UK transport ecosystem, has been formed in response to UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge (FFC).
The FFC supports the development of new technologies in the UK, including freight-carrying drones, urban air vehicles, and hybrid-electric regional aircraft. It is funded by £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is, in turn, expected to be matched by up to £175 million from industry.
The group will work to integrate quieter, more efficient, and less polluting aircraft within the rest of the transport infrastructure, ensuring aircraft can fly to and from a cost-effective network of small operating bases. The group will also develop the supporting ground infrastructure, regulation and control systems required to use these new aircraft practically and safely, whilst the value of a mixed-use airspace will be demonstrated through innovative simulation and real-world applications.