The University of Nottingham, along with several partners including Ampaire, is celebrating its latest milestone as it works to explore regional electric aviation transport solutions.
A series of demonstration flights between Exeter Airport and Cornwall Airport Newquay has now begun, to advance the use of sustainable aviation, drive down costs and lower emissions on short regional routes.
The flights are part of a series of government-backed trials aimed at moving the UK towards sustainable aviation.
Last year the team received £2.4 million from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £30 million Future Flight Challenge towards the consortium’s £5 million 2ZERO programme.
Demonstration flights will be flown by its Electric EEL technology demonstrator.
The EEL, a modified six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, features a battery-powered electric motor at the front and a conventional combustion engine at the rear, enabling a reduction in emissions and operating costs by as much as 30%.
The aircraft will fly between these two regional airports, 85 miles apart, on a combination of battery and piston power, collecting valuable data to monitor fuel savings, efficiency and noise.
Ampaire uses the EEL as an important research and development platform as the company develops hybrid electric drive train upgrades for larger 9- to 19-seat regional aircraft.
The consortium views the near-term opportunity to transform existing turboprop aircraft such as the de Havilland Twin Otter as the first step to fully electric aircraft, which will become feasible as battery technology advances.
2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) involves the operation of hybrid electric aircraft on regional routes in South West UK, together with a study of the ecosystem required to enable the future of electric aircraft within existing airport and airline operations.
The 2ZERO bid was submitted by Ampaire and partners including the University of Nottingham, Exeter Airport, Rolls-Royce Electrical, Loganair Ltd, Cornwall Airport Ltd, Heart of the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership and UK Power Networks Services.
Speaking at the first flight of the ELL Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy, commented:
We are committed to championing our world-leading aerospace sector, which has a critical role to play in helping to build back greener and end our contribution to climate change by 2050.
Today’s hybrid electric test flight by Ampaire, backed by £2.4m of government funding, is a significant milestone in making aviation cleaner and more sustainable. It shows the importance of government and industry working hand in hand to drive forward the innovations that will make electric flight a reality.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham will be using their extensive experience in air transportation system modelling and simulation to work with airline and airport partners to assess the impact on costs, operations and crew rostering for operating a fleet of hybrid-electric vehicles.
The objective is to develop an optimised electric aviation ecosystem, including aircraft, airports, power distribution and storage.