EcoPulse, the hybrid-electric aircraft demonstrator jointly developed by Daher, Safran and Airbus to support aviation’s decarbonisation transition, successfully performed its first flight test in hybrid-electric mode late last month.
The demonstrator flew with its ePropellers activated, powered by a battery and a turbo-generator.
EcoPulse took off from Daher's base at Tarbes Airport on 29 November for a 100-minute test flight, during which the crew engaged the electric propellers and verified the proper functioning of the demonstrator's flight control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion and hybrid electric turbo-generator.
“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” said Eric Dalbiès, Safran’s Executive Vice President Strategy and Chief Technology Officer.
“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.”
Based on Daher's TBM single-engine turbo-prop, the EcoPulse demonstrator is equipped with six integrated Safran electric thrusters distributed along the wings. Its propulsion system integrates two power sources: a turbo-generator driven by a Safran gas turbine, and a high-energy density battery pack supplied by Airbus.
At the heart of the power train is a Power Distribution and Rectifier Unit (PDRU), responsible for protecting the high-voltage network and for distributing the available electrical power, as well as high-voltage power harnesses. The battery pack, designed by Airbus, is rated at 800 VDC and can deliver up to 350 kW of power.
"The flight campaign will give Daher invaluable data on the effectiveness of the onboard technologies, including distributed propulsion, high-voltage batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion,” said Pascal Laguerre, Chief Technology Officer at Daher.
“We’re working to converge practical and significant know-how on design, certification and operation to shape our path toward more sustainable aircraft for the future.”
Unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show, EcoPulse is one of the major collaborative projects in Europe in the field of aviation decarbonisation. It aims to evaluate the operational advantages of integrating hybrid-electric distributed propulsion, with specific emphasis on CO2 emissions and noise level reduction.