Electric propulsion for urban air mobility

Power Train Specialist takes to the air to develop a scalable electric propulsion system to power future air mobility projects in urban environments


ritish electrified propulsion specialist, Drive System Design (DSD), is taking part in a two- year innovation project as a key partner alongside the Aerospace

Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK. DSD will develop the electric motor and power electronics for a uniquely packaged and highly integrated propulsion module suitable for a range of aircraft. The project, known as InCEPTion

(Integrated Flight Control, Energy Storage and Propulsion Technologies for Electric Aviation), is led by Blue Bear Systems Research and will be delivered by a consortium of organisations with highly specialised skills and infrastructure for design and test. The project will develop a modular electric propulsion engine for manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft for up to 30 passengers. The project is jointly government and

industry funded to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. It has significant government backing as part of the country’s drive for innovation and is supported by the ATI, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK, which among them will address technology, capability and supply chain challenges. Unmanned systems and Aerospace specialist Blue Bear Systems Research will lead the consortium of innovation partners

from industry and academia which, as well as Drive System Design, also includes Dowty Propellors, Ricardo and dielectric liquid specialist M&I Materials. The University of Cambridge’s Whittle

Laboratory and the University of Salford’s Acoustics Research Centre will be the main academic facilities that will also be taking part in the project and applying the latest advanced knowledge from the world of academia.

ELECTRIC PROPULSION According to John Morton, engineering director at Drive System Design, the development of a stand- alone electric propulsion engine for the aerospace industry is a fascinating project that poses many novel challenges. “Our motor and inverter

will play a critical role in meeting the efficiency and mass requirements and the level of integration in the unit and the modular construction means we will need to work very closely with our partners to ensure the project is successful,” he says. To help overcome the engineering challenges posed by the new nature of the project, as well as to accelerate development, it will benefit from the

❱❱ John Morton of Drive System Design believes the new motor will provide the means of achieving a sustainable future for aviation

company’s established ePOP (electrified Powertrain Optimisation Process) tool, which has been adapted from the automotive industry to be suitable for aerospace applications. “This enables us to apply DSD’s system approach, proven for our automotive customers, to aerospace, simulating tens of thousands of possibilities in order to optimise the way the sub-systems operate together within a strictly defined physical package,” Morton continues.

MOTOR TESTING Following the design stage, Drive System Design will test and develop the motor and inverter at its test centre in the UK. It is one of Europe’s main independent electrified propulsion test facilities specialising in durability, NVH and environmental testing. Morton believes that the

project will significantly enhance the company’s existing NVH skills with a deeper understanding of physcho-acoustics. “This marks a key

milestone in our mission to

advance the development of future mobility systems, facilitating cross-sector collaboration and enabling the industry to engineer a sustainable future,” he concludes. T&TH

June 2021 /// Testing & Test Houses /// 29

❱❱ The InCEPTion Concept

Propulsion Module will be a key enabling technology for electric urban aviation

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