Collins Aerospace produces working prototype electric motor for Airlander 10

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A 500kW working prototype electric motor for Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Airlander 10 aircraft has been produced by Collins Aerospace.

Airlander 10's first flight
Airlander 10's first flight - Hybrid Air Vehicles

The 2,000RPM permanent magnet electric motor has been developed in a partnership with Hybrid Air Vehicles and the University of Nottingham, where Collins has begun basic characterisation testing of the motor.

Collins said it is targeting specific power density levels of 9kW/kg and 98 per cent efficiency using a novel motor topology and composite construction.

The company is designing the motor at its Electronic Controls and Motor Systems Centre of Excellence in Solihull where it is also developing its 1MW electric motor and motor controller for the Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) regional hybrid-electric flight demonstrator.

The two motors are part of Collins’ technology roadmap for the development of a family of electric motors that can be appropriately scaled to meet the needs of hybrid-electric and all-electric applications across multiple aircraft segments.

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Airlander 10 is scheduled to begin hybrid-electric operation in 2026, followed by all-electric , zero-emission operation in 2030. To achieve this, the aircraft’s four fuel-burning engines will be replaced by Collins’ 500kW electric motors, starting with the two forward engines in 2026 and the two rear engines in 2030.

“With a goal of becoming the world’s first zero-emission aircraft, Airlander 10 is blazing a trail in the development of sustainable electric propulsion systems,” said Marc Holme, senior director, Electronic Controls and Motor Systems for Collins Aerospace. “Collins is working closely with Hybrid Air Vehicles and the University of Nottingham to turn this goal into a reality, while at the same time developing new technologies that will advance the aviation industry’s efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

E-HAV1 is co-funded by the ATI Programme, a joint UK government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK's competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. It is delivered through a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Innovate UK.

“This important project milestone demonstrates innovative technology from the UK that will deliver critical capability for the electrification of aviation,” said Mark Scully, head of Technology for Advanced Systems & Propulsion at the Aerospace Technology Institute. “It aligns with the zero-carbon focus in the ATI’s Destination Zero strategy, and positions Collins in the UK for the scaling of high-performance electric motors for future commercial aircraft platforms.”