Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Powering Imagination have entered into an agreement to create an electric flight program focused on reducing aircraft emissions and noise through development of electric propulsion systems.
In announcing their agreement, Erik Lindbergh, CEO of Powering Imagination and Dr. Richard (Pat) Anderson, Director of the Eagle Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle, noted that commercial aviation powerplants emit a significant amount of pollutants into the atmosphere, and aircraft noise is an increasing issue around the world that restricts access to airports and inconveniences neighboring communities.
Electric and hybrid-electric power systems offer the potential to significantly reduce both noise and emissions, making aviation more sustainable and opening new possibilities for operations in noise-sensitive areas, officials note.
Powering Imagination’s Quiet Flight Initiative will be joined with Embry-Riddle’s Green Flight Program to develop a test aircraft to accelerate the growth of the electric flight industry.
The students and faculty at the Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach, Florida campus will convert a Diamond HK36 motorglider to electric power. This aircraft will be used for testing in noise-sensitive areas to demonstrate the potential benefits of electric or hybrid-electric propulsion for significantly reducing noise.
The aircraft will also be used for testing new components of electric propulsion systems to provide real-world evaluation under flight conditions, officials noted. This airborne test lab will enable more efficient R&D on electric power systems, by creating an aircraft that can be reconfigured to test new innovations from different companies and development teams, officials add.
Embry-Riddle and Powering Imagination estimate that the aircraft will make its first flight in the middle of 2015 at the Embry-Riddle campus in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“I’m excited about partnering with Embry-Riddle to create technologies and development capabilities which will benefit the entire global electric flight industry,” said Lindbergh.
“This aircraft will serve as an investment in the future of sustainable aviation, to enable research and development of innovations that will transform the future of flight,” added Eric Bartsch, COO of Powering Imagination.
“Our students are thrilled to be able to apply what we learned in the 2011 NASA Green Flight Challenge and take it to the next level as we collaborate with Powering Imagination,” said Anderson.
Both Powering Imagination and Embry-Riddle are currently raising funding for this multiyear initiative to enable the purchase of the HK36 airframe, the conversion of the aircraft to electric power, and the operation of the plane for testing methods of reducing emissions and noise.