On opening day of last month’s Paris Air Show, Daher, Airbus, and Safran announced “a collaborative partnership for the design and development of the wing-mounted EcoPulse distributed hybrid propulsion demonstrator.”
The trio of aerospace goliaths have stated the maiden flight is scheduled for 2022.
Just look at the photo (below). It is a TBM with six additional propellers. It looks a bit like NASA’s X-57.
Safran will provide the distributed hybrid propulsion system; Airbus is responsible for the aerodynamic optimisation of the distributed propulsion system, the installation of high energy density batteries, and the use of those batteries to power the aircraft; and Daher will tackle “component and systems installation, flight testing, overall analysis and regulatory construction.”
The press announcement on the Airbus website includes popular buzzwords like “CO2 emissions” and “noise pollution,” both of which the collaboration seeks to reduce.
At first glance I thought the announcement would be only about making a hybrid aircraft. Interestingly though, the concept, if successful, will deliver more.
“The electric thrusters will be integrated into the EcoPulse wing and will provide propulsion thrust, at the same time as delivering aerodynamic gains (reducing wing surface area and wingtip marginal vortices, and therefore drag).”
Reduced drag? Really? By adding more propulsion? Wow.
“The installation of a distributed propulsion system on a TBM aircraft is an exciting opportunity to boost its efficiency, diversify its missions, reduce its environmental footprint, and cut its operating costs.”
What I find interesting in the above sentence is “environmental footprint” is third in this list of four benefits the team hopes to create.
Back when I was learning to fly a multi-engine airplane, my instructor taught me to think like a pessimist.
“You have to assume one of those two engines will quit, and you have to be ready when it does.”
That was a complete shift in my natural state of being. I’m an optimist, with a healthy dose of realist thrown in for good measure.
I realize the process of conducting experiments is to test a theory without bias toward the outcome, but when I see announcements like these, I can’t help but get a little excited. Whether this “distributed hybrid propulsion system” comes to fruition or not isn’t the point for me. The fact that lots of smart people are working to evolve the present state of technology is exciting and should be supported.