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Flight electrification, presentation of the Electroplane flagship programme<img alt="" src="" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> electrification, presentation of the Electroplane flagship programmeFlight electrification, presentation of the Electroplane flagship programme<p style="text-align:justify;">The aim of Electroplane, the Flagship programme, the contents and general objectives of which CIRA outlined to national stakeholders during the workshop organised over the past few days, is to reduce the environmental impact of air transport by developing hybrid-electric propulsion systems as well as innovative configurations.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Electroplane, on a par with the other Flagship programmes that are part of the PRORA update, is an extremely ambitious programme foreseeing research and development activities which will be of the utmost importance for CIRA so as to consolidate partnerships on both a regional and national level. The aim is to create a series of on-ground and flight demonstrators in line with evolutionary market trends and, therefore, of certain interest to large industries as well as SMEs" – commented President Paolo Annunziato upon the opening of the workshop.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Electric propulsion currently represents one of the most relevant lines of research, since the forecasts for forthcoming years refer to a 4-5% average annual upsurge of air traffic, a doubling of aircraft in circulation, and a significant increase of autonomous and remotely-piloted aircraft, that will have a considerable environmental impact especially in urban contexts in which most of these aeroplanes will be operational.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In order to reduce the environmental impact, the European Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda has demanded drastic reductions of pollutants and noise for the future and in order to achieve these objectives, the optimisation of air traffic management or technological innovations may not be sufficient, therefore making it necessary to introduce revolutionary concepts and technologies such as those intended to be developed during or integrated into the programme itself. The importance of the topic of hybrid-electric propulsion also in Europe is shown by means of the explicit reference to such in both Horizon 2020 and Clean Sky 2 Programmes; moreover, European Community-funded projects have recently enabled the acquisition of important information relating to the feasibility of electric aircraft.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">This concept was explained very clearly by Pier Paolo de Matteis, the co-ordinator of the CIRA working group, in charge of the preparatory phase of the programme that will conclude with the definition of requirements and implementation projects.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">With Electroplane, CIRA intends to take up the challenge to achieve a revolution of air transport: in fact, the Flagship Programme aims to develop and/or acquire enabling technologies regarding the electrification of flight, the definition of innovative configurations capable of efficiently integrating the new propulsion systems as well as their demonstration in two aircraft classes: the Small Aircraft Transport System (SAT) together with regional transport. All this will be carried out through the development of a series of on-ground, flight, full-scale and small-scale technological demonstrators, of increasing complexity in view of the maturity of technologies that will be gradually developed. A significant part of the activities will focus on seeking innovative solutions relating to the storage and distribution of electricity. The development and/or acquisition of methodologies concerning the sizing, functional characterising and reliability of the electric powertrain will be of paramount importance. Furthermore, the programme envisages the development of experimental infrastructures in order to carry out ground tests as well as Flight Test Beds for in-flight validation.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The much-appreciated introductory speech prior to the commencement of the technical sessions was given by Marco Falzetti, the Director of the Agency for the Promotion of European Research (APRE), who, speaking of the European transport electrification policies, urged all sector-related parties to interrelate, via the  appropriate national contact points, with the European Commission that is currently preparing the next 7-year Community Framework Programme, so that ample space will also be dedicated to electric aircraft propulsion.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During the first technical session, speeches were given by representatives from aviation industries (Leonardo Company, Tecnam, GE Avio) as well as research institutes (the EBF Laboratory in Bari, the CNR Istituto Motori (National Research Centre – Institute for Research on Engines) that have provided visions and electric system development approach strategies, together with previous experience, highly useful so as to provide a framework for the CIRA programme within the context of national interests and abilities.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The second part of the workshop focused on two parallel technical meetings, with the aim of stimulating a debate between sector-related experts on particular topics. The first technical meeting, on the development of electric aero-propulsion configurations with particular reference to regional transport aircraft, involved interventions by the Universities of Naples and Roma 3 as well as the Polytechnics of Milan and Turin.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Whereas, the second meeting was dedicated to the enabling technologies for electric propulsion as well as the experimental infrastructures with contributions made by the Universities of Naples, Salerno and Salento, by Enea and, for the industry sector, Vulcanair, ATT, AVL Italia and Umbra.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Particular attention was paid to batteries: although great interest is currently shown towards lithium ion technology developed upon the initiative of the automotive sector, for the Italian Air Force, it appears to be necessary to surpass this in order to develop Li-S or Li-O2 batteries, with an energy density considerably higher than 1 kW h/kg. It will also be necessary to develop advanced Battery Management Systems (control and diagnosis) alongside Battery Thermal Management Systems (thermal control) in order to guarantee their reliability and safety. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Very interesting indications and ideas also emerged relating to several other aspects of the programme, for the purposes of its definition:</p><p></p><p>with regards to the experimental infrastructures, the need to simulate altitude and to follow particularly severe experimental protocols was acknowledged;</p><p></p><p></p><p>as for the development of machines and electric devices for the Italian Air Force, both industry and research centres intend to use new materials and to adopt design methods based on multi-physical approaches;</p><p></p><p></p><p>as regards disruptive technologies, it is necessary to take the feasibility of investing in high-temperature superconductors into account so as to reach the target weight of the machines, electric devices and the power distribution networks for MW class aircraft;</p><p></p><p></p><p>finally, the development of the new technologies will no longer be able to take the "design criteria" into consideration dictated by the new aeronautical certification standards.<br></p><p></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">July 18th, 2018<br></p>2018-07-17T22:00:00Z

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