Ampaire has won a $150,000 Phase 1 award from NASA under its Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The award is for the High Efficiency Powertrain for Hybrid Aircraft (HEPHA) project. The new AMP Drive AMP-H270 Configuration for smaller aircraft features distributive propulsion technology and can serve multiple markets.

The Phase 1 award will fund sizing, architecture and other analytical studies over six months as a prelude to a potential Phase 2 award that would fund the system’s installation and testing on Ampaire’s Cessna Skymaster testbed aircraft, the ARPA-E Bird. This aircraft has also been used for previous research by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E advanced programs unit. It will play a role in a $9 million ARPA-E SCALEUP award announced November 22, 2022 to mature individual systems that will eventually be certified on Ampaire’s nine-passenger, hybrid-electric Eco Caravan.

“These wins from NASA and the DOE recognize Ampaire’s leadership in electrified aviation. They also recognize the near-term potential to field hybrid-electric aircraft that will revolutionize aviation by lowering emissions and the cost of travel,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker.

Under the new NASA SBIR program, the ARPA-E Bird would be equipped with a hybrid propulsion drivetrain in the nose and an electric drive system in the rear for a multi-mode hybrid system.  Ultimately, the system could be certified for light aircraft or used as part of larger power systems on regional aircraft and even transport category single-aisle jets.

The new AMP Drive AMP-H270 powertrain is a 270 kW system that has about half the power output of the AMP-H570 system that powers the Eco Caravan. The new drive system combines an ultra-efficient DHK180A4 compression ignition engine from DeltaHawk Engines of Racine, WI with an integrated electrical drive designed by Ampaire. The DeltaHawk engine runs on Jet-A and compatible sustainable aviation fuels. The Ampaire solution for the testbed aircraft provides a 45 percent cruise efficiency gain over the conventional combustion engines it replaces and double the efficiency of comparable gas turbines.

Why it’s important: Ampaire’s award from NASA underscores that importance of their hybrid-electric propulsion research and also the growing sentiment of the advantages of hybrid-electric powertrains as a bridge between current existing technologies and fully electric aircraft. The research being done at Ampaire will directly apply to their aircraft in the near-term, and help to accelerate learnings of electric powertrains in operation in various aviation arenas.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz