BAE Systems announced via a press release last week their roll out of innovative progress on the electric propulsion system power controller front. Electric ducted fans, or EDF’s, along with brushless electric DC motors, have become popular among many eVTOL prototypes currently in existence. While many designs finalized on DC motors without the ducted fans, the engine (or propulsor) controller technology that best regulates and optimizes energy consumption over time will enable a lower direct operating cost for many customers. When cost is amortized over many thousands of flight hours, those savings add up quickly.
BAE’s main controllers are laptop-sized and are purportedly able to manage almost any propulsive devise – small through large. BAE’s value add to the already well developed electronic engine controller market is their investment in core technologies to reduce the size and weight of their control devices. Their press release state that, as a result of their recent innovative processes, the controllers are now “40 percent smaller and lighter than their original size and weight, but with 10 times the processing power”.
BAE has also added additional cyber security protection measures to their controllers, in order to protect against increasing invisible threats to aviation security. Many aerial mobility companies are developing their propulsion management technology internally, but BAE’s plug and play approach caters to the popular design mantra of sourcing ready to use components in order to create a ready to fly prototype for faster (and arguably cheaper) than a vertically integrated design solution. The future of electric propulsor energy use optimization is crucial considering the projections of the ultimate size of the aerial mobility industry, and the huge efficiency gain and cost reduction from a mere 1% of net change in electricity use.
Why it’s important: Obsession with optimization is no new concept to the aerospace industry, and the concept of electronic brushless motor controllers designed specifically for aerial mobility aircraft, or hybrid propulsion solutions that require greater integration demands, is a subtle yet crucial detail and fundamental design decision for many UAM designers and manufacturers. Some companies will use plug and play hardware such as BAE’s offerings, while others will select to remain in house and create a tailored solution to their needs. Regardless, expect further reductions in weight and size of these controllers, as well as fundamentally different management architecture for systems that largely rely on more distributed power to achieve greater efficiency.
Source // BAE Aerospace Press Release