A mock-up of a hybrid aircraft engine was presented for the first time in the United Engine Corporation (part of Rostec) exhibition at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021. The mock-up consists of a gas turbine engine, electric motors, power electronics units, an electric generator and a battery pack. It is designed for next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles flying with four propellers.
“In 2022, we plan to create the first hybrid engine demonstrator capable of outputting around 150 kW. The demonstrator will be further used for testing a design with ultimate power output of 500 kW by 2023”, said Mikhail Shemet, Deputy Director of prospective engine projects at UEC-Klimov.
The 500 kW hybrid engine demonstrator is based on the VK-650V engine. Potential aircraft of this power class are light multipurpose helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles with a takeoff weight between 2–8 tons, light local airliners, air taxis and various VTOL designs. After the first stage of the project, an additional objective was determined to develop a marine application with 200-250 kW of power.
The advantages of a hybrid power plant include increased fuel efficiency and flight safety, reduced emissions, increased thrust-to-weight ratio, capability for quick power boosts due to the electrical component, as well as increased service life and reliability.
Why it’s important: Russian consideration and investment toward hybridized propulsion mediums indicates the nation’s perceived importance of aerial mobility aircraft. The hybridized, and distributed electric propulsion model that’s more and more common among aerial mobility applications today is the main focus for Russia as Rostec aims to blend the best of currently available, high energy density conventional powerplants (Jet fuel burning turbines) with the regenerative energies of battery packs. The quoted 2-8 ton takeoff weight for aircraft that the powerplant will serve is a large number considering other commercially available power sources are optimized to support aircraft that almost all have weights less than 2 tons.