Electric Propulsion

NASA is looking into developing an electric propulsion-powered aircraft. This new kind of aircraft, if realized, would be practically silent, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly than our conventional commuter aircraft.

The aircraft will be named Sceptor, which stands for Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology and Operations Research (the abbreviated name is clearly much better).

The concept aircraft is adapted from an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T aircraft. In the Sceptor, the wings are replaced with an experimental model that’s integrated with electric motors.

Ultimately, adapting an existing model is part of the plan because the modification of an existing aircraft allows engineers to compare the performance of the experimental craft with its original configuration, according to Sean Clarke, Sceptor co-principal investigator at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

Currently, the Tecnam that will be used is still under construction, but it is expected to be at the Armstrong Flight Research Center within a year, where the wing will be integrated with the fuselage. NASA flew a different Tecnam P2006T last September to test its original configuration and gather performance data.

The aircraft will be designed to carry nine passengers, and it will comes with a 500-kilowatt (700 horsepower) power system. Researchers intend to fly the Sceptor in two years.

Integrated experimental testbed without the electric motor propellers
The Sceptor

One step in this process involves testing an experimental wing on a truck (yes, on a truck).

This is called the Hybrid Electric Integrated Systems Testbed (HEIST). In a NASA post this week, NASA unveiled images of the test.

The first experiment for HEIST, called Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (Leaptech), began in May at Armstrong. The experiment consisted of 18 electric motors that were integrated into the wing and powered with lithium iron phosphate batteries.

Notably, Leaptech has been shown to create more than double the lift of traditional systems when flying at lower speeds.

They’re also looking at the development and use of a new simulator, which will look at the control and handling characteristics of electric airplanes. This will also verify tools that enable NASA’s aeronautical innovators to design and build the Sceptor.


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