Daher Reveals First Hybrid-Electric Flight of Eco-Pulse

The collaborative project between the French OEM, Safran, and Airbus demonstrates the next step in the decarbonization roadmap via distributed propulsion.

The first flight of the Eco-Pulse in which the pilots engaged Safran’s ePropellers made for an important project milestone. [Courtesy: Daher]

Daher has announced the next milestone in its collaborative quest with fellow OEMs Safran and Airbus towards the decarbonization of the aviation industry. The project’s Eco-Pulse demonstrator made its first test flight in hybrid-electric mode on November 29, from the company’s European aircraft division headquarters in Tarbes, France.

Engaging its six electric ePropellers—and confirming the proper function of the flight control computer, high-voltage battery pack, distributed electric propulsion, and hybrid electric turbogenerator, the Eco-Pulse took off at 10:32 a.m. local time and flew for 100 minutes, ranging up to roughly 12,500 feet according to flight tracking data. Its ePropellers were powered during the flight by both a battery and a turbogenerator.

Up until last week, Eco-Pulse had flown with electric portion of the system inactive, making 10 hours of flight test and extensive ground runs from the facility at Tarbes. The demonstrator is based on the TBM airframe, with the integrated ePropellers, power distribution and rectifier unit (to guard the high-voltage network) and high-voltage power harnesses supplied by Safran, and the high-energy-density battery pack from Airbus. That battery pack is capable of delivering up to 350 kilowatts of power and is rated at 800 volts. The distinctive architecture of the system demonstrates that a single electrical source can power multiple electric motors positioned throughout the aircraft.

Proving the Decarbonization Roadmap

“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” said Eric Dalbiès, Safran’s executive vice president of strategy and chief technology officer. “The lessons learned from upcoming flight tests will feed into our technology roadmap and strengthen our position as leader in future all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsive systems.”

“This is a major milestone for our industry and we’re proud to have powered the EcoPulse demonstrator first flight with our new battery systems,” said Sabine Klauke, CTO at Airbus. “High-energy density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility or large hybrid-electric aircraft. Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid electric flight, and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonize the aerospace industry as a whole.”

“The flight campaign will give Daher invaluable data on the effectiveness of the onboard technologies, including distributed propulsion, high-voltage batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion,” said Pascal Laguerre, Daher’s CTO. “We’re working to converge practical and significant know-how on design, certification and operation to shape our path toward more sustainable aircraft for the future.” 

Previously, the group had flown the Eco-Pulse to the Paris Air Show last June, to showcase the sustainability initiatives of the collective companies, in concert with CORAC (the French Civial Aviation Research Council), the DGAC (French civil aviation authority), France Relance, and NextGeneration EU. The Eco-Pulse had its first reveal at the 2019 Paris Air Show—so significant progress has been made in the four years since that moment.

The next time the public can see the Eco-Pulse on display is December 6-7, at the Green Aero Days in Pau, France.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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