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Rolls-Royce Announces New Hybrid-Electric Flight i-5 Demonstrator Aircraft

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Rolls-Royce has taken one more significant step towards the ambition to provide hybrid-electric propulsion systems for next gen aviation

Rolls-Royce hybrid electric  APUS i-5 demonstrator aircraft
The Rolls-Royce hybrid electric APUS i-5 demonstrator aircraft. Credit: Rolls-Royce
  • Rolls-Royce earlier created an M250 hybrid power system and conducted ground tests
  • The APUS i-5 plane will now be used to demonstrate its integration with an aircraft
  • The M250 hybrid power pack also complements systems being developed for larger aircraft as seen with the E-Fan X demonstrator

Earlier this year Rolls-Royce announced it had conducted ground tests of a hybrid-electric propulsion system built around an M250 turboshaft engine. All it needed now was to find an airframe to integrate the system into. Rolls-Royce has now found that airframe and taken one more significant step towards realising the ambition to provide hybrid-electric propulsion systems for the next generation of aviation.

“Rolls-Royce has always been a pioneer in aviation and one of the key elements of our strategy is to champion electrification across all our businesses”

Dr Mike Mekhiche, Deputy Director, Rolls-Royce Electrical

Dr Mekhiche added, “Electrification is one of the most exciting developments in aviation since the birth of the jumbo jet. We are determined to use our pedigree in aerospace to be at the forefront of developing innovative propulsion systems to meet the needs of the next chapter in aviation. When this happens, it’s going to transform the way aero transport is designed and produced, reducing the time required to travel, revolutionising cargo delivery and changing the way we design our cities and infrastructure.” 

The 5 elements of the Rolls-Royce strategy
Championing electrification is one of the 5 elements of the Rolls-Royce strategy. Credit: Rolls-Royce

Who’s Involved

Rolls-Royce will be working with APUS, an aviation engineering company based in Strausberg, close to Berlin, and the Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU), Germany, in developing a hybrid electric flight demonstrator based on its hybrid M250 propulsion system. The project is being supported by the Brandenburg Government under the regional programme to develop research, innovation and technology (ProFIT), managed by the Investment Bank of the State of Brandenburg (ILB), and is scheduled for a duration of three years. The collaboration will enable one of the world’s most comprehensive hybrid aerospace turbine engine development and integration programs and pave the way for experimental flights on aircraft after 2021.

The Aircraft

This project will include an APUS i-5 plane to demonstrate the practical application of hybrid electric technology for a 4000kg conventional take-off and landing flight test vehicle. The system could be used across a range of transport platforms to enable distributed electric propulsion, including EVTOL’s (hybrid electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles), general aviation aircraft and hybrid helicopters in the future.

The M250 Hybrid System

The traditional non-hybrid M250 gas turbine engine has powered more than 170 varieties of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, in both military and civilian service. Rolls-Royce selected this engine for hybridisation because of its maturity, power-density, ease of maintenance, and high reliability. The total M250-powered fleet has logged more than 250 million engine flight hours, with more than 33,000 engines delivered to the market.

Rolls-Royce M250 aircraft turboshaft engine
Rolls-Royce M250 turboshaft engine is part of the experimental hybrid-electric unit. Credit: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce engineers based in the United States, UK, Germany, Norway and Singapore developed the M250 engine into a hybrid-electric propulsion system.

The Rolls-Royce powered APUS i-5 demonstrator project just announced today integrates that new hybrid system using a M250 gas turbine engine with a high energy density battery system, electric generators, power converters and an advanced power management and control system. The power management system optimises overall propulsion performance in order for the system to be suitable across a variety of platforms, including EVTOL, while delivering efficiency gains, reduced noise and lower emissions.

Earlier this year hybrid version tests were successfully carried across three system configurations:

  • Series Hybrid: In this configuration, the engine operates as a turbo-generator that charges an on-board battery system, and does not contribute to thrust directly. All power required for thrust and other onboard systems is supplied by the battery.
  • Parallel Hybrid: In this configuration, the platform thrust is supplied by a combination of the engine (mechanical thrust) and the electrical system (electrical thrust), while the other power needs of the aircraft are met by the battery.
  • Turbo-Electric mode: In this configuration, the battery system is redundant. The engine operates as a pure turbo-generator supplying electric power for thrust and any other power needs on the aircraft.

The M250 hybrid power pack also complements the AE 2100 2.5MW system being developed for larger aircraft, including regional aviation, and is being tested with Airbus on the E-Fan-X demonstrator platform.

Rolls-Royce collaboration with the E-Fan X demonstrator aircraft
Rolls-Royce is working with Airbus on its E-Fan X project for a hybrid-electric airliner.

Funding

Funding for this hybrid electric flying project was requested within the framework of the ProFIT promotion guideline issued by the Brandenburg Ministry of Economics and Energy. The application was submitted in the typical two-stage process with the support of Wirtschaftsförderung WFBB and the Business Development Bank of the State of Brandenburg, ILB. The financial ProFIT support is provided by the State of Brandenburg from the European Regional Development Fund and federal and state funds. All project partners would particularly like to thank the ILB for the accompanying consultations and the European Regional Development Fund for the co-financing.

What Rolls-Royce Says

Dr. Dirk Geisinger, Director Business Aviation and Chairman Rolls-Royce Deutschland, said: “We thank the Brandenburg Government sincerely for its continued support and are delighted to be working with APUS and the Brandenburg University of Technology on this groundbreaking demonstrator program. This is an important step forward in developing propulsion systems that will enable a new class of quieter and cleaner air transport. At the same time this will further strengthen our Dahlewitz site, which is one of the hubs for the advancement of hybrid-electric propulsion in our company.”

Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said: “We have already ground tested the hybrid version of the M250 gas turbine in a demonstration setting in Series Hybrid, Parallel Hybrid and Turbo-Electric operating modes. The M250 hybrid is planned to be used as a propulsion plant with power ranging from 500kW to 1MW and has the potential to transform aviation power. Rolls-Royce has pioneered every significant development of the aviation industry and it is only natural that we play our part in this exciting next step of electrification.”

What Brandenburg University of Technology Says

Prof. Dr. Georg Möhlenkamp, Chair for Power Electronics & Electrical Drive Systems, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg said: “We are very pleased to be a partner within this important project. Being responsible for electric hybrid system functional modelling, dynamic modelling of system performance and electro-mechanical system test support acknowledges our strong competencies in this field and represents a first visible step in our strategy to collaborate with Rolls-Royce on sustainable aircraft propulsion.”

What APUS Says

Phillip Scheffel, Chief Executive Officer, APUS aeronautical engineering GmbH, said: “As the supplier for the iron bird test airframe, installation hardware design and hybrid system installation partner, we are keen to take this project forward and to achieve experimental flight clearance together. Receiving funding from Brandenburg Government helps greatly to realise our exciting plans and enable significant learnings for a range of other electro hybrid aircraft systems.”

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Virgin Galactic Unveils New Mach 3 Supersonic Jet & Collaboration With Rolls-Royce

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Virgin Galactic announces new Mach 3 supersonic jet and collaboration with Rolls-Royce to design and develop the engine propulsion technology.
Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Supersonic Jet
The new Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Supersonic Jet will be three times faster than the speed of sound. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has recently announced the new Mach 3 super jet and its intent to collaborate with Rolls-Royce on developing the engine propulsion technology needed to take the Mach 3 to new heights and travel three times faster than the speed of sound.

Self-described as a “vertically-integrated aerospace and space travel company pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers,” Virgin Galactic is continuing its mission to advance air and space vehicles, revealing for the first time their new delta-winged Mach 3 super jet to be developed in collaboration with Rolls-Royce.

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Super Jet Rolls Royce FAA
One very fast flight for up to 19 passengers. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Designed to carry up to 19 passengers at an altitude of 60,000 feet and reach a top speed of 2,300mph/3700kmh, the new Mach 3 Super Jet could travel between London and New York in just under 1.5 hours. It would take off and land like a regular passenger aircraft at existing airports worldwide and ntegrate into existing airport infrastructure.

To build the technology needed to make this happen, Virgin Galactic has signed a memorandum of intent with high Mach propulsion specialists, Rolls-Royce (not to be confused with Rolls-Royce Motorcars), who already have experience in creating the only civil-certified commercial aircraft capable of supersonic flight – aka the Concorde.

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Super Jet Rolls Royce
Passengers will fly at altitudes up to 60,000 feet. Credit: Virgin Galactic

George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer, Virgin Galactic, shared, “We are excited to complete the Mission Concept Review and unveil this initial design concept of a high speed aircraft, which we envision as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with an unrivalled customer experience. We are pleased to collaborate with the innovative team at Rolls-Royce as we strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with the FAA to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start. We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel.”

“We are excited to partner with Virgin Galactic and TSC to explore the future of sustainable high speed flight,” said Rolls-Royce North America Chairman & CEO Tom Bell. “Rolls-Royce brings a unique history in high speed propulsion, going back to the Concorde, and offers world-class technical capabilities to develop and field the advanced propulsion systems needed to power commercially available high-Mach travel.”

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Super Jet Rolls Royce Left Side Profile
At a top speed of 2,300mph/3700kmh passengers could fly from NY to London in 1.5 hours. Credit: Virgin Galactic

The new Mach 3 super jet’s design philosophy is focused on making high-speed travel practical, sustainable, safe, and reliable while keeping customer experience a top priority. The super jet can be configured for a range of operational scenarios, including service for passengers on long-distance commercial aviation routes, and can offer business or first-class seating arrangements.

Virgin Galactic has been previously working closely with international regulatory communities to ensure compliance with safety and environmental standards and are now working with FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation to outline a certification framework during the pre-project guidance phase.

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Gulfstream Advances the G700 Flight Test Program

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The all-new Gulfstream G700 business jet surpasses speed and altitude limits during recent testing.
Gulfstream G700 experimental test plane
the Gulfstream G700 experimental test planes have flown over 100 flights. Credit: Gulfstream

Testing of the new Gulfstream G700 is well underway since the jet was revealed in October 2019. With Gulfstream boasting the industry’s most spacious cabin with the highest speeds at the longest range, they have now revealed the flight-test program is making significant progress with a number of accomplishments in testing and performance.

The G700 has chalked up over 100 test flights and recently completed Gulfstream’s flutter testing.  Aeroelastic flutter is basically when a dangerous vibration begins to occur during flight, usually in the wings or tail, which often results in structural failure. High-speed aircraft are most susceptible to flutter, and especially with the introduction of thinner wings, all-movable horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and T-tail configurations, the likelihood of flutter occurring within a desired flight envelope increases further.

Gulfstream G700 experimental test aircraft flying
The Gulfstream G700 surpassed its speed and altitude parameters. Credit: Gulfstream

G700 Flight Tests Exceeding Expectations

During the G700’s testing, Gulfstream were able to expand the flight envelope (the design capabilities of the jet) at both high and low speeds. The G700 business jet flew beyond its maximum operating speed and cruise altitude, reaching Mach 0.99 and an altitude of 54,000 feet/16,459 meters. In typical operations, the G700 has a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925 and a maximum cruise altitude of 51,000 ft/15,545 m. The testing showing that the all-new G700 has not only met its specs but truly surpassed them as well.

Gulfstream G700 experimental test pilots flying
Gulfstream G700 experimental aircraft pilots flying during tests. Credit: Gulfstream
Gulfstream G700 experimental flight badge emblem

“These accomplishments at this stage in flight test point to the impressive maturity of the G700 program,” said Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream. “We designed and developed the G700 for our customers to fly safely, securely and efficiently while enjoying the same level of comfort as they do on the ground. With the largest galley in the industry, the utmost in technology, and the finest, freshest cabin environment, the G700 unlocks new opportunities in business jet travel.”

G700 Circadian Lighting System

The all-new G700 business jet features 100% fresh, never recirculated air, an industry-leading low cabin altitude, whisper-quiet noise levels, and the option for the industry’s only true circadian lighting system that attempts to counteract the onset of jetlag.

Gulfstream G700 bedroom sleeping quarters
Gulfstream G700 bedroom sleeping quarters. Credit: Gulfstream
Gulfstream G700 media zone
Gulfstream G700 media zone. Credit: Gulfstream
Gulfstream G700 interior floorplan options
Gulfstream G700 interior floorplan options. Credit: Gulfstream

The circadian lighting concept follows that of the human circadian rhythm which is a person’s internal 24-hour clock. The hypothalamus in the brain controls each person’s circadian rhythm by receiving signals from the eyes that report when it’s daytime and night time. The hypothalamus, in turn, controls the amount of melatonin released to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness.

How Circadian Lighting Works

As the eyes play a fundamental part to this process, light can be manipulated in the following three ways to hack the brain from experiencing time zone disruptions:

  • 1. Adjusting brightness and intensity with controlled dimming to correlate with a particular time of day.
  • 2. Adjusting the color temperature of lights. We experience cooler color temperatures (ranging from 4000K up to about 10,000K) when the sun is highest in the sky and people are typically most alert during the day. Therefore, cooler color temps are used in spaces when it’s appropriate to promote alertness and attention. Warmer color temperatures (ranging from < 2700K to 3500K) represent daylight hours when the sun is rising and setting and when people are falling asleep or waking up
  • 3. Stimulus tuning (replacing the “bad blue” light wavelengths with “good blue”).
Color temperature scale

Other features of the G700 cabin include 20 Gulfstream panoramic oval windows in up to five living areas, the Gulfstream exclusive Ultragalley floor plan option that provides more than 10 ft/3 m of counter space, as well as a master suite floor plan option with a stand-up shower.

The G700 is powered by Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines and can fly at its high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90 for 6,400 nautical miles/11,853 kilometers or at its long-range cruise of Mach 0.85 for 7,500 nm/13,890 km. The G700 also includes the Gulfstream Symmetry Flight Deck™ with the industry’s only electronically linked active control sidesticks; the most extensive use of touch-screen technology in business aviation; and Gulfstream’s award-winning Predictive Landing Performance System.

Gulfstream G700 business jet
Gulfstream G700 business jet. Credit: Gulfstream

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The First USA-Based Global 5500 Business Jet

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Bombardier delivers the first Global 5500 business jet to be based in the United States.
First US Based Bombardier Global 5500 jet
The first US-based Global 5500 jet delivered to Unicorp National Developments. Credit: Bombardier

Bombardier has announced the delivery of the first Global 5500 aircraft to be based in the United States. This business jet, which will be available for charter, was recently delivered to longtime Bombardier customer Unicorp National Developments, headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

“Our team at Unicorp is beyond excited to benefit from the first Global 5500 aircraft in the United States,” said Chuck Whittall, President, Unicorp National Developments. “This aircraft will allow us to travel with less fuss and more peace of mind.”

Unicorp’s Global 5500 jet will be available for charter out of Orlando International Airport via Elite Air, under a Part 135 charter certificate.

One of the many Bombardier Global 5500 cabin layout options
One of the many Bombardier Global 5500 cabin layout options. Credit: Bombardier

The Global 5500 business jet entered service last month, joining Bombardier’s new large-cabin family alongside the Global 6500 aircraft and the industry flagship Global 7500 aircraft. The Global 5500 aircraft’s best-in-class range can take passengers nonstop from Florida to Sao Paolo, Paris, London or Moscow. On short or long flights Global 5500 aircraft passengers will enjoy a comfortable environment, with three living areas featuring Bombardier’s patented Nuage seating collection. High-speed, worldwide (excluding North and South Poles) Ka-band connectivity ensures that productivity onboard is never compromised.

Bombardier Global 5500 Nuage seat design detail
The Global 5500 jet’s Nuage seat design. Credit: Bombardier

The aircraft delivery took place at Bombardier’s site in Wichita, Kansas, where Global 5500 aircraft are completed. This multifaceted site has a history of collaboration with Unicorp. 16 years ago the company took delivery of the first-ever Learjet 60 aircraft to be completed in Wichita.

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