First there was “Fly By Wire”… now there is “Propulsion By Wire”!
LaunchPoint Technologies is developing a suite of technologies to enable safe, reliable, and airworthy electric and hybrid electric flight. These technologies are based on applying the redundancy management and fault-isolation/fault-tolerant design techniques of “Fly By Wire” technology to the new field of electric aircraft propulsion. We call the resulting system “Propulsion By Wire” (1).
“In Fly-By-Wire all the aircraft flight-control authority passes through the “wires” instead of through mechanical systems. With electric propulsion we are doing the same thing for the vehicle propulsion power. Instead of flowing through mechanical connections—pressures, air foils, pistons, and shafts—the propulsion power will flow through wires from the energy source to the propulsion units. The same design principles that make Fly-By-Wire more reliable than mechanical flight controls will make Propulsion-By-Wire safer and more reliable than conventional propulsion.” – Mike Ricci, Vice President of Engineering, LaunchPoint Technologies.
Proposed hybrid bus architecture for a VTOL tilt-wing aircraft
The Propulsion By Wire effort at LaunchPoint consists of the following key R&D areas:
- Hybrid System Architecture, integration, and vehicle “micro-grid” control
- Advanced motor drives and generator controllers
- High specific power electric machines
- High reliability battery packs
The system will feature redundant power sources and propulsion units; multiple power and communication busses; fault isolation; and sensing systems as required to mitigate hazards and meet system failure rates required for airworthiness. The system will be able to reconfigure itself to mitigate the effects of component/subsystem failures when possible.
Our vision is to develop flight-certified FAA-approved hybrid electric propulsion systems for manned and unmanned aircraft that can meet generally accepted aviation failure rates. We will be starting with products for the small UAV and experimental aircraft markets; but concept studies show that our high specific power electric machines and controllers can be scaled to 1 MW and beyond. The general Propulsion By Wire architecture and design methodology can be applied to any scale vehicle.
Note: This research and development effort was partially supported through NASA phase I SBIR NNX14CC48P
(1) Trademark applied for