Jetoptera is continuing the advancement of its FPS™ in various applications – from powered parafoils contracts to HSVTOL and Wing in Ground Effect (WIG) vehicles. Most recently we have received a second engine from Turbotech, a 90kW thermally recuperated turbine that is 30% more efficient than its equivalent non-recuperated turbines. Both engines we have received are dedicated to the Powered Parafoil FPS™ that will propel Freedom Flight Works’ Long Range Joint Precision Air Drop System for the US Army. The low fuel consumption and the quiet propulsion system are the critical technical advancements of this package.
In other news, we have successfully finished the Phase 1 of the HSVTOL Challenge Program, where we teamed with Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Whitney to design and assess the performance of an aircraft capable of twice the speed of a tilt rotor aircraft. The results of Phase 1 demonstrate excellent potential, and we have proposed activities for the next development phase and are now awaiting on the Government’s decision on the follow-up phase, with the objective to refine the FPS™ enabled HSVTOL system.
In recent days, Aviation startups were in the news.
Regent has recently announced that they have successfully flown a small-scale Wing in Ground effect vehicle using electric power. This is also great news for Jetoptera, as we plan to deploy our wind tunnel validated FPS™ +USB system in WIG markets with very significant advantages over any propeller blown wing, including larger lift coefficients and quieter operation. Jetoptera is currently working on a hybrid electric version of a WIG that will offer a far greater range and speed than the propeller versions that exist today and will eliminate the vibrations and noise typically associated with these systems. More to come…
Notably, a company that is “winding down” the efforts on pure electric (battery powered) VTOL aircraft is Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk was founded in 2010 with the idea of building a flying car and it was led by one of the pioneers in autonomous cars from Silicon Valley, Sebastian Thrun and backed financially by Larry Page. No public reason was given for the decision to terminate the company.
Another announcement came from Heart Aerospace, a company that was originally targeting a regional, Scandinavian focused all electric 19-seater regional aircraft. The company has announced recently that they will pivot to a 30-seat hybrid electric aircraft now and they pushed out the time of delivery of the first prototype.
At first, these two startups’ decisions seem unrelated, but the reality is that they have something in common, and what connects them is the current technology level of the propulsion battery system. We anticipate that many other companies will migrate to hybrid systems in the future, from pure electric, or, if they chose battery propelled only, that they will wind down.
The main challenge with the Aviation battery for propulsion today is its specific energy. Because the best lithium-based battery systems are limited to around 200-250 Wh/kg, while jet fuel is at 12,000 Wh/kg (so a ratio of at least 20 if one counts for efficiency), any solution will be at a significant weight disadvantage, compromising range. Cost is also a major issue, as these battery systems are usually at the level of hundreds of kWh energy storage, as are the risks associated with the thermal management of the battery needed for propulsion applications.
There is no Moore’s Law for energy storage.
This is precisely why we at Jetoptera created an energy agnostic propulsion system. This past summer we tested our system with an all-electric compressor supplied by BorgWarner, and it worked quite well. Our plans include the use of turbines that directly drive these air compressors or generate electric power than can be used to power electric compressors distributed across the airframe of an aircraft. When the battery for propulsion in aviation will be safely developed, Jetoptera will be able to adapt immediately to all-electric propulsion. Until then, we will continue the path of utilizing highly efficient air compressors driven by gas turbine turboshaft engines powered by jet fuel, SAF, Diesel or Biodiesel.