New electric engine set to improve light aircraft safety

Posted on 15 Jun 2015 by Aiden Burgess

Spanish researchers have developed a new backup electric engine which can assist a light aircraft to land safely in case of an engine failure.

Jointly developed by researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and Axter Aerospace, the electric propulsion system is set to be installed in small gasoline-powered planes for extra power and range in emergency situations.

The tiny electric motor is designed to sit just behind a plane’s propeller, with the new hybrid system having the potential to prevent 600 accidents a year.

One of the engine’s inventors, Miguel Angel Suarez, said the main goal of the project was to improve the safety of small passenger planes weighing a maximum of 750kg.

“We are trying to save lives and prevent accidents related to loss of power during flights, when the engine fails or the fuel runs out,” he said.

“We mustn’t forget that every year in Europe and USA there are an average of 600 accidents, 70 deaths and 24 million euros in losses recorded.”

Head of the UC3M Electric Power Systems group, Andres Barrado, said the electric engine would give pilots more time to land safely.

“If there is a problem with the main engine, this electric engine will start to function, which will provide an additional range of about 20km, enough for the pilot to land safely,” he said.

The electric engine is connected to the conventional engine, a high-efficiency lithium battery and an electronic system that draws energy from the battery and adapts it to the needs of the plane.

The electric motor’s backup battery is constantly being charged by the main engine during the flight.

The new engine can be installed in all light aircraft and might eventually be applied to other aircraft, such as gyroplanes, gliders and drones.

As well as the safety benefits of the engine, it’s architecture also reduces the airplane’s operating and maintenance costs, lowers fuel consumption and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and noise pollution.