In recent years, a number of developers and manufacturers have been pushing us ever closer to realizing more electric aircraft. BAE Systems in particular have made their entrance into the market, utilizing their experience with hybrid buses and flight and engine controls in order to create energy management and control systems for both hybrid and fully electric aircraft. Currently, they are moving forward with the development of new energy management systems that will be combined with controls for hybrid engines, allowing them to progress towards future hybrid electric prototypes that are set to be operating in the near future.
Conducted at BAE Systems Electronics in Endicott, New York, engineers are developing engine energy management and control systems that will serve the next generation of hybrid-electric and electric propulsion systems. These systems would be mounted on the side of a jet engine, composed of small electronics that would be no bigger than a standard computer. Despite their size, such aircraft electronic parts would be capable of optimizing the engine performance of a variety of aircraft, no matter the conditions that they are operating under.
The engine control systems function to both monitor and manage the performance of the aircraft engines, utilizing sensors that track the performance of the engine and current flight conditions. With such data, a number of flight improvements can be made in regards to adjusting fuel flow, air bypass, and other characteristics in order to increase performance. This also would lead to a number of improvements such as increased safety and decreased costs. In general, engine control systems serve as the brain of the engine, and BAE Systems aims to bring the next generation of technological advancements.
The push towards more hybrid and electronic aircraft is critical as a rise in greenhouse gases has created a demand for a reduction of aircraft emissions. In addition, reducing the amount of needed fuel for flight operations will also drive down costs associated with fluctuating fuel prices and economies. Although fully realizing all electric commercial aircraft is still far away, companies like BAE Systems are aiding in the effort with their current developments and research. In the present, BAE Systems has been utilizing core technologies in order to reduce engine control system weight and size by values of up to 40%, all while increasing the processing power they are capable of by tenfold. Alongside their performance and size improvements, engineers are also working to make such engine controls much more reliable and safer, protecting against possible cyber-attacks, implementing failure predictions, and more.
In 2019, BAE Systems made their official announcement to enter the aircraft electrification market, centering their focus on energy management, flight controls, and power conversion systems that will be implemented on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) systems. With an aim to provide such aircraft electronic parts to the next generation of aircraft propulsion systems, we have much to look forward to in regards to the future of hybrid and electric aircraft.
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