United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is collaborating with its subsidiaries Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace to develop a hybrid-electric X-plane with a hybrid-electric propulsion system efficient enough to make regional flights as practical as bus rides. The aircraft, or “Project 804” – a reference to the straight-line mileage between Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, Québec and the Collins Aerospace facility in Rockford, Illinois – falls under the purview of UTC’s new advanced projects group (UTAP).
The X-plane is a Bombardier Dash 8 Series Q100 twin-engine, medium-range, turboprop airliner. UTAP is replacing one of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW100 series turboprop engines with a 2 megawatt-class propulsion system. The parallel hybrid propulsion system combines an engine, sized for cruise power, and a similarly sized electric motor adding supplemental power during takeoff.
Learn more about hybrid-electric propulsion in aerospace.
The company expects the hybrid-electric propulsion system to yield an average fuel savings of 30 percent, which would effectively make operating the regional aircraft fuel efficient as commuter bus travel within a 600 nautical mile range. Project 804, UTC’s first product demonstrator, is slated for its initial flight less than three years from now.
We’re working on a highly aggressive timeline because we believe the electrification of flight is a massive opportunity,” says Jean Thomassin, the project director of Project 804. “It’s an ambitious target but, given our talented team and UTC’s technical acumen, it’s achievable.”
“For all intents and purposes, we’re gutting a plane, leveraging expertise from across the company to develop new technology, and installing that tech into the plane to revolutionize the future of aerospace,” says Project 804 program manager, Greg Winn. “This is hands down one of the most exciting projects that I’ve had the chance to work on during my career at UTC.”
UTC’s Skunk Works-like UTAP group is laid out as a disruptive organization at the center of the company that moves at a rapid pace to collaborate on, build, and pilot ambitious product and service demonstrators.
“Our goal is to help UTC think and act like a startup,” says Jason Chua, executive director, UTAP. “Once we identify areas where we might be vulnerable to disruption or opportunities where we can leverage our strengths, we sprint to a minimum viable product (MVP) and, ultimately, execute with the speed of new and more nimble competitors.”
UTAP has positioned itself to act in the technology space between high-risk start-ups and large-scale industry acceptance.
“We at UTC are changing ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities before us,” said Chua at SAE International’s 2019 AeroTech Americas event. “We have the scale and we have the focus needed to continue to drive change and innovation in aerospace.”
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At its core, Project 804 is itself a disruptive undertaking; however, it’s the first of many advanced projects that will help catalyze a wave of innovation across UTC. As a result, the projects will leverage UTC’s existing expertise and ways of working while seeding the startup mindset to explore new, cutting-edge concepts.
Read more: “The Grid” promises to be the most advanced electric propulsion laboratory in the aerospace industry.
To project will also incorporate “The Grid” – an 25,000-square-foot advanced electric power systems laboratory currently in development for Collins Aerospace. The Grid will be used to design and test next-generation, more-electric aircraft technologies for commercial, military, and business aviation; electric urban air mobility (UAM) platforms; and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or “drones.”
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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.
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