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NASA signs deal with to boost eSTOL R&D

By Chris Stonor

It was announced this week that NASA has signed a contract with to boost its craft “aerodynamic blown lift technologies” for electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, reports a press release.

Electra has partnered with Dr. Alejandra Uranga, Gabilan Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, after being awarded a contract under the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Electra is developing eSTOL aircraft that can take off and land in less than 150 feet.

Ben Marchionna, Electra’s Director of Technology and Innovation, said, “This really pushes today’s aerodynamic technology to its limits for effective blown lift aircraft concepts require every tool in an aerospace engineer’s toolbox including computational fluid dynamics (CFD), wind tunnel models, and flying testbeds.”

Dr Uranga, added, “Even the best CFD-based blown lift and distributed electric propulsion models today lack validation against full-scale vehicles for these unique configurations.” And continued, “Current computational methods can predict some limited blown lift flow fields in three dimensions, but the large eSTOL design space compared to conventional aircraft means that fast, trusted, low-order methods are needed to rapidly evaluate design choices. This contract will help us develop those methods.”

Dr Alejandra Uranga 

Next year, Electra aims to start flight testing a full-scale hybrid eSTOL tech demonstrator aircraft which will carry two people, take off and land in distances under 150 feet, and use a 150-kW hybrid-electric turbogenerator to power eight electric motors and charge a custom battery system during flight.

The company’s first commercial product with FAA certification is planned for 2026. The craft will be designed to carry up to seven passengers and a pilot as far as 500 miles. It will serve urban and regional air mobility markets, sustainability-focused airline operations, “middle mile” cargo logistics and air ambulance services.

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