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NLR flies scaled model of a distributed electric propulsion system airliner

On the 2nd of May 2024, a scaled version of a large passenger aircraft with distributed electric propulsion undertook its maiden flight, reports the Dutch aeronautical research agency NLR.  “Further testing will follow to qualify and measure its dynamic flying behaviour, aimed at understanding the advantages of this Distributed Electric Propulsion technology for large passenger aircraft. A reduction of 20% energy consumption should be feasible for the full-scale aircraft.”

According to the NLR:

“A scaled model of a new configuration aircraft with distributed electric propulsion (DEP) successfully completed its maiden flight from Aeroporto di Taranto-Grottaglie in the south of Italy. The aircraft with a wingspan of 4 metres, a take-off mass of 167 kg, and a cruise speed of 100 knots, took off, completed a 10-minute flight, including an approach just over the runway, and landed successfully. Subsequent flights will aim to qualify the aircraft for measurement flights, during which dynamic manoeuvres will be executed. Through these efforts, we shall learn about the feasibility to harvest the benefits of DEP technology for large passenger aircraft.

“The scaled model flight in Italy was conducted by Royal NLR – Netherlands Aerospace Centre, with the aircraft being remotely controlled. The pilot commands the aircraft from a ground-based ‘cockpit’, aided by a tail-mounted camera providing visual feedback alongside instrument readings to guide navigation.

“The objective of the flight is to explore the potential of DEP technology for the application in large passenger aircraft using less energy in a flight. The scaled flight testing will focus on the dynamic aspects of the technology. Questions to be addressed include: Which control algorithms yield the most significant benefits? Can the aircraft be effectively controlled through differential thrust on the propulsors, and how does the aircraft respond dynamically to external stimuli? These inquiries will be thoroughly examined throughout the flight test campaign.

Within the European Programme Clean Sky 2, a collaborative effort involving industry, universities, and research centres aims to mature disruptive technologies that will enable significant reductions in energy consumption.”

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