British aerospace start-up Faradair has revealed its intention to certify its revolutionary 18 seat, hybrid electric 'BEHA' aircraft (Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft) by 2025 for passenger operations. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Manned Electric Aircraft 2018-2028.
Designated the BEHA_M1H, this hybrid powered aircraft utilises a design patented 'Triple Box-wing' high-lift configuration, delivering Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability requiring less than 300 meters of runway. With twin contra-rotating 'propfans' within a vectored thrust, acoustic reduction duct that improves efficiency and reduces noise to a target of just 60dba at take-off.
After four years of development, both simulated and scale model testing, the design has evolved into a utilitarian configuration, capable of carrying 18 passengers or three LD3 cargo containers, with an internal payload capability of five tonnes.
The aircraft will be able to change configuration in 15 minutes from cargo to passenger and vice versa and the company is already in discussion with potential civilian and non-civilian customers for this class leading capability. London to Manchester could be flown in just 42 minutes at a cruise speed of 230mph (HS2 would take 1hour and 8 minutes by comparison).
As one of the earliest hybrid electric aerospace start-up's founded in 2014, UK based Faradair has had to survive on angel investment funding and partner input in order to develop its new aircraft design. The UK aerospace innovation funding environment is geared toward the major Tier1 aerospace primes, with just 4% of Government aerospace innovation funding going to SME's in recent years. Whilst there is a boom of interest in Urban Air Mobility and E-VTOL aircraft globally, there is very little UK based VC or Private Equity interest in young aerospace programmes, despite the significant revenue opportunities.
Unlike many E-VTOL projects currently proposed, the Faradair BEHA is a traditional aircraft, certifiable to existing Part23 standards, able to operate from existing airfields but more importantly, able to operate from runways of 300m or less of any surface and be able to integrate within existing air networks.
Its hybrid propulsion system combing electric motors with a Turboprop engine will result in lower operating costs, lower emissions and increased safety redundancy. The aircraft will use existing battery technology for emergency power and ground operations.
Last year Faradair secured the support of the All Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation with 172 MP members lead by Grant Shapps MP and the support of the Chairman of the Defence Committee Dr Julian Lewis MP, who in his letter of support noted "We should not undervalue the ability of smaller companies, like this one, to rapidly innovate new products and this project strikes me as hugely flexible and adaptable for a wide range of tasks" he continued "I would certainly encourage colleagues within Government and the public sector, along with suitable industry partners, to support Faradair® in its quest to deliver the first flying prototypes of this highly versatile system."
Grant Shapps MP said this of the programme "The company vision for a British built aircraft that is able to deliver a range of roles both in civilian and non-civilian configuration is fascinating. The prospect of hybrid-electric flight and the ability for people throughout the UK and around the world to fly regionally as simply as taking a bus, is a future that opens up so much regional growth benefit opportunity" he continued "Most importantly, Faradair reminds us of our history in aerospace innovation and how we may rebuild aircraft manufacturing facilities from General Aviation airfields currently under threat of closure. I genuinely believe the Faradair BEHA is an exciting opportunity for the UK, both in civilian and non-civilian configuration and I hope we will see the this new British Aerospace manufacturer grow, develop and create jobs with the appropriate backing and funding to prove that the UK can continue to design and build world class, whole aircraft systems."
It is an exciting time for the UK based Start-up, despite the uncertainties and challenges of Brexit. The company has managed to maintain its programme development with relatively low budget versus its International competitors, but this has not stopped it from advising the UK Government on Future Flight policy nor held it back from winning three business awards and International pitching events. The company has spoken at conferences around the world and been partly responsible for more focus and collaboration in the UK Urban Air Mobility sector.
Managing Director of Faradair Neil Cloughley says "We have always believed in the opportunity of hybrid propulsion to help reduce noise and operating costs in a specifically designed airframe optimised for regional flight capability, based on our management team's experience of the commercial aircraft market. The BEHA M1H variant, multi-role aircraft, will allow operators the ability to provide viable air transport services including; scheduled commuting flights, flight training and charter by day and the ability to use the quiet flight characteristics and payload capability for cargo operations at night. This opens market opportunities not served by existing aircraft, due to the lower noise signature and load capability. Our hybrid propulsion system mixes the proven capability of existing turboprop engines which could be run on biofuel if desired, with the fuel saving and increased safety opportunity of additional electric propulsion."
Faradair intends to offer a fully electric powered variant of the BEHA as battery technology evolves but in the meantime, hybrid propulsion offers an immediate progression into the 'more electric aircraft' environment, helping to reduce carbon footprint and noise, whilst delivering increased transport choice.
Source and images: Faradair
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