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For decades, futurists have been dreaming of “flying cars” that are easier and nimbler to operate than a helicopter and accessible to everyone. Today, many aerospace technologies are coming together helping numerous companies develop small passenger electric aircraft as soon as 2023. 

It’s no secret that Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is going to be a hotly contested market with legacy aircraft builders, nimble startups, and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) systems providers clarifying their vision of the future. This new market aims to transport passengers and cargo at lower altitudes through urban, suburban, and regional landscapes. Aircraft that will meet these needs will utilize more- or all-electric technologies. 


Vast possibilities, by any measure

 According to a 2020 Roland Berger study on Urban Air Mobility (UAM), a submarket of AAM, “the passenger UAM industry will generate revenues of almost $90 billion a year, with 160,000 commercial passenger drones plying the skies.” Further, Morgan Stanley Research projects that the UAM market could grow to $1.5 trillion by 2040. 

Even the most conservative forecasts indicate the AAM market has huge potential as evidenced by the hundreds of vehicles in development.


AAM is evolving toward reality

In early 2021, Air One, the world’s first airport for electric aircraft, was launched in Coventry, England by Urban Air Port, a subsidiary of sustainable tech company small (Six Miles Across London Limited) in partnership with Hyundai Motor Company, Coventry City Council, and the UK government. 

As technology evolves, infrastructure is built, and the regulatory/certification requirements established, AAM vehicles will take different forms:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles will be using on-board electrical generating equipment, such as hydrogen power plants or small gas turbines, to generate the electricity needed for propulsion as well as for other systems like flight controls, environmental controls, accessories, and electric braking. Hybrid aircraft may be tasked with shorter regional routes – as opposed to short-hop intra-urban routes – and could be fixed-wing types that take off and land traditionally, or those that takeoff and land vertically. Such hybrid vehicles, which have the potential of significantly reducing emissions, are bridging the gap between today’s conventionally powered aircraft and all-electric ones.
  • All-electric vehicles will primarily utilize rechargeable battery packs for flight energy. These aircraft will likely be of the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) type, using distributed electric propulsion systems where the propulsive motors are distributed around the vehicle in proximity to the rotors that provide lift, forward motion, and flight control.


MEA: a pathway to an all-electric future

More-electric aircraft (MEA), which have been in production for over a decade, utilize electric power for all non-propulsive systems. The trend toward more-electric aircraft has been driven by the desire for improvements in aircraft weight, fuel efficiency, emissions, life-cycle costs, maintainability, and reliability.  

Technology advancements in the areas of electric motors, motor controllers and inverters, electromechanical actuators (EMAs), and thermal management equipment are providing the building blocks that enable development of systems for more-electric aircraft.


Technologies for more-electric and all-electric aircraft

Parker Aerospace, via its dedicated AAM systems team, offers a broad range of products and systems expertise for present-day applications as well as future-state aircraft:

  • Cockpit controls – Parker Aerospace cockpit controls provide functional and ergonomic interfaces between pilots and aircraft fly-by-wire systems. Compact and lightweight, these solutions can be seamlessly integrated into cockpit designs, including sidestick or yoke-based cockpit layouts.  
     
  • Electro-mechanical actuators –These types of actuators are used for primary, secondary (flap/high lift/electronically synchronized), utility, stabilizer trim, and more. Of note is Parker’s development of patented jam-tolerant EMAs.  
     
  • Electric motors and controllers – Motor and controller technology is at the core of many Parker solutions for more-electric and all-electric aircraft. Parker is developing families of motors and controllers to reduce cost and development time, while also looking at the newer high-power market needs for motors and controllers/inverters. 
     
  • Electric braking development – Applying its broad and deep experience in hydraulic aircraft braking systems, Parker is developing advanced electric braking systems for next-generation hybrid and all-electric aircraft.
     
  • Integrated power management systems – These higher-voltage solid-state electric power distribution systems are required by the AAM market to address the higher-voltage power architectures noted below.  
     
  • High-voltage power architectures – AAM vehicle builders are looking for high-voltage system architectures on the order of 500, 700, and even 1,000 volts and higher. These types of systems enable electronic equipment OEMs to design products that are much smaller and lighter-weight than the systems currently in use on commercial aircraft.
     
  • Advanced thermal management solutions – Parker’s offering includes thermal management for electric motors and battery systems utilizing cooling pumps (ePumps), reservoirs, heat exchangers, valves, conveyance equipment, and more. This recent blog article explores the challenges and solutions available for eVTOL thermal management.

     
  • Vibration attenuation and motion control – Technologies that safely and securely attach the propulsion system and airframe equipment, while mitigating the effects of vibration, shock, and sound disturbances, providing longer equipment life and noise reduction. 

  

  • Localized hydraulic powerpack solutions – When electric power solutions may not yet be feasible – flight controls for larger aircraft, for example – hydraulic powerpacks offer a robust, compact, and lighter-weight answer. This blog article provides a deeper dive into the benefits of hydraulic powerpacks. 

Certification: where concepts meet reality

The AAM market is dynamic and changing rapidly. New ideas for platforms, infrastructure, and the technologies that make this exciting segment possible are surfacing daily.

Amid this excitement, these aircraft must be certified for their intended purpose, as do the systems and components that enable the platforms to execute their missions. Regulatory agencies such as the FAA and EASA are presently establishing the parameters under which AAM vehicles can be approved to fly.

Platform builders need to know that their partners have the engineering muscle and experience to not only design an innovative solution that meets requirements, but to also produce a solution that can be certified. This is where an experienced aerospace technology partner is crucial.

Over decades, Parker Aerospace has built thousands of certifiable components and systems for commercial and military aircraft. All Parker equipment is conceived and engineered to offer redundancy, safety, and reliability with the certification process in mind. Contributing to Parker’s track record of certification success is its state-of-the-art simulation capabilities, advanced test equipment, and thorough knowledge of global regulatory requirements.


Helping customers seize opportunity

As the market continues to ascend, Parker Aerospace and its AAM team are actively innovating to help customers take full advantage of these new and fast-changing opportunities. 

To learn more about how Parker Aerospace innovation is shaping the AAM market, email the team at airmobility@parker.com.

 

Making the world a better place is in our DNA  

As a trusted partner, Parker's team members work alongside customers to enable technology breakthroughs that change the world for the better. We help our customers and distribution partners meet the newest standards for safety or emissions, reduce power usage, improve efficiency, and move faster to optimize resources. Parker's Purpose is at the core of everything we do. Watch the introduction video with Parker's CEO Tom Williams.

 

 

This blog was contributed by Chris Frazer key account manager and UAM/eVTOL/AAM business development lead of Parker Aerospace

 

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Advanced Air Mobility Market Outlook Charged with Opportunity

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Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - conventional vs more electric aircraft - Parker AerospaceThe future of air travel is evolving beyond fossil fuels with hybrid electric and all-electric aircraft leading the way. The growing need for low emissions and carbon neutrality has created a new focus on more electric aircraft (MEA), as aircraft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) look to satisfy the growing needs of travelers while achieving the environmental goals being mandated around the world.

Power for all systems on conventional aircraft today is derived primarily from jet engines, fueled, of course, by fossil fuels. Engine gearbox-driven generators provide power for standard electrical equipment like avionics, lighting, and general cabin power. High-pressure engine bleed air is used to drive pneumatic systems such as cabin pressurization, anti-icing, and air conditioning. The engine gear box also drives hydraulic pumps for flight controls, landing gear, braking systems and door actuation as well as mechanical systems such as oil and fuel pumps. Parker Aerospace has a deep pedigree stretching back decades with sub-systems and components in conventional engines. 

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - conventional aircraft engine - Parker Aerospace


Moving towards more electric aircraft

The evolution to MEA changes the way these systems are implemented. Whether it’s a more electric aircraft with jet engines, a hybrid electric, or a fully electric aircraft, mechanically-driven pumps for hydraulics, pneumatics, oil, and fuel will be replaced with fully electric pumps and actuators for everything including flight surface controls, environmental systems, and braking. 

Initially, gas-powered engines will still drive the electric generators for these systems. Ultimately, gas turbine engines may be replaced entirely with fully electric motors and batteries. This migration will start small, with commuter transports and urban air mobility platforms first reaching the market.

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - More Electric Aircraft Engine - Parker Aerospace

Migration from hydraulic and pneumatic energy to electric energy requires improved power-handling capability and efficiency. System voltages for MEA will climb from 28VDC and 115VAC to upwards of 1,000VDC. This power will be delivered by a complex combination of generators and batteries and requires a highly advanced and flexible electrical distribution system capable of managing system needs.


Developing improved solutions for new demands

Along with the increase in demand and capacity, the potential for significant damage during short or overload conditions must be recognized. For example, a 270V Li-Ion battery can deliver more than 2,000 amps into a short in a matter of microseconds. The typical electrical interfaces on today’s aircraft consist of mechanical relays and contactors, which are not fast enough to prevent fault propagation, and may even fuse during a fault event. This drives a need for an effective solution for high voltage, high-power buses with enhanced capability.

To answer that call, Parker Aerospace’s Fluid Systems Division has been developing a modular solid-state power controller (SSPC) for use as a standalone unit that is an electronic replacement for a relay or contactor. As part of a larger electrical distribution system, multiple SSPCs can be configured into a solid-state electrical distribution unit (SSEDU). Think of an SSPC as an individual circuit breaker whereas the SSEDU would be the entire circuit breaker box containing multiple breakers. An SSEDU can be configured with two or more SSPCs, with each SSPC being an individually controlled channel.

Utilizing advanced silicon carbide technology, Parker’s SSPC design is a modular architecture that yields the potential to accommodate multiple platform applications without costly redesigns and qualifications. Some features include:

  • High-speed, high-efficiency, high-power density per channel.
  • High-speed fault mitigation and bus reconfiguration.
  • Programmable I2T fault protection.
  • Inrush current mitigation (for high capacitive input loads).
  • Low RDSon to maximize efficiency.
  • Bi-directional and bi-polar SSPC options.
  • Discrete input or communication bus control.
  • Support for ARINC 429, Mil-Std-1553, CAN bus & others. 


Multiplying the benefit from solid-state power controllers

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - First Generation SSPC - Parker AerospaceAn individual SSPC can be programmed and coordinated with other SSPCs to provide staggered power on/off configurations when used in a multi-channel configuration. Power sequencing, source and load isolation, power routing, and bi-directional flow for battery charge/discharge, can all be configured in the same SSEDU. Voltage, current, temperature and other performance and fault data is available for each SSPC.

The Parker Aerospace modular SSPC design provides benefits beyond the technical specifications. The initial concept was to provide the protection and control in a format that would allow scalability and flexibility in an electrical distribution system implementation. Taking advantage of the common SSPC design allows for:

  • Reduced application non-recurring engineering (NRE) and development time
  • Reduced platform certification cost and time.
  • Certification by similarity of sub-components across applications and platforms.
  • Reduced reliance on key components/suppliers.
  • Increased flexibility to integrate new technologies.
  • Ability to use the same part number across multiple applications.

Parker has completed testing of a first-generation, eight-channel SSEDU, with each channel configured for 270VDC and handling loads from 20 amps to 150 amps. The capability demonstrated included programmed and manual switch control, bolted short fault mitigation, startup and operational overcurrent protection, thermal efficiency with continuous loads, and bi-directional power flow on individual channels.

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - Second Generation SSPC - Parker AerospaceCurrent development on the second-generation SSPC will culminate with a two-channel unit in a more compact, thermally efficient, and lighter unit. This fully capable demonstrator will provide an example of how the Parker Aerospace SSPC and SSEDU can be utilized for multiple applications and configurations requiring the control, protection, and flexibility required to satisfy the needs of the new generation of more electric aircraft.

 

 

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft - Andrew Walsh - Parker AerospaceThis blog was contributed by electronics engineering manager Andrew Walsh from the Fluid Systems Division of Parker Aerospace.

 

 

 

 

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Follow Parker Aerospace on LinkedINFollow our Aerospace Technology page and learn more about Parker's products, technologies, and engineering solutions that are advancing the global aerospace fleet.


 

Solid-State Power Controller Empowers Future Aircraft

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Exotic Metals Aircraft Services Provides Support Across all Aerospace - EMFAS team member finishing a repair - Parker AerospaceWhen people think of the Exotic Metals Forming Division, a division of Parker Aerospace, most think of manufacturing new parts for commercial and military aircraft programs. Many don’t know what happens to new hardware once it leaves the factory and is installed on new aircraft. For the Exotic Metals Forming Aircraft Services (EMFAS) team members, this is where the story begins.


In an ideal world, components from aerospace manufacturers — like pneumatic ducts, auxiliary power unit mufflers, engine exhaust plugs, nozzles, and other sheet metal parts — would last the lifetime of an airplane. A myriad of things that happen during the daily operation of an aircraft can impact this goal. For example, a baggage cart bangs into the engine exhaust plug. A duct is inadvertently dented during an engine change. A bellows flex joint prematurely wears. Or a technician accidentally damages a part. That’s where aftermarket services are critical to get planes back in the air. And that is one of the reasons Parker Aerospace acquired Exotic Metals in 2019


Serving the world’s airline fleets

Exotic Metals Aircraft Services Provides Support Across all Aerospace - EMFAS team member removing rivets - Parker AerospaceAn idle aircraft is an expensive and complex reality for airlines trying to serve thousands of people. When such an event occurs, the EMFAS team delivers on its mission to serve airline customers and keep their fleet of aircrafts doing what they are designed to do: move people and goods as seamlessly and safely as possible.


Exotic Metals Aircraft Services Provides Support Across all Aerospace - weld repairs on a 737 nozzle - Parker AerospaceEMFAS team members work in a dynamic environment. Every day brings new adventures, issues, customers, and people. These technical experts find it rewarding to help customers solve problems, develop relationships, and work with people from nearly every continent.  

 


When are you likely to recommend?

Exotic Metals Aircraft Services Provides Support Across all Aerospace - Operator removing oxidation from an engine duct - Parker AerospaceMost service businesses are built on relationships. Customers consider a company only as good as its last order. EMFAS views itself as a service business rather than a company that manufactures a product. There are no long-term contracts and no ownership of the intellectual property on the parts they repair so they must perform at the highest level every time. 

How often have you gone to the same restaurant, had a good experience, and then the next time the service and food are terrible? One bad experience might keep you from ever going back. It works the same way with the aircraft services business. One bad experience can cost a customer’s business forever.

 
    
A pedigree of top performance

Exotic Metals Aircraft Services Provides Support Across all Aerospace - Duct midway through the repair process - Parker AerospaceSince 2002, the EMFAS team has had an excellent performance track record with customers. In the first year of operation, EMFAS had five customers; today it has more than 250. EMFAS is a successful team that supports partners internally and externally. With the full support of Parker, EMFAS is just getting started, and the brightest times are ahead.
 

 

 

Chris Capuano of Exotic Metals Forming Division Aircraft Services - Parker AerospaceThis blog was contributed by Chris Capuano of Exotic Metals Forming Division Aircraft Services.

 

 

 

 

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