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Enhanced Diesel Engine Control

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Electric control units for more efficient diesel jet engines

The United States (US) has been dominating the diesel jet market ever since the aftermath of World War II. But a project led by UNIS could turn the tables thanks to a new generation of electronic control unit.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

Diesel engines have several advantages over their gasoline-based counterparts. They are relatively simple to build, cost-efficient and don’t require much maintenance. In the US, diesel-powered planes transporting up to six passengers have been in high demand for decades – providing American manufacturers with a long-standing competitive edge over their European competitors. “The Second World War has allowed American aircraft engine producers to thrive. Engineers producing big engines moved on to other segments after the war, and that of small, robust diesel engines was very successful in local markets. The main reason for such high demand was the rather large distances between isolated populations, along with an increase in US customers’ purchasing power,” explains Mr Jiří Liba, Project Manager at UNIS. “This competitive advantage has been maintained ever since, despite economic acceleration in Europe.” UNIS has been focusing on the development of a modern electronic control unit for lightweight and efficient jet-fuel reciprocating engines, with EU support under the EDEC project. In light of its specifications, efficient could even sound like an understatement. UNIS promises a 50 to 65 % reduction in fuel burn compared to small turbine engines, and 30 % compared to aviation gasoline (avgas) engines. This comes with substantial reductions in operating costs, environmental impact and noise thanks to a lower speed of rotation. The development of the unit is ongoing and should be completed in September 2019. “We are taking a systematic approach to be compliant with ARP4954A and ARP4761 recommendations. Meanwhile, software development will be carried out in compliance with the DO-178C certification for airborne systems and equipment,” says Mr Istvan Szabo, Director of UNIS’ division of aerospace and advanced control. So far, the project team has successfully developed its prototypes for both three and six-cylinder diesel engines. Preliminary and critical design reviews (PDR and CDR) have already been passed successfully. Prototypes are in the phase of preparation for functional tests (HIL testing) and for selected tests according to the standard DO-160G. Testing cases and procedures are being finalised and the required hardware and software are under construction. Detailed project results have yet to be unveiled, along with feedback from potential customers. As for the commercial phase, future plans still highly depend on motor producer Safran and the outcomes of its marketing research. As Szabo points out: “We are talking about a significant investment in the process of re-certification.” “The EDEC project opens a way for us to become a reliable partner and supplier of major players in the aviation market,” Szabo adds. “Of course, the most important expected outcome is the product itself: thanks to its modularity, it can control four and six-cylinder engines. We have also obtained a lot of experience in the field of diesel engine control.”


EDEC, aircraft, diesel engine, prototype, electronic control unit, fuel consumption

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