Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


WATTsUP Report Summary

Project ID: 683959

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WATTsUP (WATTsUP Electric flight to future)

Reporting period: 2015-08-01 to 2016-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The aim of WATTsUP project is to industrialize and commercialize proof-of-concept WATTsUP prototype 2-seat electric trainer, first of its kind and characteristics in a LSA class world market (LSA - Light-Sport Aircraft, is the newest category of aircraft that has been rapidly taking on the conservative General Aviation world of light aircraft since their introduction 10 years ago).

Final product of WATTsUP Project will be market and production-ready electric trainer - the aircraft will feature for the first time in aviation history an easy to fly and operate electric trainer. In the project the aircraft systems will be developed to reach the robustness required in the intensive training use including novel Battery Management Systems for aviation propulsion and novel Human-Machine-Interface. The research and development work on electric propulsion will be complemented by the documentation and training information system (interactive training system + flight school management system).

Electric aviation will have in the next decade a massive impact on how we live and travel, because it is clean, scalable and quiet propulsion. Developed and matured on small electric aircraft, electric aviation will evolve to larger aircraft to reduce emission of air travel, but also power new transportation means: personal air vehicles. Before 2035 we envision small, autonomous electric aircraft, capable of vertical take-off and landing that will add a new, cleaner and faster, dimension to today's commuting needs. The electric propulsion system for this future will be developed, tested and improved on small electric aircraft like WATTsUP.

With air travel increasing 4% every year, the demand for professional pilots is going to explode in the next decades. WATTsUP project objective is to address this market, by developing, maturing and bringing to market an electric aircraft aimed to cut down the costs ab initio training on flight schools, but also a fun-to-fly, clean and quite airplane for private pilots.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project activities revolved around the development of electric propulsion components and their interactions with the airframe. Starting with cell chemistry selection to optimize power needs, available volume and weight constraints, new batteries have been developed, including a novel battery management system. Power flow among components is controlled using the newly power control unit, which transfers power from the batteries to the motor power controller (i.e. inverters) or controls battery charging via on-ground battery charger or the recuperation function. The power control unit exchanges data inputs/outputs with all component control boards to monitor their status, but also with the Human-Machine-Interface under development. Electric aircraft represent, in fact, a novelty for the aviation community - the control and monitoring means for this innovative powertrain are pioneered by Pipistrel in this project. Thermal control of the electric components have been approached with new system control algorithms, but also with the redesign of the inlets on the fuselage under development which is being re-engineered to house batteries, the green powertrain and to simplify the too complex production process of the initial prototype. Collateral to the development work on systems and composites, research on customer expectations, opinion makers and exhibition activities have been conducted to create awareness of the benefits of electric flight in the target stakeholders.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Several small electric aircraft are currently under development in the world, due to the increased availability of lightweight powerful motors and inverters, but their development is focused on technological advances which lead these aircraft to be more suitable for test pilots rather than for aviation enthusiasts, willing to earn their flying license. The project WATTsUP is leading the electric aviation development by approaching electric flying in a ecosystem approach: not only the aircraft systems are matured to create an easy-to-operate and fun-to-fly aircraft suitable for any pilot, but also the charge management, the maintenance and flight training are addressed. The visible, near-term, impact of electric aviation to the society will be the reduction of environmental impact of light aircraft, but also an increased acceptance of flight activities in the airport neighborhood due to the zero emission and quiet flying.

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