European aerospace OEMs like Airbus, Dassault, Pipistrel, Rolls-Royce, and Safran can continue or start their research and development programs of disruptive technology for new commercial aircraft. Fourteen projects have been granted a combined €735 million for Phase I under the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking project on innovative solutions. Clean Aviation awards first funding for new research projects.
Clean Aviation is the successor of two CleanSky programs and was officially launched on December 1, 2021. After a kick-off event in March, a call for proposals closed in June for Phase I, which runs until 2025. Phase II covers 2025 through 2030. The European Commission contributed €1.7 billion to Clean Aviation, with another €2.4 billion coming from industrial partners and research agencies, and universities.
The fourteen projects that have been selected will get a final review before they will receive a grant, which is targeted before the end of the year. Fourteen isn’t just a random number. It corresponds with the number of so-called technology bricks that according to Clean Aviation need further research before the technology is mature enough for the launch of an aircraft or engine project. The fourteen projects are part of four bigger programs: hybrid-electric powered aircraft, hydrogen-powered aircraft, ultra-efficient short- and medium-range aircraft, and so-called transversal areas.
The hybrid-electric powered aircraft program includes five sub-programs. Airbus Defense and Space is participating in the Herwingt project for an innovative wing design. The airframer is working on various wing projects, including the Wing of Tomorrow. Rolls-Royce and GE Avio are researching a multi-megawatt hybrid-electric propulsion system. Rolls-Royce’s project is called HE-ART and is studying technologies for an optimized hybrid propulsion system for future regional aircraft. It includes a ground demonstrator of a hybrid-electric thermal turboprop. The Derby-based company is collaborating with partners in ten European countries.
Honeywell International has a project called TheMa4HERA, which focuses on thermal management, while Collins Aerospace is looking at electrical distribution solutions in the HECATE project. Thermal management and electrical distribution both need thorough research as hybrid-electric aircraft behave differently at higher altitudes, as GE Aviation’s Mohamed Ali explained during the Farnborough Airshow.
There are six sub-projects for hydrogen-powered aircraft, all looking at propulsion technologies. Again, Rolls-Royce and GE Avio work together, this time on the research of direct combustion of hydrogen in engines. The Rolls-Royce project is called Cavendish but includes academic, research, and industrial partners from Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Cavendish will integrate liquid hydrogen systems onto a modern donor engine for ground testing, but also explore a dual fuel combustor system, and a cryo-compressed tank system and define requirements and activities for flight demonstration, Rolls says. Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini said earlier this week that Rolls-Royce is getting close to starting ground tests with hydrogen on an AE-2100 engine. Rolls is putting its full weight behind hydrogen, having identified to pros and cons of the technology.
Honeywell’s Newborn project looks at a multi-megawatt fuel cell system, while Aciturri Engineering’s H2ELIOS is focused on large-scale, lightweight storage tanks for hydrogen.
Pipistrel, the small airplane maker known for its electric two-seaters, is also joining the hydrogen research project and will look at near-term disruptive technologies.
Ultra-efficient short- and medium-range aircraft
This program includes five sub-projects, two from Airbus. UP Wing looks at an ultra-performance wing, while Faster-H2 is dedicated to researching an advanced, low-weight, integrated wing and empennage. Rolls-Royce, Safran, and MTU Aero Engines all have programs on ultra-efficient propulsion systems.
The Rolls-Royce HEAVEN project again is done by a consortium of key academic, research, and industrial partners in five European countries. It uses the UltraFan architecture and technologies as a platform for hydrogen and hybrid-electric engine technology. Safran participates with the Ofelia project and MTU with SWITCH.
Under the so-called transversal areas are five projects, of which two (Airbus SMR ACAP and Leonardo’s HERA) will investigate aircraft concepts that should reduce emissions by thirty to fifty percent. Dassault’s Concerto is focused on certification and means of compliance with all these new disruptive technologies. Aerospace Valley will look at the European Clean Aviation Regional Ecosystem.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.