A Catalyst for change: XTI partners with GE

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XTI has partnered with GE Aviation to develop a hybrid-electric propulsion system to power the XTI TriFan 600 eVTOL – with GE’s new Catalyst turboprop engine at the core.

The GE Catalyst engine is the first clean-sheet turboprop engine to be developed for the general aviation market in more than 30 years. GE expects the engine to be certified in 2020.

Bob LaBelle, CEO of XTI Aircraft said: “We are excited to announce selection of the GE Catalyst engine for the core of our propulsion system because it provides the level of power required even at the significant altitudes the TriFan will fly. Our recent work with GE Aviation has convinced us they are the best partner to develop the core of our hybrid-electric propulsion system.”

The engine was first revealed at the National Business Aviation Association convention in 2015 and GE has committed around $500 million in development costs to the project.

Whilst other eVTOL manufacturers are looking towards short range flights across cities, XTI has its eyes set on intercity travel, with a range of 670nm with vertical take-off and a max altitude of 29,000 feet.

So far, XTI has completed 21 test flights of its 65% scale prototype, testing various take-off and landing manoeuvres as well as the aircraft’s autonomous functions and ground-control systems. The company has already netted 80 reservations for the

When asked what is next on the cards for XTI following the partnership, Bob LaBelle told Helicopter Investor:

“We plan to work with GE to refine the aircraft design and the architecture and propulsion system. With the engine chosen, we are now looking at what size battery pack we need to supplement it and our generator configuration, whether to stick with our current approach of using three generators driven by the engine or just one.

“Finally, we hope to test the scale model aircraft in an untethered flight at high altitude by the end of August.”

Many of GE’s contemporaries in the propulsion space have partnered with emerging eVTOL manufacturers to research and develop eVTOL propulsion systems, with GE itself having partnered with Jetoptera on its unique fluid-propulsion system in February.

GE Aviation turboprops general manager Paul Corkery said: “XTI has been seeking out the best hybrid propulsion solution for the TriFan 600 and we believe the Catalyst is the right choice. GE believes that parallel and series hybrid propulsion systems, those that include a turbine gas generator to take advantage of the energy density of jet fuel, will lead to much more capable aircraft for both traditional and emerging markets for many years to come.

“The Catalyst is a new, clean-sheet design that will greatly reduce fuel consumption, enabling longer in-flight missions and increased payload compared to other alternatives in this class.”