Cranfield receives £9 million electric aircraft grant




Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) has received a £9m grant from the UK Government to develop hybrid-electric propulsion systems for island-hopping flights.

The grant will fund the manufacturing and integration of hybrid-electric propulsion systems into a nine-seat Britten-Norman islander aircraft, used on short-haul flights. The initiative, called Project Fresson, is a proving ground for the viability of regional electric flight across the UK.

Providing the grant is Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy and Innovate UK through the ATI programme. The programme is a joint Government-industry investment to grow the UK’s position in civil aerospace design and manufacturing.

Mark Scully, head of technology for advanced systems and propulsion at the ATI, said: “Project Fresson brings together a great partnership to develop innovative technology for a sustainable all-electric air transport solution for isolated islands. The partners’ ultimate goal of delivering the first commercial passenger-carrying all-electric aircraft service in the UK will mark a significant breakthrough for all-electric propulsion.”

The CAeS Fresson Project is a collaborative effort from: Rolls-Royce, which will supply the power-management system; Denis Ferranti Group, which is supplying the electric motors; Delta Motorsport, the battery packs;  The University of Warwick (WMG), battery testing; and Britten-Norman, the aircraft OEM.

Paul Hutton CAeS CEO, said: “The results of this exciting electric aircraft demonstrator project can be rapidly developed into an EASA/CAA (European Aviation Safety Agency/Civil Aviation Authority) certified modification kit, enabling the UK to lead the way with the first passenger-carrying sub-regional aircraft capable of all-electric flight.

“The strength of the industrial partners involved in this project, are underpinned by the world-class aerospace/manufacturing research capabilities of Cranfield University. This is going to accelerate our green transport revolution.”

The next steps of the ATI Program will see CAeS design and fit a similar hybrid electric-propulsion system into a 19-seat sub-regional aircraft.