GE’s Avio Aero awarded €34m to fund AMBER demonstrator
Avio Aero has been awarded approximately €34m over four years by the European Commission’s Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking to fund its AMBER demonstrator aircraft.
The Italian company, part of GE Aerospace, plans to mature and integrate technologies necessary for a megawatt (MW)-class hybrid-electric propulsion system powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The AMBER demonstrator will study integration of hybrid electric components — including a motor or generator, power converters, and power transmission systems — with fuel cells for rig testing in the mid-2020s using Avio Aero’s advanced Catalyst turboprop engine.
Giorgio Abrate, vice president of engineering, Avio Aero, said: “As this shows, we’re looking to design, develop, and test breakthrough technologies to shape the future of more sustainable flight in Europe and we appreciate the collaboration with Clean Aviation to make this demonstrator possible. The recognition and awarding of our AMBER proposal by Clean Aviation confirms its strategic and technological value to support European Union ambitions to reach net-zero CO2 emissions from flight by 2050.”
The hybrid electric technologies Avio Aero and its parent, GE, are developing are also compatible with alternative fuels like SAF and with advanced engine architectures such as open fan.
Axel Krein, executive director, Clean Aviation, said: “Our primary ambition is to drive a step-change in aircraft performance by radically boosting efficiency in aircraft and fleet performance. For regional aircraft, our goal is an improvement of at least 50% compared to a typical flight today. The AMBER project, as one of our 20 daring new projects now underway, will play a key role in helping us to deliver this ambitious target.”
The Avio Aero-led consortium consists of a total 21 members from Europe who will contribute to research of the engine, propeller, and electric powertrain systems. Consortium members include Avio’s European network of universities and R&D centres, other GE Aerospace sites in Europe, including the Czech Republic, Germany and the UK.
H2FLY, a German-based firm developing hydrogen-electric power systems for aircraft, supplies the MW-class fuel cell system, along with the corresponding architecture, interfaces, and fuel cell controls. H2FLY will also be responsible for the build-up of the MW fuel cell system as part of the powertrain testing.
Professor Dr. Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO of H2FLY, said: “The development of a megawatt-class hybrid-electric propulsion system for aviation marks an important step towards the realisation of emission-free passenger aviation. We look forward to contributing to this development and sharing our expertise as a global technology leader in the field of hydrogen-electric aviation.”
Another key partner on the AMBER demonstrator is Leonardo, the firm will provide guidance on integrating the configuration of the hybrid electric propulsion system.
AMBER is one of a number of Clean Aviation projects associated with Avio Aero to be awarded funding. For example, another project, HYDEA, again coordinated by Avio Aero, will develop a hydrogen combustion engine for flight tests in collaboration with Safran Aircraft Engines and Airbus.
Clean Aviation consortium members – At a glance
- General Electric Deutschland Holding GmbH
- GE Aviation Czech s.r.o.
- General Electric Company Polska sp. z o.o.
- GE Marmara Technology Center MUH. HIZ. LTD.STI.
- H2FLY GmbH
- Leonardo S.p.A.
- Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali (CIRA)
- Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR)
- Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.
- Vyzkumny A Zkusebni Letecky Ustav, A.S. (ZVLU)
- Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU)
- Politecnico di Bari
- Politecnico di Torino
- Università di Pisa
- Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation (WIA)
- AM Testing srl
- Dream Innovation srl
- Ergon Research srl
- NTI Engineering srl
- GE Aviation System Limited