Hybrid-electric propulsion pioneer Ampaire is to conduct flight demonstrations in the UK as part of the new Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations (2ZERO) program, which has received a £2.4 million ($3.3 million) grant as part of the £30 million funding from the British government for its Future Flight Challenge. Initially, Ampaire will demonstrate its six-seat Electric EEL aircraft (a converted Cessna 337 SkyMaster), and later it will add the 19-seat Eco Otter SX, which is based on the Twin Otter.
The 2ZERO consortium also includes several UK-based organizations, including Rolls-Royce Electrical, the University of Nottingham, regional airline Loganair, Exeter and Devon Airports, Cornwall Airport, the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership, and UK Power Network Services. The aim of the collaboration is to evaluate how new hybrid-electric aircraft can be integrated with existing airport and airline operations, with flight testing at Exeter and Newquay airports in the southwest of England. Some of the partners will also be contributing financially to the program.
Loganair pilots will be flying the Ampaire aircraft and their engineering teams will provide maintenance support. The company operates domestic flights across the UK.
Rolls-Royce Electrical will support the consortium in developing the electric propulsion unit and energy storage system for the Eco Otter demonstration flights planned for phase 3. The aero engines manufacturer, which has expanded its electric propulsion business since acquiring Siemens’s eAircraft division in 2019, will also support the development of the powertrain for the larger Eco Otter aircraft.
A team from the University of Nottingham will provide modeling and simulation support for 2ZERO, working closely with Loganair and the two airports involved in the project. They will assess the impact of the hybrid-electric flights on costs, operations, and crew rostering.
UK Power Network Services will support Exeter and Newquay airports with electrical infrastructure needs and assess requirements for a possible scaling up of hybrid-electric flights. The Heart of the South-West Local Enterprise Partnership is giving the 2ZERO access to support through its existing iAero “smart aviation cluster.”
The Future Flight Challenge grant comes from the UK Research and Innovation program, which is part of the wider Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The 2ZERO program is due to run through May 2022.
Ampaire has already tested the Electric EEL aircraft in Hawaii with local regional carrier Mokulele Airlines. In February, Surf Air Mobility acquired the start-up in a deal worth over $100 million.