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Zunum Aero, Safran Helicopter Engines join forces
Zunum hybrid-electric aircraft concept. © Zunum Aero

Zunum Aero, Safran Helicopter Engines join forces

Zunum Aero has selected Safran Helicopter Engines for its ZA10 hybrid electric aircraft, which is targeted to be available in the early 2020s.

Zunum Aero — the Boeing-backed company seeking to develop a 12-seat hybrid electric regional transport aircraft — has selected Safran Helicopter Engines for the aircraft, designated ZA10, which is targeted to be available in the early 2020s.

The ZA10 will feature dual power sources: batteries, and a Safran Ardiden 3Z turboshaft engine. The Ardiden 3Z will be used as a hybrid power source. It will be coupled with an electric generator, and the integrated turbo-generator will deliver 500kW of electric power to supplement the battery packs on key stages of flight and over long ranges.

Zunum says its concept will deliver breakthrough operating costs of 8 cents per available seat mile or $250 per hour for the aircraft, which would be 60-80% lower than comparable conventional aircraft of comparable size. The ZA10 aircraft is designed to cruise and land on turbo-generator power alone, offering full redundancy.

Near-term milestones include ground and flight testing scheduled for 2019, as well delivery of the ZA10 aircraft targeted for the early 2020s.

Zunum has selected a Rockwell Turbo Commander 840 to modify for the flying testbed aircraft, citing its similar weight and performance to the ZA10, as well as excellent single-engine capability.

In preparation for flight in 2019, Zunum Aero conducted ground tests of the hybrid-electric power system at Chicago-area facilities earlier this year. Through Q4 2018 and early 2019, the power system will continue to be upgraded and tested in stages to advance it for flight. Meanwhile, the Ardiden 3Z engine will undergo ground tests in France and the U.S., ahead of integration with the flying testbed in 2019.

Zunum is currently working to transform the test aircraft, which is due to fly in the second half of 2019, leading to full hybrid-to-electric conversion with the Safran engine. The flying testbed will continue to be upgraded with successive prototypes until start of certification in 2020-21.

Safran tested its own distributed hybrid eletric propulsion system in July. This initial test generated 100kW of electrical power; future tests will feature a 500kW system.

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