In an interview during Helitech International 2018, Matheu Parr, Technical Project Manager at Rolls Royce, shared his insights on the eVTOL market, as one of the aerospace innovators leading the charge. Midway through 2018, the company announced plans to disrupt the rotorcraft market with a flexible aircraft platform for personal, commercial passenger and cargo applications.
Early stages of eVTOL
“Ideally suited for an intercity marketplace, this is a project that we do not want to do alone, we want to create this in collaboration with the market. There are a lot of players here, but at this stage in the market it just presents more opportunity for collaboration.”
There are already approximately 120 companies procuring eVTOL designs according to Rolls Royce, but there are seemingly very few companies with the certification experience necessary to bring these projects to market. Rolls Royce brings an essential skill-set to this market, which is the delivery of full propulsion systems and they will use these insights to take the Model 250 gas turbine – with over 200 million hours of operations – and apply the latest electrical technology available. The M250 hybrid programme is currently in development in Indianapolis, with flight testing expected to begin in 2020.
Its Corporate Social Responsibility coupled with market growth
“Sustainability has been a corporate priority for Rolls Royce for many years. We are very excited about the step change we can bring with some of the new technologies we are working on.”
Climate change and the environmental impacts of the rotorcraft industry are as prolific as ever, as we saw at Helitech International, from sessions covering the future of hybrid and electric technologies, and the planning for climate change conferences. But the work Rolls Royce is doing isn’t just to win the race to rotorcraft electrification, it’s about moving the aviation sector, as a whole, towards a cleaner place and reducing the environmental footprint.
“If you look at the benefits we see from an eVTOL aircraft, as opposed to a traditional light helicopter, we are going to see higher speeds, noise reductions and reduced vibration profiles. Electrification is lowering the operating costs and it is environmentally cleaner. The technology we are developing is the same R&D that will begin to proliferate commercial and civil jets”
Aviation authorities across the world will be watching closely and engaging regularly, as this market continues to develop and reach fruition. The rotorcraft industry is a developed one, with authorities and industry working together. Disruptive technologies like this mean that this cooperation will continue more so than ever, as they take this journey together. But what about technological progress?
“There is an evolutionary hybridisation to this process, and Rolls Royce must continue to look at replacing mechanical and hydraulic sub-systems with electric ones to progress to the next stages of eVTOL.”
So, for Rolls Royce, and any other key player, the next steps will be truly integrating electronic sub-systems into traditional rotorcraft technologies. But as more and more non-traditional aerospace companies invest in the market – such as Google and Uber – Rolls Royce recognise the industry will discover technologies and practices that create unique eVTOL solutions.