Developing Aircraft Power Systems of the Future

Over the past decade, the aircraft industry has converged on a shared vision for the future of aircraft power systems. This vision represents a dramatic shift away from various types of power found in traditional aircraft and offers a wide range of benefits for tomorrow’s commercial and military aircraft.

The non-propulsive power systems in traditional aircraft are typically driven by a combination of different secondary power types including: hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical and mechanical power [1-6].  All power is extracted from the aircraft engines.  Hydraulic power is provided using hydraulic pumps driven by mechanical rotation sourced from the engine gearbox and is distributed to power various aircraft systems including flight control actuators, aircraft braking, landing gear extension/retraction, and door closure.  Pneumatic power is extracted from the engine, using software controlled bleed valves, and is used to power the aircraft Environmental Control System (ECS) and wing anti-icing.  Mechanical power from the engine gearbox also drives lubrication and fuel pumps.  While electrical power contributes to the capability of nearly every aircraft system in modern aircraft that make increasing use of airborne software controlled electronic systems.

The market demand for more energy efficient aircraft is driven by many stakeholders including airline operators, legislators, and public opinion.  In the meantime, power electronics technology has made tremendous breakthroughs over the past decade in areas including electromechanical actuators (EMA), electro-hydrostatic actuators (EHA), fault-tolerant electric motor/generators, and power converters.  This forward-leap of technology creates a viable path, fueled by economic gain, for replacing many and potentially all of the hydraulic, pneumatic, a mechanically powered non-propulsive systems with electrically powered systems [1-25] to design a More Electric Aircraft (MEA).

More Electric Aircraft Power Systems (MEAPS) Facility in PDF (1.7MB)