The world needs sustainable air travel, but for some time the solutions have been just out of reach. However, a new initiative from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) aims to provide some concrete solutions within four years. This year, 45 scientists from 20 DLR institutes started working on the EXACT project (Exploration of Electric Aircraft Concepts and Technologies) to develop not only the technology for climate-friendly air transport, but the infrastructure systems to make it happen.
The focus is on developing novel propulsion system concepts for short-haul aircraft that harness hydrogen fuel cell technology and batteries. The overall objective is to significantly reduce emissions and noise pollution in aircraft with a range of 2,000 kilometres and at least 70 seats, and to ensure they are economically viable to operate. No mean feat.
"In examining whether a new aircraft can be powered by hydrogen, fuel cells or batteries, we will be taking a whole-system approach to examining the impact of this on the ecosystem and the air transport system as a whole – in other words, airports, airlines, air traffic control and the atmosphere”, comments Kai Wicke from the DLR Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (which is tasked with looking at the operational and environmental impact side of the project) on.
Over the next four years, aircraft engineers, electrical technologists and atmospheric researchers from 20 different institutes will collaborate to develop a holistic concept for upgrading air transport to a climate-friendly model. The technology won’t be ready for deployment in short-haul commercial aircraft until 2040, however.
In the meantime, the knowledge gained from EXACT will be used to evaluate how hybrid sustainable energy concepts could be used in larger classes of aircraft by being applied to simulation models.