ⓘ Project Fresson
Project Fresson is the development by Cranfield Aerospace of an electric propulsion system for the over 700 BN-2 Islanders currently operated, supported by Britten-Norman.
It is proposed for Scottish airline Loganair which operate the few minutes long flights to the Orkney Islands six airfields, including the worlds shortest, the Westray to Papa Westray flight scheduled for 1.5 min. The Orkney already have wind turbines and Kirkwall Harbour ships are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Less noisy, the kit could be modified for similar-size aircraft and could be used for parachuting depending on the charging speed.
Approved by the EASA, Cranfield built the X-48 blended wing body scale-model for NASA, and works with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to develop the hybrid E-Fan X converted BAe 146 demonstrator. Cranfield wants to develop a STC with off-the-shelf parts: current batteries would give it a 30 min endurance, sufficient for most island flights, and more with a range extender. By avoiding Avgas and with the lower maintenance of the simpler system, operators could attain a return on investment in 2–3 years with additional investment for charging infrastructure. To back the development, Cranfield applied for UK government grants through the Aerospace Technology Institute and UK Research and Innovation, and approached private enterprises. If funded for £10 million, a prototype could fly in 2021, and the kit could be available in 2022-23.
Led by Cranfield Aerospace Solutions CAeS, Project Fresson named after Scottish pioneer aviator Ted Fresson started on 1 October 2019, to fly a demonstrator within 30 months before an EASA STC within another 6-12 months. Partners include Britten-Norman, Rolls-Royce plc for the power management system, Denis Ferranti for the electric motors, Delta Motorsport for the battery pack, and Warwick Manufacturing Group for battery testing. It targets a 60 min endurance plus 30 min reserves and with energy five times cheaper than Avgas and reduced maintenance, the conversion cost could be recovered in three years. Half of the £18 million $22 million funding come from the partners and the other half from the UK government. Of 800 Islanders in service, around 600 are used for short flights. After that, CAeS wants to convert an existing 19-seat airliner to hybrid-electric propulsion, then use this EASA-certified power train in a new-design 19-seat.
Rolls-Royce may evolve the design into a series hybrid with a M250 turboshaft instead of the twin piston engines, before powering 19-seat commuter airliner. By November 2019, first flight was scheduled for April 2022.
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