Engineers at the high-power, high-voltage lab, called The Grid, will design and test systems such as high-power generators for the next generation of more electric aircraft, including commercial, military, business aviation, UAV and urban air mobility platforms.
The $50 million investment in the lab is part of a larger $150 million total investment Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies, expects to make in electric systems over the next 3 years and builds on the $3bn it has already spent on developing electric architectures over the past decade. Work on the 25,000-square-foot lab is already underway in Rockford, Illinois and the company expects the lab to be complete and fully operational by 2021.
"Collins is the innovation leader in electric systems, and The Grid positions us to remain the world leader in the electrification of aircraft for decades to come," said Kelly Ortberg, CEO of Collins Aerospace. "In the not-too-distant future, hybrid-electric and fully electric aircraft will revolutionize air travel as we know it—opening up new markets like urban air mobility, while re-invigorating others like regional service to underutilized airports. They will help support a greener planet by reducing carbon emissions, and will help our airline customers by reducing operating costs and fuel consumption."
Among the first platforms to be supported by The Grid will be the United Technologies hybrid-electric flight demonstrator, Project 804. The goal of Project 804, developed by the company's advanced products group, is to re-engine and fly a regional turboprop aircraft powered by a 2 megawatt-class hybrid-electric propulsion system on a highly aggressive timeline. The advanced projects group combines the engineering expertise and experience of Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney and UTC's research centre.
Collins Aerospace will use The Grid to help design and test a 1MW motor, motor controller and battery system in support of this goal. The 1MW motor will be the aerospace industry's most power dense and efficient to date, and the motor and motor controller will be used to assist the demonstrator's fuel-burning engine as part of