EcoPulse demonstrator passes wind tunnel tests in UK

The EcoPulse distributed propulsion hybrid aircraft demonstrator – a project involving Airbus, Daher and Safran, and supported by France’s Civil Aviation Research Council (CORAC) and French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) – has successfully completed wind tunnel testing at the Airbus UK Filton facility.

The observations and data collected during the wind tunnel tests will allow Airbus and its partners to better estimate the power consumption of the propulsion system, and consequently the final energy performance of the aircraft demonstrator.

Tim Axford, Head of Airbus Wind Tunnel facility, Airbus UK, noted: “The EcoPulse wind tunnel tests allowed us to evaluate the performance characteristics of the propeller and the cooling process of the electric engine.

“To achieve this, we assembled the engine provided by Safran, the Airbus nacelle and the propeller provided by DUC Hélices that will be installed on the actual demonstrator aircraft, in the wind tunnel.

“We then used large powerful fans to blow air (at differing speeds) over and around the model. By doing this we were able to take actual measurements and capture real-time data,” said Axford.

Matthieu Scherrer, Airbus EcoPulse project leader, said: “The precise figures of the propeller performance will be taken into account for the creation of the Airbus Flight Control Computer software, one of the next steps.”

Airbus, Daher and Safran will now seek to achieve the Critical Design Review, which will allow production of the EcoPulse demonstrator, ahead of ground testing in early 2022 and the first test flight by summer 2022.

Distributed propulsion systems consist of breaking down thrust generation into many small engines spread out along the span of the wing.

Tailoring the power distribution configuration in this way  could benefit cruise, as well as take-off and landing performance but also noise emissions.

The use of distributed engine thrust may also redefine aircraft flight control concepts.

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