New Propulsion System From Kite, Air-Cooled
An electric propulsion unit (EPU) of 120 kilowatts has been introduced by Kite Magnetics of Australia. Electric aviation applications include conventional fixed-wing aircraft, eVTOL and eSTOL craft, satellites at high altitude, and wings in the ground. As part of its plan to build operational data over the next year, the company plans to announce its first flight test partner in March.
Kite unveiled its KM-120 air-cooled motor at this week's Avalon Air Show near its Melbourne headquarters. The motor is more powerful than a small car, but weighs only about a suitcase. A team at Monash University developed the company's patented Aeroperm lightweight magnetic material to achieve this performance five months ago, which has been patented. Investible and Breakthrough Victoria provided seed funding of A$1.85 million ($1.2 million).
Richard Parsons, Kite's founder and CEO, says the KM-120 will demonstrate compliance with airworthiness standards for light sport aircraft. Also, in order to access the U.S. and European markets, the aircraft will seek type certification under Part 23 general aviation regulations, first with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, then with the FAA and EASA.
“The KM-120 is designed to work well with both purpose-built clean-sheet aircraft and existing aircraft that are being retrofitted, irrespective of their power source—i.e., batteries of fuel cells,” Parsons told Rich Report. “The mounting points for our electric motors are very similar to what you would find on an existing aircraft combustion engine and our motor will also work with most off-the-shelf propellers. Our goal is to have an electric motor that is as easy to integrate as any existing combustion engine on the market today.”
A new EPU is already being ordered by Kite, which is available as a stand-alone motor that customers can install with their own hardware, or as part of a complete powertrain that includes propellers, matched inverters, and a display on the flight deck. It is possible to purchase propellers that are electrically actuated or not.
NANOCRYSTALS ARE KEY TO GREATER ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Amorphous metal matrix surrounds nanocrystalline crystals in Aeroperm, a nanocrystalline magnetic soft material. Kite's team claims that it will lose energy ten times slower than existing magnetic materials used in current electrical devices.
“With our Aeroperm magnetic materials technology, we can reduce the energy wasted in part of an electric motor by more than 10 times,” explained Parsons. “This means we can use air cooling even at very high power levels. This makes our motors simpler, more reliable, and extremely lightweight.”
In the long term, Kite plans to scale up the technology to develop and certify an electric propulsion unit capable of replacing turboprop engines on aircraft such as the Cessna Grand Caravan. The Aeroperm technology can also be integrated with larger propulsion systems using hydrogen fuel cells for regional aircraft.
Safran and Rolls-Royce , which already offer electric propulsion technology, compete with the Australian start-up in the burgeoning market for electric propulsion in aviation. In addition to Textron's eAviation business unit, Slovenia's Pipistrel is a pioneer in electric aircraft development.