With the upcoming shortage in fossil fuels, the air transport sector is looking for alternative propulsion methods. One of these alternatives is electrification. Over the past decades we have seen the transformation in the rail, road and water sector to electric vehicles. The air transport sector is still lagging behind in this area. This, mainly due to the lack of batteries with a high energy density/low weight ratio. However, this problem seems to be partly solved when looking at recent developments in electric aircraft. Examples of recent electric aircraft are the Airbus its E-fan and the Extra 330LE. Also the first electric trainer came on the market, the Alpha Electro by Pipistrel.

On the 9th and 10th of November 2016 the electric and hybrid aerospace symposium took place in Cologne. Where the main players in the field were present such as Siemens, Airbus and Pipistrel. From this symposium it became clear that electric propulsion is the future for general aviation. This, mainly due to the developments in battery technology. In the upcoming five years it is expected that the amount of electric aircraft in the general aviation sector will take off, mainly in the two to four seater segment. For commercial aircraft the focus is initially on hybrid aircraft.

The advantages of small electric aircraft are amongst all the reduction of emissions (while flying), and noise, compared to conventional propulsion systems. This can be especially beneficial for residents living in the vicinity of an airport which experience noise nuisance due to for example flight schools or paragliding activities, where a single aircraft uses a circuit multiple times per hour.

The Netherlands Aerospace Centre can help manufacturers, airports, and governments determine the impact of the noise produced by electric aircraft on the community. One of the products which can be used for this is our Virtual Community Noise Simulator. The VCNS makes use of the latest virtual reality technologies with 360 degrees video and a 3D audio experience.

About the author: Jeannie is a management trainee at the Aerospace Operations division. She performed a research regarding the market developments of electric aircraft. Questions? Feel free to contact Jeannie at jeannie.van.schie@nlr.nl