Ampaire has received a $9 million boost from the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced research unit, ARPA-E. The funding is expected to help accelerate plans to bring hybrid-electric aircraft to market.
According to Ampaire, the agency’s SCALEUP program will aid the development of key hybrid-electric subsystems that can be produced in volume and meet the standards of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other authorities.
“Ampaire has been flying and refining hybrid-electric prototype aircraft since 2019,” said CEO Kevin Noertker. “The next step is to develop a fully-integrated propulsion system, the AMP-H570, that meets strict certification requirements. SCALEUP will be central to supporting this process at Ampaire and contribute to the certification of the nine-passenger Eco Caravan.”
The award follows notable accomplishments from Ampaire, including the first flight of the Eco Caravan, a global support agreement with Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) and orders from airline operator WingTips and sustainable aircraft financier MONTE.
Ampaire currently operates two Electric EEL aircraft, Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft upgraded to a hybrid-electric configuration. One is Ampaire’s market-survey demonstrator. The other is a technology testbed called the ARPA-E Bird currently flying the company’s third technology generation.
Under ARPA-E’s CIRCUITS program, this second flying testbed has been used to evaluate
prototype components and systems from Ampaire and other ARPA-E contractors. While these systems were not designed to meet FAA certification requirements, they advanced Ampaire and industry knowledge that will lead to certifiable designs.
SCALEUP funding is expected to accelerate the maturation of advanced technologies that will be tested on the ARPA-E Bird and the prototype Eco Caravan. New systems will be designed for volume manufacturing with the aim to reduce cost, increase reliability and incorporate safety features necessary to pass regulatory certification tests.
SCALEUP funding will be used to develop certifiable subsystems in three areas:
- The powertrain control (PTC) to manage power from both the Ampaire powertrain combustion and electric sources
- The propulsion motor drive that conditions power to the electric propulsion machinery
- And the integration of the thermal-runaway-protected energy storage system
The three systems will be tested first on the ARPA-E Bird and then applied to the Eco Caravan, which is already in the process of earning FAA supplemental type certification. An Eco Caravan prototype made its first flight on a fully integrated hybrid-electric propulsion system in November 2022 and Ampaire is aiming to fly a second production-conforming caravan next year. That aircraft will be used in certification test flights. Ampaire is aiming to complete the certification of the Eco Caravan in 2024.