Andrey Vavilov. News

Plane with Superconducting Motor Prepares for the First Flight in 2021

On December 18, 2020, in the Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SARI) named after S.A. Chaplygin, a member of the National Research Center Zhukovsky Institute, located in Novosibirsk, a superconducting motor was installed on an aircraft and started in test mode with a propeller. Preparations for flight tests are underway.

The motor is a part of a demonstrator of a hybrid power plant being developed by the Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM) named after P.I. Baranov, also a member of the National Research Center Zhukovsky Institute. The innovative 500 kW (679 HP) high-temperature superconducting motor was manufactured by SuperOx.

Previously, the motor, just like other units and systems of the demonstrator of a hybrid power plant, was tested in special ground rigs. Now, we are taking it to the next stage: flight tests. For this purpose, a testbed aircraft, based on the Yak-40, is being developed. The flight tests will be performed in 2021. However, the team of researchers still have a lot of work to do before the flight tests. They need to perform comprehensive functional tests of the motor on a specially designed engine mount in all power conditions and evaluate its impact on the aircraft equipment.

“By doing this work, the CIAM is implementing one of the most important projects in modern aviation. We are creating and testing a future technology: a hybrid power plant based on high-temperature superconductivity (HTS)”, said Mikhail Gordin, CEO at the CIAM. “The technology is aimed at addressing some engineering challenges that are already faced by air transport. The CIAM and SuperOx have carried out a great deal of research, design, and experimentation, and now, all the developed scientific and engineering solutions, as well as the proposed parameters and specifications, will be tested within a flight experiment.”

“Our developments are built on many years of research and test experience. We have hundreds of prototype windings made and about ten motors with various capacities manufactured and tested. Russian scientists could be the first in the world to start testing an HTS aircraft motor, which we believe to represent the future of the entire aircraft industry”, said Andrey Vavilov, Chairman of the Board of Directors at SuperOx.

A scale model of the testbed aircraft and a full-size sample HTS motor were shown at the CIAM booth at the MAKS 2019 International Aviation and Space Salon. The exhibits grabbed the attention of the official delegation headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“An energy efficient aircraft motor is now the target for all leading global aircraft manufacturers. We have been the first to manufacture such a motor using HTS technologies and the first to show its high efficiency. Today, we are the first to start testing with a testbed aircraft. HTS allows a drastic reduction in the weight of electric machines and the use of electric propulsion in aviation will reduce noise and fuel consumption. In 15 to 20 years, with the improvement of the technology, savings may reach up to 75%”, explained Sergey Samoilenkov, SuperOx CEO.

The superconducting motor has been designed by SuperOx using a grant from the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects. The motor is being used by the CIAM as a basis to create a demonstrator of a hybrid power plant under a contract with the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. The Institute is also a key participant in the Electric Aircraft complex development project, with the leading and coordinating role being held by the National Research Center Zhukovsky Institute, which is comprised of Russia’s major aeronautical research centers.