NASA has signed a con­tract with Electra.aero to mature enabling aero­dy­nam­ic ‘blown lift’ tech­nolo­gies for eSTOL air­craft in advanced air mobil­i­ty appli­ca­tions.

Elec­tra has teamed up with Dr. Ale­jan­dra Uran­ga, Gabi­lan Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­a’s (USC) Depart­ment of Aero­space and Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing and was award­ed a con­tract under the Small Busi­ness Tech­nol­o­gy Trans­fer (STTR) pro­gram.

Ben Mar­chion­na, Elec­tra’s Direc­tor of Tech­nol­o­gy and Inno­va­tion, said: “Elec­tra is devel­op­ing elec­tric air­craft that can take off and land in less than 150 feet. “This real­ly push­es today’s aero­dy­nam­ic tech­nol­o­gy to its lim­its.

“Effec­tive blown lift air­craft con­cepts require every tool in an aero­space engi­neer’s tool­box: com­pu­ta­tion­al flu­id dynam­ics (CFD), wind tun­nel mod­els, and fly­ing test­beds.”

Elec­tra plans to begin flight test­ing a full-scale hybrid eSTOL tech demon­stra­tor air­craft in 2022, which will car­ry two peo­ple and take off and land in dis­tances under 150 feet. It will use a 150-kW hybrid-elec­tric tur­bo­gen­er­a­tor to pow­er eight elec­tric motors and charge a cus­tom bat­tery sys­tem dur­ing flight.

Elec­tra’s first com­mer­cial prod­uct, with FAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion planned in 2026, is designed to car­ry up to sev­en pas­sen­gers and a pilot as far as 500 miles. It will serve urban and region­al air mobil­i­ty mar­kets, sus­tain­abil­i­ty-focused air­line oper­a­tions, “mid­dle mile” car­go logis­tics, and air ambu­lance ser­vices.

Pro­fes­sor Uran­ga added: “Even the best CFD-based blown lift and dis­trib­uted elec­tric propul­sion mod­els today lack val­i­da­tion against full-scale vehi­cles for these unique con­fig­u­ra­tions.

“Cur­rent com­pu­ta­tion­al meth­ods can pre­dict some lim­it­ed blown lift flow fields in three dimen­sions, but the large eSTOL design space com­pared to con­ven­tion­al air­craft means that fast, trust­ed, low-order meth­ods are need­ed to rapid­ly eval­u­ate design choic­es. This con­tract will help us devel­op those meth­ods.”