UK startup Faradair is working towards bringing to market an 18-seat regional aircraft that operates on a carbon-neutral basis. The bioelectric hybrid aircraft (BEHA) will use a combination of electric motors and biofuel-powered turbogenerator to transport 18 passengers or five tonnes of cargo to a range of 1,150 miles. The company wants to start flying by 2026, and to have 300 aircraft produced by 2030.
A UK-built hybrid electric aircraft
It’s been a while since the UK built a successful civil aircraft, despite decades of aerospace expertise in the country. The nation that brought us the Vickers Viscount and spearheaded the jet age with the De Haviland Comet has found its aerospace industry subsumed into European conglomerates, with the last bastion of home-grown manufacturing represented by the tiny Britten-Norman Islander. And even that is technically built in Romania.
But one company is setting out to change all that, with a goal of bringing us the regional aircraft of the future. Faradair is a UK startup, operating out of the iconic Duxford Aerodrome, home to the Imperial War Museum. It’s working on plans for an 18-seater bioelectric hybrid aircraft, or BEHA, with a rather unusual design.
Headed up by founder and CEO Neil Cloughley, the Faradair M1H employs a triple closed winged design, where there are no discernable wing tips. This type of design has been shown in the past to eliminate the wasteful effects of wing tip vortices, much like modern winglets are designed to do.
But it’s not just the unusual appearance of the Faradair M1H that is set to break new ground. The plane will use electric motors to facilitate takeoff and landing, the portion of flight where most fuel is consumed. Once in cruise, the biofuel-powered turbogenerator will kick in, maintaining the aircraft’s speed and altitude while simultaneously recharging the motors ahead of landing. Solar photovoltaic panels will assist in the electric motor recharge.
The end result is an aircraft that takes off and lands efficiently and quietly. Its overall operations will be carbon neutral, and through the use of lightweight composite materials, it will be capable of flying to a range of 1,150 miles.
300 planes by 2030
Faradair has teamed up with a strong consortium of industry experts to deliver the M1H. The partners on the project include Honeywell, magniX, Cambridge Consultants, Nova Systems, IWM Duxford, Gonville & Caius College, VWV and Prodrive. Notably, Honeywell will collaborate on the turbogenerator unit to power the BEHA.
With the team in place, Faradair is targeting a 300 unit production goal by 2030. Of these, 150 will be built in a firefighting configuration, while 75 will feature ‘quick change’ technology to rapidly switch between passenger and cargo operations. 50 will be pure freighters, and 25 will be deployed in border and fisheries patrols.
The benefit of the BEHA for cargo operations cannot be understated. It will be capable of taking off and landing on very short runways. Thanks to its whisper-quiet electric motors, it will be suited for use in cargo operations overnight, where airplane activity is usually limited.
The company says its quick change variant will be capable of switching from passenger to cargo configuration in as little as 15 minutes. So not only can it serve the remotest of communities in a carbon-neutral way, but its operators will also be able to make use of it 24/7.
Faradair told Simple Flying that the company is currently building its team and preparing to break ground on its prototyping facility by the end of the year. It said,
“We hope to have our design optimisation of the BEHA concept completed by the summer, whereupon we will begin the structural engineering phase of development for the next two years. Our ambition is still to make first flight by the end of 2024 and fully certified by the end of 2026.”
While the BEHA is unlikely to challenge the major planemakers for supremacy, it could be a gamechanger in niche markets. Faradair doesn’t intend to sell its aircraft; rather, it plans to sell its services, on either a wet or dry leasing basis, in a bid to prove the concept of hybrid electric-powered aircraft to the world.
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