United States-based startup Electra unveiled its hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) technology demonstrator aircraft at a public event in Manassas, Virginia on June 12, 2023.
This aircraft, which will begin a flight test campaign this summer, is the world’s first blown lift aircraft to use distributed electric propulsion in the form of eight electric motors placed along its wings.
The blown lift configuration takes advantage of some laws of aerodynamics to enable winged aircraft to take off and land on short runways. This is achieved by having the propellers blow air over the surface of the wing in a way that turns the airflow downwards, increasing lift.
Virginia-based Electra has received investment from Lockheed Martin and participated in NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer program. In June 2022, Electra acquired California-based startup Airflow, which had also been working on the development of electrically powered eSTOL aircraft.
Tests carried out on the two-seater technology demonstrator will inform the design of Electra’s nine-passenger aircraft. By highlighting the aircraft’s short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities, Electra claims the aircraft will offer an operational flexibility comparable to that of a helicopter.
Electra’s aircraft will use hybrid propulsion, although it expects to add hydrogen and fully electric battery-powered options in the future.
Electra aims to have the first nine-seater prototype ready by 2025, with certification and entry into service to take place by 2028 under the FAA’s Part 23 regulations. The firm has so far racked up more than 1,200 orders, with a market value of around $4 billion.