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Power Electronics Innovation in Search of the More Electric Aircraft

20 September 2023
The concept of the "More Electric Aircraft," known as MEA, has been around for a long time in the field of aeronautics. Its roots trace back to the mid-20th century, during World War II, when some military aircraft designers began to explore the idea of reducing aircraft weight by replacing traditional mechanical propulsion systems with electrical systems.
 
The transition to electrical systems not only promised a significant reduction in weight but also opened doors to improvements in control, monitoring, fault tolerance, reduced maintenance costs, and an overall increase in aircraft safety.
 
Today, the central goal remains the same as in the past: to reduce or even eliminate traditional propulsion systems, making way for electrical systems that represent the majority or entirety of the energy used by the aircraft.

Electricity-Based Aircraft Design

Electricity-based aircraft design aims to replace, either wholly or in part, traditional power systems, simplifying integration and overall maintenance. 
 
This transition to electricity carries multiple advantages, such as increased versatility in design and more efficient utilization of available space. Additionally, these advancements lead to cleaner aviation with fewer pollutant emissions.

Differences between MEA and All Electric Aircraft

It is important to highlight the difference between the MEA concept and that of the "All Electric Aircraft." While MEA primarily seeks partial substitution of mechanical, pneumatic, and hydraulic systems with electrical systems, the All Electric Aircraft implies that power generation, distribution, and consumption are entirely electric. MEA focuses on the versatility of electrical power, weight reduction, noise reduction, and the enhanced maneuverability offered by electrical systems.

Benefits of Greater Efficiency

The transition to MEA brings several key benefits:
  1. Simplification in power generation: Transitioning to a single power source simplifies generation systems.
  2. Reduced operational costs: Less maintenance costs and lower risk of fluid leaks.
  3. Improved safety and reliability: Fewer mechanical failures and reduced risk of fire or explosions.
  4. Energy efficiency: Recycling engine air reduces fuel consumption.
  5. Weight reduction: A lighter aircraft saves fuel and reduces emissions.

Paths towards the More Electric Aircraft

To advance toward MEA, various research and development areas are being e
  • Flight control techniques: Achieving lower consumption through lighter and more compact electric actuators.
  • Engine power extraction: Reducing losses by minimizing the use of high-pressure purge air.
  • Smart fuselage: Integration of electrical circuits into the aircraft's structure and surface, reducing physical wiring.
  • Flight control actuators: Utilizing advanced actuator systems such as servo-hydraulic, electro-hydrostatic, and electromechanical systems.
  • Advanced electrical power systems: Developing new energy generation sources, such as fuel cells and solar energy, as well as more efficient energy distribution systems.

Towards a New Generation of More Efficient Aircraft

In summary, the MEA concept represents a fundamental evolution in the aerospace industry, driven by the pursuit of greater efficiency, reduced weight, and greater flexibility in aircraft design and operation. With ongoing advancements in power electronics and electrical systems, MEA points toward a new generation of more efficient and sustainable aircraft.

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Skylife Engineering S. L. is an Andalusian company that develops technological innovation with a high specialization in aerospace engineering applied to the aviation industry and other sectors, with the aim of offering solutions with a positive impact on society.

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