Collins Aerospace Set to Redefine Aircraft Propulsion with ‘The Grid’

Claimed by the company to be the most advanced electric power systems lab in the industry, the facility to design and test systems for the next generation of electric aircraft

Collins Aerospace Systems is aiming to spearhead the evolution in aircraft propulsion with the conception of The Grid—the industry’s most advanced electric power systems lab. The company will use the high-power, high-voltage lab to design and test systems like high-power generators for the next generation of more electric aircraft, including commercial, military, business aviation, UAV and urban air mobility platforms. Collins Aerospace is a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTC).

The USD 50 million investment in the lab is part of a larger USD 150 million total investment Collins Aerospace expects to make in electric systems over the next 3 years and builds on the USD 3 billion it has spent on advancing its more electric architectures over the past decade. Work on the 25,000 square feet lab is already underway in Rockford, Illinois. Collins Aerospace expects the lab to be complete and fully operational by 2021.

“Collins is the innovation leader in electric systems, and The Grid positions us to remain the world leader in the electrification of aircraft for decades to come,” said Collins Aerospace CEO Kelly Ortberg, who spoke at the unveiling. “In the not-too-distant future, hybrid-electric and fully electric aircraft will revolutionise air travel as we know it—opening up new markets like urban air mobility, while re-invigorating others like regional service to underutilised airports. They will help support a greener planet by reducing carbon emissions, and will help our airline customers by reducing operating costs and fuel consumption.”

Among the first platforms to be supported by The Grid will be the recently unveiled United Technologies hybrid-electric flight demonstrator, Project 804. The goal of Project 804, developed by the company’s advanced products group, is to re-engine and fly a regional turboprop aircraft powered by a 2 megawatt-class hybrid-electric propulsion system on a highly aggressive timeline.

Collins Aerospace will use The Grid to help design and test a 1 megawatt motor, motor controller and battery system in support of this goal. The 1 megawatt motor will be the aerospace industry’s most power dense and efficient to date, and the new motor and motor controller will be used to assist the demonstrator’s fuel-burning engine as part of its hybrid-electric propulsion system. The Grid will be one of a select few facilities in the world with the capability to test complete electric propulsion systems of this capacity.


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