Hybrid electric plane maker Electra secures funding from Lockheed Martin

The venture capital arm of Lockheed Martin Corporation invested in Electra, Inc.’s Series A funding round last week, giving the company’s electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) concept aircraft a double injection of cash and credibility.

The eSTOL hybrid-electric Electra aircraft is designed to be able to take off and land in spaces as small as 300 x 100 feet, using a patent-pending “distributed electric propulsion and blown lift technology” that is not totally different from the blown diffusers used in V8-era Formula 1 cars – only, you know, upside down.

When used in racing cars, it directed fast exhaust air to a sculpted “diffuser” at the rear of the car. The difference in speed and pressure between the air above the car and the air below the car, in the diffuser, effectively “sucked” the car towards the road, allowing massive grip in the corners far above. beyond anything civilians are likely to have ever experienced. The Electra flips this idea on its head by using the same principles in reverse to quickly generate a surge of lift in seconds.

Image courtesy of Electra, Inc.

Electra claims its blown wing technology can help the aircraft deliver more than twice the payload and “an order of magnitude longer” (their words) with significantly lower operating costs than take-off eVTOLs. fully vertical that have been in the news lately – and with much lower certification risk.

Basically, the performance figures claimed by the Electra concept are not based on any “future” technology. The company says it’s ready to hit its speed and range goals today. An assertion that seems to have contributed to Lockheed Martin’s investment decision. “Electra’s technical approach to sustainable aviation is differentiated, and we are excited to see this concept mature,” said Chris Moran, vice president and general manager of LMV. “We invested in Electra because of its focus on hybrid-electric technology. Hybrid-electric aircraft have the potential to offer operational and environmental advantages over other aircraft, including increased payload and range without banking on battery upgrades.

What makes it a hybrid

The propellers of the Lockheed-backed Electra sSTOL concept are driven by high-efficiency electric motors that draw their electricity from on-board batteries. The batteries can be charged with a plug when the aircraft is on the ground and when such infrastructure is available. Where it’s not, an on-board gas turbine generator can be revved up to high rpm – where thermal efficiencies are highest – and recharge the batteries, a la Chevy Volt, to resume their flight.

If necessary, the generator can Also recharges the Electra’s batteries during flight, greatly increasing the aircraft’s range.

The first Electra eSTOL proof-of-concept prototype is expected to be completed later this year and will be designed to carry up to 1,800 pounds of cargo or up to 9 passengers on journeys of up to 500 nautical miles. With its minimal need for infrastructure, the sSTOL aircraft could be used on the roof of existing parking garages and shopping malls, as well as remote airstrips and even urban highways, doing everything from “intra -urban on-demand medical missions, freight transport, and regular passenger service” possible.

According to analysts, the global urban and regional advanced air mobility market that Electra hopes to serve with its eSTOL aircraft is expected to be valued between $250 billion and $1 trillion by 2040.

Electrek’s Grasp

The recent wave of eVTOL aircraft promises a flying car future that takes the form of people flying around in large, self-driving drones. As cool and futuristic as it sounds, it also feels pretty sketchy at times.

The Electra sSTOL concept? This seems to be much closer to reality and seems to be just as easily put together with the right partners. If I deposit my own money? I would bet Lockheed Martin knows the space better than anyone and is following in its footsteps.

spring | Images: Electra, via PR Newswire.

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