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Ohio Federal Research Network funding to advance electric engines in unmanned aerial vehicles

Aerospace engineers at The Ohio State University have received $2 million in state funding to develop a reliable lightweight electric propulsion system for aerial vehicles.

The Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN) awarded $6.3 million to four teams, including one led by Ohio State, in support of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research and development.

According to Ohio State Assistant Vice President for Aerospace and Aviation Mike Benzakein, the research team will design, develop and demonstrate a brushless doubly-fed hybrid electric drive system for electric aircraft.

“This system uses multiple motors that can be independently controlled to provide the aircraft control flexibility,” Benzakein said. “The primary advantage would be safer, more effective vertical take-off and landing in confined spaces.” In addition to UAV, the proposed drive system could be beneficial in electric personal air vehicles (PAV) and logistical delivery vehicles (LDV).

Electrical drive in Center for High Power Electronics Laboratory at Ohio StateFunding was awarded under OFRN’s Sustaining Ohio’s Aeronautical Readiness and Innovation in the Next Generation (SOARING) initiative, designed to expand leadership in defense and commercial aerospace R&D. Projects must focus on priority research initiatives of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), the Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton (NAMRU-D), the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC).

Project partners include the University of Dayton Research Institute and Safran, an international supplier of high-tech systems and equipment in the aerospace and defense markets. Both NASA and AFRL have identified urban air mobility and electric propulsion systems as priorities.

According to Ricky Peters, chair of the OFRN Executive Review Board, these awards "will drive innovation. Each requires an actual demonstration at the end of the project which is very exciting.”