Smallest Four-Motor Electric Plane Flies

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

For a company that employs over 119,000 and has annual revenues approaching 43 billion Euros ($55 billion), the Cri-Cri (Cricket) seems a minuscule part of their enterprise, but garners a huge share of publicity.  Reporters and photographers flocked to Le Bourget field near Paris on September 2 to record the first flight of the petite creation.  The EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V.)  press release explains the excitement.

 

The all electric Cri-Cri, jointly developed by EADS Innovation Works, Aero Composites Saintonge and the Green Cri-Cri Association has made its official maiden flight at Le Bourget airport near Paris on Thursday. This Cri-Cri is the first-ever four-engined all-electric aerobatic plane. The event has been supported by the French Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace.

Test pilot Didier Esteyne taxis the electric Cri-Cri around Le Bourget's big birds

The plane became airborne at 11:12 CET. Take-off and climb were smooth, no vibrations could be felt and manoeuvrability was excellent. All systems performed well and the plane returned safely after 7 minutes.

“This aircraft flies very smoothly, much more quietly than a plane with conventional propulsion”, said Didier Esteyne, who piloted the all-electric Cri-Cri. “But we are still at the beginning and have a lot to learn. We are allowed to start aerobatic manoeuvres only after five hours of flight and 15 landings.”

More power than the Solar Impulse

“The Cri-Cri is a low-cost test bed for system integration of electrical technologies in support of projects like our hybrid propulsion concept for helicopters,” stated Jean Botti, EADS’s Chief Technical Officer. “We hope to get a lot of useful information out of this project.” In the near future batteries will not able to propel larger aircraft.

A seven-minute flight for 15 minutes of fame

The aerobatic plane incorporates numerous innovative technologies such as lightweight composite structures that reduce the weight of the airframe and compensate for the additional weight of the batteries, four brushless electric motors with counter-rotating propellers which deliver propulsion without CO2 emissions and significantly lower noise compared to thermal propulsion, and high energy-density Lithium batteries.

The combined utilisation of these environment-friendly technical innovations enables the Cri-Cri to deliver novel performance values: 30 minutes of autonomous cruise flight at 110 km/h, 15 minutes of autonomous aerobatics at speeds reaching up to 250 km/h, and a climb rate of approximately 5.3 m/sec.

With research projects on algae based biofuel, a helicopter hybrid propulsion system combining electrical power with piston engines and the all electric Cri-Cri, EADS is exploring technologies for environmentally friendly air travel.

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