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Electric microlight engineers make maiden voyage.

The first electric aircraft took to the air in the UK earlier this year under the recently introduced sub--115 kg regime. The class was introduced to encourage innovation in light aviation in the UK.

It allows single seat, lightweight aircraft to be developed and flown without the administrative burden of the airworthiness approvals process applied to larger aircraft.

The development could be the first step towards a new market for leisure aircraft offering low operating costs, high reliability and low environmental impact.

The electric propulsion system for the twin-engine, fixed-wing Lazair airframe was designed and built by Dr Paul Robertson of the Cambridge University's Engineering Department. He worked with Paul Dewhurst of Flylight Airsports, a Midlands based manufacturer of microlight aircraft.

The flex-wing based Dragonfly trike unit, made by Flylight, was powered by an electric motor system being developed in Germany.

The electric aircraft have flown for around 30 minutes on a single charge, reaching an altitude of 1700 ft.

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Robertson's aim is for a flight duration of two hours and a range of 100 miles. The engineer is seeking partnerships to help achieve these objectives.

The E-Lazair propulsion system comprises a pair of 10kW peak, brushless electric motors, weighing less than 2 kg each, with direct drive to carbon fibre propellers. The motors are each powered by a stack of 12 40Ah lithium polymer cells, giving a total stored energy capacity of 3.2kWh.

Robertson developed a bespoke battery management system, charger unit and avionics to monitor the energy capacity and temperature of the cells, control the motor power and temperature. It also provides the pilot with an energy gauge to indicate remaining capacity.

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Publication:Environmental Engineering
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2009
Words:277
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