The ELETAD (Electrical Tail Drive-Modelling, Simulation and Rig Prototype Development) project investigated the feasibility of powering the tail rotor of a helicopter with an electric drive, replacing the current mechanical system comprising high speed shafts and gearboxes. The electric tail rotor system comprises a lightweight and compact electric motor connected via cables to power electronic converters which act to condition and control the power feed to the electrical machine.
The advantages of the new design include:
- Reduced future reliance on hydraulic and oil based systems;
- Low maintenance, high service life, with reduced repair and overhaul cycle impact;
- Inherent torque control and power limiting directly inferred measurement of operating load;
- Higher system integrity, and inbuilt fault tolerance;
- Improved overall aircraft fuel efficiency when part of a ‘more electric’ power management system.
The work was carried out in partnership with Agusta Westland and lead partner, University of Bristol, from October 2010 to September 2015. The Clean Sky JTI provided funding for this project. The technology centred on the use of high efficiency and performance permanent magnet brushless machines, requiring innovative use of modern materials and advanced design methods. Designs and prototypes of full-size axial-flux and radial-flux electric tail rotor motors were delivered, including comprehensive test data and supporting analyses.
The team involved in the ELETAD project was awarded a Team Bronze Medal at the 2018 Royal Aeronautical Society awards. Find out more here.