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Are Electric Aircraft the Key to Door-to-Door Air Travel?

Zunum Aero envisions a world with door-to-door air travel on short- range electric aircraft.

Short-range, door-to-door air travel has captivated human imagination since the days of pulp science fiction. However, fuel costs, fuel acquisition, pollution, noise and other hurdles have blocked this dream from becoming a reality.

Zunum Aero, an ANSYS Startup Program member, aims to fly over these hurdles by developing more electric aircraft. In theory, the electrification of aircraft will lead to cost- effective vehicles that fly without fuel and emit little, if any, pollution.

Of course, Zunum Aero can’t just hook up a standard jet engine to a battery and expect the plane to fly. Because no jet engine can be modified to fly on electricity, the company must completely rethink the propulsion system if its to meet its electrification goals.

To that end, the company is designing a whole new propulsion system (aka propulsor) that can work on electricity. To validate this design, Zunum Aero uses a combination of ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS Fluent and ANSYS CFX simulation software.

Simulations Help Zunum Aero Validate Electric Aircraft Twice as Fast as Physical Prototypes

Zunum Aero’s Quiet Electric Propulsors

Zunum Aero’s electrified propulsor designs consist of ducted, low-pressure fans that are connected to fault-tolerant electric motors and controllers.

Currently, the company is running simulations to size and validate these designs. To do this, it must test the design under every conceivable operation and failure condition.

Performing all of these tests with physical prototypes would be time-consuming and costly for a startup. This is why Zunum Aero relies on simulation technology to test its electrification designs. The company estimates that simulations have halved its validation time and significantly reduced its budget.

"In my career, I have relied on ANSYS Mechanical products for over 20 years to develop the highly optimized solutions required for the aerospace industry. The scripting and parametric analysis capability of ANSYS Mechanical is essential for our work on the Zunum Aero Quiet Electric Propulsor," says Dave Bedel, senior principal engineer at Zunum Aero.

So, are electric aircraft the key to door-to-door air travel? They are certainly a step in the right direction. Though it will be a few years before these planes take flight, ANSYS simulation technology and Zunum Aero will certainly speed up develop.

To learn how Zunum Aero performed these simulations, read: Electrification of Aircraft Propulsion. Or, visit ANSYS at the Paris International Air Show.