This Strategic Implementation Plan is a living document through which NASA communicates with stakeholders and the research community.
Below are key excerpts related to Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) with the EAP aspects highlighted.
This Strategic Implementation Plan sets forth the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) vision for aeronautical research aimed at the next 25 years and beyond. It encompasses a broad range of technologies to meet the future needs of the aviation community, the Nation, and the world for safe, efficient, flexible, and environmentally sustainable air transportation.
Long-term aeronautics research has long provided the basis for new concepts leading to industry innovation and societal benefits. The future holds new challenges for the aviation system, including continuing growth to meet emerging global demand, integration of unmanned aircraft systems and other innovative vehicle concepts to serve myriad needs, and proactive adaptability to changing conditions – all with minimum adverse impact on the environment. To address these challenges, ARMD will continue its role of undertaking research and development that falls outside the scale, risk, and payback criteria that govern commercial investments.
Analysis of global trends has led ARMD to identify the following three overarching drivers, referred to as Mega-Drivers, which will in large part shape the needs of aeronautical research in the coming years:
- Mega-Driver 1, Global Growth in Demand for High-Speed Mobility: Reflects rapid growth in traditional measures of global demand for mobility.
- Mega-Driver 2, Global Climate Change, Sustainability, and Energy Use: Presents severe challenges in maintaining affordability and sustainability.
- Mega-Driver 3, Technology Convergence: Points to convergence occurring in industry sectors such as materials, manufacturing, energy, and information and communication technologies that will transform aeronautical capabilities.
Six Strategic Thrusts represent ARMD’s response to the Mega-Drivers as they affect aviation:
- Strategic Thrust 1: Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations
- Strategic Thrust 2: Innovation in Commercial Supersonic Aircraft
- Strategic Thrust 3: Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles
- Strategic Thrust 4: Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion
- Strategic Thrust 5: Real-Time System-Wide Safety Assurance
- Strategic Thrust 6: Assured Autonomy for Aviation Transformation Taken together, these Strategic Thrusts constitute a vision for the future of aviation.
ARMD’s strategic planning addresses research needs associated with these Strategic Thrusts through a hierarchy NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate // Executive Summary 6 Strategic Implementation Plan of Outcomes, Research Themes, and Technical Challenges. Outcomes defined in terms of three timeframes — near-term (2015 to 2025), mid-term (2025 to 2035), and far-term (>2035) — signify the advances required to address each Strategic Thrust. Research Themes, which support the Outcomes, represent major areas of research necessary to enable the Outcomes consistent with ARMD’s roles and capabilities. Each Research Theme includes one or more Technical Challenges, which are funded activities with specific objectives. These Technical Challenges serve as the basis for planning research activities and measuring performance.
ARMD’s strategy will continue to focus on high-impact research investments that will enable the transformation of aviation to serve future needs, produce demonstrable benefits, and leverage technology advances outside of, as well as within, traditional aviation disciplines. Major technology foci include alternative fuels and electric or hybrid propulsion, low-sonic-boom supersonic flight, automation and autonomy, and technology convergence to develop transformative solutions, with the ultimate goal of enabling a safe, efficient, adaptive, scalable, and environmentally sustainable global aviation system.
Mega-Driver 3: Technology Convergence Technology convergence, widely defined as the combination of two or more different technologies in a single device or product, has historically played a major role in technological innovation. This seemingly simple definition, however, masks the fact that systems embodying convergent technologies have often led to radical changes in affected industries and supply chains, marketing and distribution, infrastructure, and uses of the system, along with wide economic and social ramifications.
Biofuels and electric power as sources of energy for air vehicles will converge with technologies for energy storage and vehicle propulsion, as well as a new infrastructure for distribution. Additionally, electric power allows efficient use of distributed propulsion, which can change the way aircraft are designed and controlled, leading to new vehicle configurations with enhanced performance, improved energy efficiency, and reduced CO2 emissions.
Strategic Thrust 4: Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion
This section describes Strategic Thrust 4, as well as the community’s vision based on priorities identified during dialogue and through strategic analysis that led to development of the Thrust, the Outcomes as capabilities that the aviation community can expect from implementing the results of ARMD research, ARMD’s role in implementing the research, and the Research Themes developed by ARMD to support the Outcomes and guide the research conducted within the Strategic Thrust.
This Strategic Thrust will help to achieve environmental sustainability by enabling absolute reductions in carbon emissions. The air traffic efficiency sought under Strategic Thrust 1 and the vehicle efficiencies sought under Strategic Thrust 3 will greatly reduce the impact of aviation on climate change. However, those efforts alone will not achieve the community’s goal of enabling aviation growth with carbon neutrality by reducing net emissions 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. As shown in a position paper prepared by the global aviation industry and illustrated in Figure 3, the community expects this goal to be achieved through a combination of more efficient operations, improved vehicle fuel efficiency and, in the longer term, new propulsion concepts and biofuels.
The aviation community has high confidence that low-life-cycle carbon fuels for conventional engines can be successfully implemented for use by commercial aviation, and that these will provide significant environmental benefit. There is less certainty that alternative propulsion systems (such as hybrid-electric systems) using other than petroleum-based energy sources can be successfully developed. However, advances in renewable energy and energy systems outside of the aviation sector provide sufficient optimism to pursue these concepts. Successful introduction of non-petroleum-based concepts would provide radically increased environmental benefits.
Hybrid-electric propulsion concepts, employing a combination of conventional and electric power, represent one promising candidate approach for low-carbon propulsion in 2025 and beyond. These concepts employ the best power source or combination of sources to provide the power needed in various flight conditions, and they offer flexible options for airframe designers to reduce drag or achieve other desired attributes. ARMD has conducted system studies and drafted research plans for this promising approach, and more work is ongoing to understand the full range of options, their benefits, and the hurdles to implementation.