Speed Up Electrified Aircraft and Flying Vehicles Development for Future Smart Grids

Written by Adel El-Shahat

Electrified aircraft and flying vehicles are the future of aviation and society’s transportation for future smart grids. These technologies have emerged as a key enabling technology for concepts ranging from hybrid-electric propulsion systems to all-electric aircraft. The global electrification market is promptly expanding, and it is estimated to reach $8.6 billion USD by 2030. Moreover, flying vehicles and electrified airplanes are coming into play by addressing various aspects such as the reduction of emissions, running costs, and decarbonization, along with the concourse of technologies’ evolutions, and growth in ride-sharing needs. Modern advances in electric motors, power converters, batteries, and related auxiliary systems have energized the industry, leading to the development and demonstration of a range of a range of air transport systems on the ground and in flight.


This technology is inspiring innovative transforming solutions in civic areas with new urban air mobility vehicles and flying cars, while the larger electric transport aircraft are addressing energy usage and environmental issues on a global scale. The electrical components and system must meet rigorous power density, efficiency, and reliability metrics to lead the new era of electrified aircraft along with smart societies. However, there is a lack of research that targets this transformative and emerging area. So, there is an essential need to be devoted to advancing and powering this technology. To this end, this research focuses on overcoming the related challenges and additional complications due to the proposed technology.


Brief Background

Electric aircraft (EA) is presently one of the most strongly investigated areas in aviation exploration. It is a potential approach to make the industry to go green. Though most investigation concentrates on the upgrading of onboard power systems [1], [2]. The aviation industry is proposing to develop more electric aircraft to replace auxiliary systems, such as hydraulics, to increase efficiency, improve fuel consumption rates, reduce maintenance costs, and lower system weight [3]. Electrified aircraft propulsion (EAP) are being utilized in substitution of conventional engines. EAP is quieter, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. One drawback with EAP, however, lies in the traditional DC power distribution controller which utilizes mechanical circuit-breakers and does not have sufficiently quick fault detection to protect EAPs [2]. One evolving technology, solid-state power controllers, are a promising solution to offer more reliable and intelligent protection for EAPs [4]. Gallium Nitride High Electron Mobility Transistors are a potential replacement for conventional silicon devices due to their lightweight, small size, and efficiency [5].


Future Research, and Perspectives

  • Build simulation for the real system throughout the V-cycle, including detailed components, optimized design, components, and system integrations, testing, and validation.
  • Create integrated systems through integrating physical domains together to build complete virtual integrated aircraft systems, establishing controls logic to command system response, and developing real-time capable model. 
  • Early design case studies will be launched to assess various propulsion architectures for hybrid propulsion systems, and different strategies for using batteries, fuel cell, supercapacitors, or traditional engine technology.
  • All-inclusive-electro-thermal-fluid-CAD models will be constructed for 3D-CAD geometry to analyze the detailed component response, predict how hot batteries, motors, fuel cells are during flight, and optimize thermal management strategy. 
  • Finally, the testing, validation, and experimentally prototype implementation of the optimal system’ design utilizing the HIL, and other required hardware/software will be targeted. In this phase, system-level analysis for warranty and life estimation will be adopted to identify the lifespan of the battery pack as a critical economical concern, to predict the degradation of batteries in real-world scenarios, and to predict SOC and SOH over the lifespan of the vehicle [6].



Electric propulsion is the future of aircraft design. It dives into the motivations for electrification of aircraft such as emissions and systemic aviation improvements. It also addresses some of the challenges with EA, like energy storage and power electronics. Developing electrical aircraft is more than just making a plane, it’s about sustainable development from ground to air. The concept, design, and testing of a 1 kV 500 A bidirectional DC SSPC is presented for use in the further electrification of aircraft. The concept utilized SiC power modules and TVS diodes as the foundation for the system design. The testing phase looked at all the key functions of the SSPC, and the researchers ended up meeting their target goal of creating an SSPC that had an efficiency of 99.51% with a specific power rating of 112.4, 10% better than their goal. The usage of GaN-based FCML inverters is utilized to take advantage of potential low-temperature systems resulting from LNG-powered aircraft. There are also potential profits to be generated through the frequency response services, with an estimated £46.58 million generated in annual revenue, enough to cover 19.8% to 30% of the energy costs for EA charging [6].


  1. P. J. Ansell and K. S. Haran, "Electrified Airplanes: A Path to Zero-Emission Air Travel," in IEEE Electrification Magazine, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 18-26, June 2020, doi: 10.1109/MELE.2020.2985482.
  2. Z. Dong, R. Ren and F. Wang, "Development of High-power Bidirectional DC Solid-state Power Controller for Aircraft Applications," in IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics, doi: 10.1109/JESTPE.2021.3139903.
  3. N. Swaminathan and Y. Cao, "An Overview of High-Conversion High-Voltage DC–DC Converters for Electrified Aviation Power Distribution System," in IEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 1740-1754, Dec. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TTE.2020.3009152.
  4. C. B. Barth et al., "Design, Operation, and Loss Characterization of a 1-kW GaN-Based Three-Level Converter at Cryogenic Temperatures," in IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, vol. 35, no. 11, pp. 12040-12052, Nov. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TPEL.2020.2989310.
  5. N. Keshmiri, D. Wang, B. Agrawal, R. Hou and A. Emadi, "Current Status and Future Trends of GaN HEMTs in Electrified Transportation," in IEEE Access, vol. 8, pp. 70553-70571, 2020, doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2020.2986972.
  6. A. El-Shahat, J. Qian, G. Kilaz. “In brief Recent Background, Challenges, and Strategies for Electrified Aircraft Development”, Proc. of the International Conference on Electrical, Computer and Energy Technologies (ICECET 2022), 20-22 July 2022, Prague-Czech Republic.


This article was edited by Geev Mokryani.

To view all articles in this issue, please go to July 2022 eBulletin. For a downloadable copy, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.


Adel El-Shahat (S’08-M’11-SM’17) received the B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Zagazig University, Egypt, in 1999. the M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering (Power and Machines) from Zagazig University, Egypt, in 2004, and the Ph.D. degree (Joint Supervision) from Zagazig University, Egypt, and The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus, OH, USA, in 2011. He is currently an Assistant Professor - Energy Technology, School of Engineering Technology at Purdue University, USA. He is the Founder and Director of Advanced Power Units and Renewable Distributed Energy Lab (A_PURDUE). His research focuses on Modeling, Design, Optimization, Simulation, Analysis, and Control of various aspects such as Smart Nano & Micro- Grids; Electric Mobility & Transportation Electrification, Renewable Energy Systems; Wireless Charging of Electric Vehicles; Electric Vehicles; Special Purposes Electric Machines; Deep Learning Techniques; Distributed Generation Systems; Thermoelectric Generation; Special Power Electronics Converters; Power Systems; Energy Storage & Conservation; and Engineering Education. So far, he has 9 books, 5 chapters in books, 58 journal papers, 68 conference papers, and 106 other publications with his collaborators, and students related to his research interests. He has more than 20 years of working experience in academia and industry. He has experience in funding grants proposals, and he got some awards and recognitions due to his research work. He has good experience directing research for both graduate and undergraduate students for funded projects. He holds full-time academic positions at Purdue University, Georgia Southern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ohio State University, USA, and Suez University, Egypt, along with some full-time and part-time positions in Egyptian companies as an electrical engineer, and consultant as a professional engineer. Additionally, he has distinguished professional training, and he is a Senior Member in the IEEE and IRED institutions along with 21 professional memberships in other societies. Finally, he served as a book editor for 4 books, and a reviewer for 8 books. He is a guest editor and editor-in-chief for two international journals. Also, he is a reviewer for other 34 international journals. Moreover, he served as invited conference sessions chair and reviewer for 31 international conferences along with other community and academic services.

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