Published on April 10th, 2017 | by Nicolas Zart0
The Final Frontier: The Electric Airplane Hamilton aEro Takes Off
April 10th, 2017 by Nicolas Zart
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the electric drive propulsion taking flight. Although electric airplanes and helicopters are taking off, it isn’t nearly Star Trek time, but the electric airplane Hamilton aEro promises a lot of fun at a fraction of the regular price.
The Electric Airplane Hamilton aEro Has Taken off
To be fair, electric planes have been taking off for the past two years. They just haven’t garnered enough media attention yet. Plane And Pilot Mag has been reviewing them for a few years and they can be seen at local air shows. I’m hoping to get up close at the next Palm Springs, California, air show.
Yes, so far they can’t fly for hours or take on hundreds of people. However, electric airplanes are pushing the electric propulsion envelope further than cars, motorcycles, and even e-bikes have done today. If you can wrap your head around an electric helicopter or plane carrying its own batteries, cars are relatively simple.
One of the most promising electric airplanes is a Swiss-born one-seater that packs impressive performance, from a company called Hamilton. The aEro is nothing short of an aerobatic electric airplane with key players in this new part of the aviation industry. And as to why electric for aerobatics, simply put, an electric aerobatic plane is perfect since it requires little load with short fly times. What electric airplanes offer overall beyond quieter flying is a much lower cost of operation, pilot workloads, long-lasting engines, and low maintenance costs.
Who Is Behind The Electric Airplane Hamilton aEro
It takes a certain type of person to risk their lives in the air with unproven technologies. Famed watchmaker Hamilton has an enthusiastic CEO, Sylvain Dolla, who feels that the electric aEro opens up a new world of possibilities for young aerobats. He reported that you will be able to see the electric airplane soon at the Oshkosh and the Free Flight World Masters.
Thanks to the determination of civil engineer and champion aerobatic paraglider pilot Dominique Steffen, and Air Zermatt helicopter pilot Thomas Pfammatter, the idea started with a converted Twister plane and eventually ended as single-seat electric-powered aerobatic airplane based on the Silence Twister, fitted with a Siemens motor. Both enlisted the help of electrical engineer Sébastien Demont, CEO of Demont Technologies. And if that name sounds familiar, that is because Demont was the ex-chief of electrical systems on Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse. The team also brought in the help of Dr. Frank Anton, President of Aircraft for the Siemens electrical engineering corporation, also behind the electric Diamond DA36 E-Star, Pipistrel Alpha Electro, Magnus eFusion, Extra LE, E-Fan, and now the Hamilton aEro is also part of that pioneering family. You can read more about Siemens’ electric plane record here, covered by fellow author James Ayre. Much like in the automotive and electric bicycle industries, the airplane family is a small and close-knit world.
The Hamilton aEro, Technically Speaking
With an efficient electric motor that delivers its useful torque between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm at the blade, the Hamilton aEro only weighs 703 lb empty with an MTOW of 925 pounds. The three-blade propeller is ground-adjustable, made of carbon and wood by Woodcomp. The battery pack weighs 352 pounds. It is located in the wings and behind the motor in order to rebalance the crucial center of gravity of the aircraft. Interestingly, the battery pack seems to have two charging options that take five minutes to charge for the ones in the wings and 20 minutes for the pack behind the motor.
The battery pack is made up of 108 battery cells that are designed with energy on instant demand. They were sought out in order to draw current at up to a maximum of 200 amp/hr at 450 volts. Demont went to great lengths to program a controller that can handle quick draws in less than a millisecond. All of this allows the aEro to fly an hour at 92 kts, roughly 110 MPH, drawing a mere 30 kW of energy to keep it in flight. It can fly 20 minutes of aerobatics mode with a two 10-minute transit capacity. And the aEro is efficient, since its minimum power required to keep it in flight is 40 hp. It can reach a maximum cruising speed of 146 kts, or 170 MPH. Its maximum range is 86 nm, close to 100 miles… so far.
The motor and control unit weighs only 29 lb, which is feather-weight for aircraft. The 100 kW/107 hp Siemens electric motor spins at 11,000 rpm, engaging a reduction gear that drives the propeller at around 2,900 rpm. While the airframe weighs in at 308 lbs, the battery adds another 352 lbs, totaling around 683 lbs for this light plane.
Yes, How Much For a Hamilton aEro?
This little electric plane is reported to handle like a fighter. What surprised me was the relatively low kit cost of $52,200. If you take into consideration that the operating costs are very low, you have a fun airplane to fly on weekends at a fraction of the cost a regular piston engine would. As an added bonus, the Twister can be assembled and disassembled in just minutes. The kit part of the aEro is the brainchild of the Matthias and Thomas Strieker brothers, who also manufacture it.
We’ve seen a lot of breakthroughs as well as a lull in the electric propulsion world over the past decade, but electric airplanes and helicopters are pushing that technology well beyond what any intelligent skeptic could argue. The electric airplane Hamilton aEro is one bold step into that final frontier.