We’ve covered the Zunum Aero previously, as well as the state of the electric flight industry here. One of the pioneers in modern electric aviation is releasing more details on the launch of its Aero aircraft today. The hybrid-to-electric aircraft is the first of an ambitious line of electric and hybrid regional platforms that promise to seat up to 12 passengers for short hops. Zunum just announced that they will be available for delivery by 2022.
Zunum Aero Electric Hybrid Regional Planes
Zunum aircraft aims to tap into a not so well represented market, that of regional flights with a range of up to 1,000 miles. This is good news since we are now more than ever shuttled back and forth through impersonal enormous airport hubs that bring us away from our final destination and force us through the dreadful connection rigmarole. The only options available today are chartered local flights, or learn how to fly and then rent one. However, regional flights from mainstream carriers are very limited, expensive to operate with the cost handed down to travelers and simply not that practical. This stalemate will eventually disappear with the renewal of smaller airports hops as it was more common a few decades ago.
Aiming squarely at the $1 trillion stock of aircraft serving regional routes, Zunum wants to slash operating costs and bring them more in line with those of regular commercial airliners. What Zunum also brings to the plate is that its Aero platform will be much quieter with the hybrid system. They are designed to compete with mid-sized aircraft, but with quietness, a greener footprint, and faster door-to-door service to secondary airports. This also means less noise, which is something regional airports will rejoice over.
The Zunum Aero Electric Hybrid Regional Planes Announcement
Zunum announced that the Aero will cost 8 cents per seat mile or $250 per hour for the aircraft. It will have a maximum cruising speed of 340 MPH with a take-off distance of 2,200 feet and a range of 700 miles. All of this will come with 80% lower emissions and noise.
According to Logan Jones, Managing Director at Boeing HorizonX, and a Zunum investor: “Zunum is reinvigorating the regional market with a solution that’s both innovative and realistic… We see them as a leader in electric aviation, building on proven technologies, with a mature technical and commercial team.”
Zunum shared more information on its hybrid-electric series powertrain as well. The battery system will allow for a seamless transition from hybrid to electric power. The electric propulsors will have variable pitch fans and will allow for a 40% reduction noise on the runway. Zunum estimates that this will translate to a 75% noise drop for local communities.
So where are the batteries? They will rest inside the wings and will be fully integrated but will enable a quick swap or recharge at airports, and this is perhaps the key advantage the Zunum Aero provides. With fresh packs in its hubs and quick recharging DC stations in secondary airports, the Aero would be favored over traditional jet engines.
Zunum goes even further by implementing a control system that will optimize power management, fault detection, and recovery in real-time flight conditions.
JetBlue Onboard the Zunum Aero
A company that stands to win the most from opening secondary airport routes is JetBlue. JetBlue and Boeing have backed Zunum since April of this year, according to fellow writer Steve’s article, Hybrid Electric Airplane Startup Zunum Aero Collects Investments From JetBlue & Boeing. And according to Bonny Simi, President of JetBlue Technology Ventures, another Zunum investor, “We believe that the regional transportation industry is ripe for disruption and we’re excited to support Zunum and its efforts to help introduce a new era of aviation.”
The economics that the Zunum aircrafts bring mean more work for 5,000 under-utilized secondary airports, as well as lightening up the load for other mid-range aircraft that would be better used on other routes. Zunum expects its Aero aircraft could deliver significantly lower door-to-door times, costs, and emissions below than what is commercially available today.
The Serious Need To Redesign Routes and Approaches
If you’ve ever watched the trajectory of any given flight, either long range or short hops, you will find they never fly a direct route. Taking off from and landing at airports means circling around the landing sites. International routes correct their navigation courses more than once during their flight. All of this adds time and fuel, thus raising prices on the overall effectiveness of traveling. Trains have answered this prickly problem by rolling directly into the heart of most cities. It is also noteworthy to see that the FAA is currently looking into ways of having aircraft radar systems better detect traffic and give them direct routes. This would make the Aero a perfect contender for secondary more direct routes, especially with cities that have more stringent noise ordinances. Zunum believes a Boston to Washington, DC flight would take 2 hours and 30 minutes door-to-door, compared to 4 hours and 50 minutes today.
Let The Zunum Aero Testing Begin
Zunum Aero plans to do test flights by 2019 and will open a second development center near Chicago for ground tests. It is surrounding itself with senior technologists from various fields, including power electronics, electric motors, propulsors and more from folks having worked on the Boeing 787, the Lockheed Martin F35, and the Rolls Royce Ultrafan.
According to founder and Aero Chief Engineer Matt Knapp: “This aircraft is going to transform how we live and work… We’ve pushed ourselves to challenge conventional wisdom and the limits of engineering to deliver an aircraft of which we are extremely proud — one that offers efficiency and performance without compromise.”
So what’s in a company name? Zunum is derived from the Mayan “tzunuum,” which means hummingbird, according to Steve’s article. How a propos! We’re excited to see the Zunum Aero continuing to gather momentum and can only imagine the comments on those V tails.