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Electric planes and helicopters: the future is hybrid

Just look at what is happening in Philadelphia's industrial district

The most recent developments in the civil aviation sector clearly show a growing interest in drones, small precision electronics and the use of alternative energy such as batteries, hydrogen and solar. These changes are epochal and some traditional companies feel threatened, but new technology is also creating new opportunities for skilled workers.

Just look at what is happening in Philadelphia's industrial district. The main factories of three major helicopter manufacturers in the region are located here, operating in both the civil and military sectors. Boeing will focus its engineers on new technology systems as it slows production of Chinook and Osprey tiltrotor planes; the Italian Leonardo, after the delivery of the first "Grey Wolf" helicopters, is expanding its research and test capabilities; Piasecki Aircraft has purchased the former Sikorsky factory and is now betting on next generation drones.

"For commercial aircraft you have to consider that the batteries are heavy and the lithium ion ones catch fire and are difficult to extinguish. And if you use electric on the battlefield, how do you recharge them? Probably with diesel generators. So why not use directly the diesel? Hydrogen is the real challenge: but how to manage temperature and pressure to keep it in a liquid state? Perhaps hybrid is the best solution: solar, hydrogen or batteries, plus a diesel engine", says Matthew McAlonis, researcher of aerospace engineering from the TE Connectivity company.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency