During a recent test flight, an experimental passenger drone or EVTOL designed for passenger transport by the American company Aura Aerospace caught fire. The failure of a current regulator during regenerative braking is to blame. The company’s director uses the incident to emphasize the importance of testing and certifying components used in electric flight.
Passenger drone catches fire during test
The Guardian G1 EVTOL is an electrically powered multirotor that can fly for up to 20 minutes with a pilot on board. Aura Aerospace, an American company, is working on the device. The eVTOL is not yet available for purchase, but the company is taking pre-orders. The G1 will eventually be available for purchase for $ 185,000.
However, before the device is released to the public, it must undergo extensive testing. According to a recent incident where an experimental version of the eVTOL caught fire, this isn’t exactly superfluous. When the motors decelerated, one of the power regulators exploded, redirecting energy back to the battery (regenerative braking). As a result, a fire broke out. The pilot, who is also the company’s owner, was able to exit the plane just in time.
Passenger drone parts do not comply
According to Aura Aerospace director Sam Thompson, the necessary lessons must be learned from the incident. According to Thomson, it is only a matter of time before accidents start to happen.
“The problem is that certain components, such as commercially available high-power transistors and FETs, are not at all suited to aerospace electric applications. Only when certified power controllers are available will electric flying be able to get off the ground safely,” Thompson said.
According to Thompson, an additional problem is that aviation authorities such as the FAA and EASA are unlikely to be equipped to assess the reliability of high-power electronics such as FETs and transistors.
“Until aviation-certified FETs are available, they should not be used to lift people into the air,” Thompson said.
Testing under load
To prevent further accidents or even fatalities, Thompson recommends testing under maximum load as much as possible.
“There have now been several deaths in the testing of electric aircraft. Please, everyone, prove your system works under full load, tethered to the ground. I am lucky enough to have a few burns and smoke inhalation. Others have not been so lucky and have made the ultimate sacrifice in hopes of moving humanity forward toward sustainable aviation.”
This article first appeared on Dronewatch and is written by Wiebe de Jager who is also a DroneXL contributor.
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