BAE Systems invests millions in NY electric propulsion lab for UAM and passenger e-planes

BAE Systems UAM

UK defense and transportation giant BAE Systems says it is making a multimillion-dollar investment in its electric propulsion facility in New York to broaden its focus from buses and marine vehicles to urban air mobility (UAM) and other electric aircraft.

BAE Systems announced the move to prepare for what it sees as a looming boom in aerial activity with the arrival of (UAM) craft and services. In doing so, it will upgrade existing engineering development, manufacturing, and laboratory space in its Endicott, NY, unit near Binghamton. Consequently, its work that until now was limited to maturing energy storage, control, and power conversion systems for buses and marine vessels will be widened to electric aircraft use.

The shift is part of a broader trend and accelerating process around the globe of governments and companies preparing for the approach of UAM services. A large part of that is kicking tech research into more powerful, efficient, and carbon-free electric power systems into higher gear. 

BAE Systems has been involved in the design, development, and testing of electric propulsion systems for aquatic vessels and passenger buses for a quarter century. Its additional investment in the Endicott plant will seek to leverage that experience as it shifts to not only swiftly arriving air taxi and drone deliveries, but also plans traditional airlines say they have to operate electric-powered passenger planes.

“Our electrification investment is a great opportunity to develop and deliver important capabilities for an emerging travel ecosystem,” said Ehtisham Siddiqui, the vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. “The space gives our incredible workforce the core manufacturing capabilities in controls and energy management systems to build on their expertise and innovate for the future of flight.”

The expanding scope of the lab will seek to meet rising demands for new aerospace industry applications, activities, and vehicle components – particularly those providing next-generation flight for people, cargo, and emergency operations. Within those are UAM services like air taxis, which Paris officials intend to launch during the 2024 Summer Olympics, and other cities around the globe hope to initiate around the same time.  

As part of its New York alterations, the BAE Systems facility is putting an emphasis on use of robotics to enable automation of tech overseeing safety, quality, and efficiency during production. Its range of 12 motor dynamometers and five engine pods used to develop and test electric propulsion systems in buses and marine vehicles will be adapted to replicate the demanding aerial conditions of flight.

The new investment comes two years after BAE Systems entered the aircraft electrification market. Since then, it has developed operational prototypes of both hybrid-electric and all-electric systems. 

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