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Certification Commercial aviation, particularly in the United States, is considered one of the safest modes of transportation

[16]. Operators and aircraft alike are subject to rigorous, mature certification standards that are the result of decades of experience. To maintain this exceptionally high level of safety, all but the smallest passenger-carrying aircraft must show that they are susceptible to less than one catastrophic failure per billion flight hours [17, 18]. Electric motors have a fairly long heritage, and there are few inherent safety or reliability issues. However, the energy storage and power distribution systems, and associated impact their potential failure modes may have on the aircraft, will need careful consideration. Demonstration of the high safety assurance levels required for certification will be costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, there is currently no basis in the United States for certification of aircraft that use electric power for primary propulsion. The FAA has indicated that it will enable certification of electrically- propelled aircraft in the future, likely through the use of consensus standards such as those being developed by ASTM International Committee F39 on Aircraft Systems [19]. However, these standards, and their incorporation into civil aviation rulemaking authorities (such as the FAA), are still in development. Until such standards and rules mature, there will be uncertainty associated with the performance, design, and safety requirements associated with aircraft that utilize electric propulsion.

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B. Enabling the Transition to Electric Developing a useful electrically-propelled aircraft is, by itself, a technical challenge. It requires the successful

integration of technologies that can safely yield appropriate performance at an acceptable cost. Yet, technical success may not be enough to enable current users to switch to electric propulsion, particularly if doing so causes other burdens. Performance alone will not guarantee success in the broader aviation market.

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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

 

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Current developers and manufacturers of electrically-propelled aircraft, such as Pipistrel, have targeted the overseas motor-glider market, and more recently, the flight training market (as evidenced by the Pipistrel Alpha Electro and Airbus E-Fan). European manufacturers, in particular, have focused on these recreational flight markets, largely because of high aviation fuel prices (compared to the United States). These platforms have limited speed and utility, largely due to constraints on the weight and cost of the energy storage system (batteries), which do not scale favorably with the power requirements of larger, faster aircraft. Furthermore, training platforms can operate out of dedicated facilities (airports), circumventing the infrastructure barrier – they simply do not have the range or endurance to provide useful mobility. Companies such as Airbus and Pipistrel have goals to introduce larger, faster, longer-range aircraft as energy storage technology develops, but intend to use the training market as the first stepping stone. This is an appropriate, albeit lengthy, route towards widespread adoption of electric aircraft.

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