Safran and Texas-based helicopter manufacturer Bell announced only a few weeks ago that they would be cooperating in the development of hybrid-electric drives for Bell's vertical take-off and landing aircraft and for air taxis. The first ground run took place on the testing grounds of Safran Helicopter Engines near the Pau airport in the French Pyrenees.

The distributed hybrid-electric system features a turbo-generator (a gas turbine that drives an electric generator) coupled to batteries. The system, which generated 100 kW of electricity during the test run, feeds several electric motors distributed over the aircraft surface, which in turn drive the propellers. Power distribution is provided by a newly developed power management system, while the motors are controlled by a fully integrated, intelligent power electronics system.

Safran tested various operating modes during the ground run. The electric motors were thus powered either by the batteries alone or by the batteries and the turbogenerator. The aviation company aims to bring hybrid electric drives to market maturity by 2025.