Opportunity v Challenge: The Power to Accelerate Battery Technology

Opportunity v Challenge: The Power to Accelerate Battery Technology

There are many technology challenges that our industry will need to address, one in particular that will become more dominant in the future is the need for increased power on aircraft and how this is generated, but more importantly how it's stored. The development of battery technology is consequently important to us, keeping up to date on the technology maturity, but also recognising the need to have more electronic systems on aircraft and especially the development of hybrid electric engine aircraft. We see the development of ever more sophisticated electric aircraft, today the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, which is an incredibly light aircraft designed to fly at extremely high altitudes and provide communications or sensors for both smart cities as well as the military. It is powered by a solar array, but has to store power during the daylight hours to provide power at night to keep it flying. So we will continue to watch this technology, but also the wider application of battery technology from adjacent sectors like the consumer car market as this will provide valuable insight into the future use of batteries in our business. An exciting topic and one we should be understanding more about.

Energy storage and the development of battery technology for future defence and aerospace applications is not just a ‘hot topic’ or a growing conversation, it’s a critical requirement needed to feed our industry’s growing dependency on power operated equipment. This capability is vital to next generation defence and aerospace capabilities. Some of the biggest driving factors of this are environmental impacts, the introduction of electric or part-electric mobility, and autonomous technologies. It may sound like something that is far away in the future, but in actual fact it’s already becoming a part of our lives. Uber is claiming that it will have flying taxis ruling the skies by 2020 – that’s nothing more than a year away! And electric flights are not far behind. Our armed forces need enhanced capabilities and better lethality; the military landscape is changing; modern warfare missions require more sophisticated equipment which is power hungry.

Battery technology and energy storage solutions need to get smarter and lighter. As an industry are we developing the technology we need at a rate that will keep us ahead of the game? Let’s take a look at the automotive sector, car manufacturers seem to be pacing ahead with the development of battery technology, maybe there are some ‘lessons to be learnt’ here, and certain good practices that we should be taking from the automotive sector and applying them to defence and aerospace.

There is a real opportunity for the UK to develop innovative, game-changing capabilities that will put us at the forefront of the global market. We are at a point of evolution; enhanced battery technology presents transformational opportunities for products, processes and services; helping the UK to maintain its competitive position.

"This is a huge opportunity and the UK is really well-placed to lead this evolution. We have the ambition, skills and drive to unlock the potential by catalysing ambitious research and technology developments.

"Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at Marshall Aerospace and Defence. We pride ourselves on rising to the challenge every time to ensure we meet the needs of our customers and our industry. We don’t just do things for today, we work to deliver for the future too; we continuously innovate, adapt and invest to develop capabilities that are not readily available today."

Patrick Wood, Chief Technology Officer and Programme Management Director at Marshall ADG.

The opportunity for future energy is huge, but the challenge is even bigger. The UK’s Industrial Strategy points to a significant UK opportunity for battery manufacturing – government is keen to see the UK organisations excel in this area. This is not something that can be achieved in isolation, the industry needs to come together, we need to collaborate – not only within our own sector – but with other sectors too – this is not just about the growth of individual organisations, it’s bigger than that, it’s about ensuring we advance and retain these critical capabilities within the UK – we can lead this evolution – the UK’s supply chain is second to none, and by bringing together our skills base we can accelerate these critical developments.