Wright Electric Wilbur
When Pigs Fly
Electric passenger flight is one of the most exciting, disruptive, and new technologies on the verge of coming to market. With electric passenger flight, we have the potential to reduce emissions and increase comfort to hundreds of millions of airline passengers across the world, not to mention, foster substantial growth in terms of profitability and efficiency for the world’s largest airlines. Wright Electric, an electric aircraft startup based in Los Angeles, aims to have every short distance flight be zero-emissions in the next twenty years by developing an electric-powered, commercial airplane using electric propulsion and swappable battery packs. To assist Wright Electric in attaining their goal of accessible electric passenger flight, we are developing a demonstrator -- nicknamed Wilbur -- that serves as a proof of concept for Wright’s distributed propulsion system, as well as a test bed for control systems development.
Wilbur is a modified off-the-shelf RC plane, to which we have added autonomous flight capabilities. Wilbur is powered by a distributed electric propulsion system -- characterized by the integration of 10 motors into a 3D printed enclosure (provided by Wright Electric), all 10 of which are supported by a custom power management and controls system. The 10 motors are evenly distributed across the wing, mimicking the design of the end product. We have designed Wilbur to be capable of 3-5 minutes of autonomous flight, which in turn, has also required careful design of our power delivery systems. Moreover, Wilbur will be capable of landing and taking off autonomously, a feat which requires tight integration of our sensor package and control loops.