What Are ‘More Electric Aircraft’ and Why Are They Popular?
MEA is ultimately a reimagining of the way aircraft work. Traditionally, non-propulsive systems in planes (for example, engine starting, flight controls, pressurization, and de-icing) are powered by a combination of secondary power sources like hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical. MEA aims to use electrical power, or a hybrid of electric and a different power, to power their non-propulsive systems, an industry-wide push which, as explained by MoreElectricAircraft.com, serves to “optimize aircraft performance, decrease operating and maintaining costs, increase dispatch reliability, and reduce gas emissions.” They are all in all more environmentally friendly, producing lower carbon emissions and minimal noise pollution, and are safer than traditionally used aircraft.
It’s these benefits that have made more electric planes increasingly popular. Though it’s been a few years in the making, electric planes — or at least hybrids — have started to become more mainstream and are headed toward success. In July 2019, the BBC ran an article entitled, “Why the age of electric flight is finally upon us,” detailing the emerging trend of aerospace firms joining forces to tackle their industry’s growing concern over its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Companies like Uber have partnered with electric flight startups to experiment with the development of air taxis.
An Industry Taking Off?
Amid all this excitement, the global MEA market has obviously seen quite significant growth. A report published earlier this month to Research and Markets, “More Electric Aircraft Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast,” takes a look at the market’s past few years of growth. As mentioned above, it’s been a strong period of value increase by an average of over 6% from 2014 to 2019.
“Significant growth in the aviation industry, along with a growing need to optimize aircraft performance, is among the key factors driving the growth of the market,” explains the report, referencing a heightened global push toward sustainability that’s put increased pressure on the market. “In line with this, widespread adoption of MEA, owing to associated benefits such as reduced operating and maintenance costs and increased reliability, is contributing to the market growth.”
The more widespread acceptance for and successful adoption of certain technologies has led to a positive reinforcement loop for the usage of technologically advanced power electronics, fault-tolerant equipment, electro-hydrostatic actuators, and flight-controlled systems, says the report.
Furthermore, their adoption in the commercial sector has been game-changing. Newly produced aircraft are more frequently being integrated with this electronically-driven software because of the benefits of fuel efficiency, reliability, and less dependence on fossil fuels. Increased adoption in the defense sector of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and in research and development has also played a role.
The Sky’s the Limit
With all this success fueling it, there appears to be a bright future ahead for the global MEA market. At least, that’s what analysts are predicting. A separate report recently published to Research and Markets values the current global market at $1.504 billion as of 2020 but projects it will reach $3.359 billion by 2025. This would mean a compound annual growth rate of 17.4% over the next five years, which is more than 10% higher than the CAGR of the past few years.
This report ties its prediction to “recent technological advancements in the field of power electronics, fault-tolerant architecture, electro-hydrostatic actuators, flight control systems, high-density electric motors, and power generation and conversion systems” that have fueled the adoption of MEA.
However, the report notes that the coronavirus pandemic could serve as a damaging factor for the market’s growth. Travel restrictions have had an adverse impact on the airline industry, hampering growth and rosy predictions for its future. It’s expected that the aviation industry could take several years to recover from the financial fallout of COVID-19. Nonetheless, this prediction considers that damage and still projects that the market will soar, with particular growth in the civil sector over the military sector.
Key market players, according to the report, include:
- Amphenol Corporation
- Astronics Corporation
- Avionic Instruments LLC
- Bae Systems
- Eaglepicher Technologies, LLC
- Elbit Systems
- Embraer S.A
- GE Aviation
- Honeywell International Inc
- Moog Inc
- Nabtesco Corporation
- Parker Hannifin Corp
- PBS Aerospace
- Pioneer Magnetics
- Raytheon Technologies Corporation
- Rolls-Royce plc
- Safran S.A.
- Thales Group
- Wright Electric
About the Author
Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.