A Review of Distributed Electric Propulsion Concepts for Air Vehicle Technology

Hyun D. Kim, Aaron T. Perry, Phillip J. Ansell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The emergence of distributed electric propulsion (DEP) concepts for aircraft systems has enabled new capabilities in the overall efficiency, capabilities, and robustness of future air vehicles. Distributed electric propulsion systems feature the novel approach of utilizing electrically-driven propulsors which are only connected electrically to energy sources or power-generating devices. As a result, propulsors can be placed, sized, and operated with greater flexibility to leverage the synergistic benefits of aero-propulsive coupling and provide improved performance over more traditional designs. A number of conventional aircraft concepts that utilize distributed electric propulsion have been developed, along with various short and vertical takeoff and landing platforms. Careful integration of electrically-driven propulsors for boundary-layer ingestion can allow for improved propulsive efficiency and wake-filling benefits. The placement and configuration of propulsors can also be used to mitigate the trailing vortex system of a lifting surface or leverage increases in dynamic pressure across blown surfaces for increased lift performance. Additionally, the thrust stream of distributed electric propulsors can be utilized to enable new capabilities in vehicle control, including reducing requirements for traditional control surfaces and increasing tolerance of the vehicle control system to engine-out or propulsor-out scenarios. If one or more turboelectric generators and multiple electric fans are used, the increased effective bypass ratio of the whole propulsion system can also enable lower community noise during takeoff and landing segments of flight and higher propulsive efficiency at all conditions. Furthermore, the small propulsors of a DEP system can be installed to leverage an acoustic shielding effect by the airframe, which can further reduce noise signatures. The rapid growth in flight-weight electrical systems and power architectures has provided new enabling technologies for future DEP concepts, which provide flexible operational capabilities far beyond those of current systems. While a number of integration challenges exist, DEP is a disruptive concept that can lead to unprecedented improvements in future aircraft designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2018 AIAA/IEEE Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium, EATS 2018
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781624105722
StatePublished - Nov 29 2018
Event2018 AIAA/IEEE Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium, EATS 2018 - Cincinnati, United States
Duration: Jul 12 2018Jul 14 2018

Publication series

Name2018 AIAA/IEEE Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium, EATS 2018


Other2018 AIAA/IEEE Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium, EATS 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'A Review of Distributed Electric Propulsion Concepts for Air Vehicle Technology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this