Durban-based Adept Airmotive has rolled out what it says is the world’s first modern multi-fuel lightweight, green general aviation (GA) piston engine. The development was n part funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Innovation Fund and supported by British-based AgustaWestland Helicopters
In addition to normal unleaded petrol (MOGAS), with an octane rating as low as 85, or standard aviation fuel (AVGAS), the ADEPT 320T engine can operate on more environmentally friendly alternatives such as biofuel or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). “Our technology benchmarks South Africa against the finest aviation engineering in the world,” says Adept chairman Andre Schoeman.
The liquid-cooled engine with advanced electronic engine management was made public on Monday at Virginia Airport, Durban, where it powered a South African designed, all-composite SA Ravin 500 light aircraft, which in turn was fitted with another local innovation, a “glass cockpit” digital avionics suite from MGL Avionics.
Adept says the engine, which produces 320 horsepower, boasts low lead, nitrous oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and noise levels, “which sets it apart from existing technology and benchmarks new standards in the GA industry.” At an installed weight of 158 kilograms, the engine is reportedly roughly 30% lighter than traditional piston engines of comparable horsepower and offers fuel efficiencies of up to 30% better than conventional GA powerplants.
The architecture of the 320T’s compact engine is entirely different from that of traditional general aviation engines. It is a 120-degree V6 engine, which is dimensionally short, ensuring high levels of strength, durability and smoothness. As a result, it is well balanced, reducing vibration and materials fatigue. In addition, the 320T drives its constant speed propeller through a speed reduction unit, which allows the engine to rev higher, increasing both engine efficiency and providing optimum propeller efficiency.
Adept, in a media release, adds that from the cradle to the grave, the 320T “is the most environmentally friendly engine in world general aviation.” Upstream in the manufacturing chain, Adept used a Digital Prototyping design process that enabled it to use digital design data contained in 3D models from concept to final component, the statement added. A full suite of hard tooling now exists for commercial production.
The emission free foundry process used in the production of engine castings is the first in South Africa, and has only recently been introduced by a major European automobile manufacturer. The process is the result of a technology collaboration between Adept and the German company Ashland Sud-Chemie. Adept further contains its carbon footprint with the use of recyclable materials in its manufacturing process, the company says.
Adept was established seven years ago by Richard Schulz, Geoff Cronje and Raymond Bakker, with initial funding for the project from private investment company Tanglewood Private Equity (owned by company chairman Andre Schoeman). Since 2005, UK based AgustaWestland Helicopters has provided significant support and continues to fund Adept’s certification process through the European Aviation and Safety Agency (EASA). In 2007, the DST Innovation Fund invested R10.5 million to fund the company to a pre-production stage. Adept is now in discussion with DST’s Technology Innovation Agency and Trade and Investment KZN for funding to ramp up to full production.