US-based aircraft engine manufacturer GE Aviation has collaborated with the Nasa Advanced Air Vehicles Programme (AAVP) to develop an inverter for large commercial electric aircraft.

The advanced inverter will meet Nasa’s specified size, efficiency, power and altitude requirements for its flight applications.

The inverter is the central component of an electric aircraft propulsion system and provides power to the system, which drives the electric motor.

The electric aircraft includes GE’s silicon carbide (SiC) technology, which will significantly increase power density. This will enable the company’s technologists in developing an inverter that is small enough and capable of delivering the required power to support electric flight.

GE Research Electric Power chief engineer Konrad Weeber said: “We’re essentially packing 1MW of power into the size of a compact suitcase that will convert enough electric power to enable hybrid-electric propulsion architectures for commercial airplanes.

“We have successfully built and demonstrated inverters at ground level that meet the power, size and efficiency requirements of electric flight. The next step is to build and demonstrate one that is altitude ready.”

Expected to cost $12m, the programme will be funded by both companies. It is built on the technology milestones of MW-class and kV-class compact inverters previously developed in partnership with the US Department of Energy (DoE) and Nasa’s AAVP.

Nasa’s Glenn Research Center Hybrid Gas-Electric Propulsion subproject manager Amy Jankovsky said: “With recent advances in materials and power electronics, we are beginning to overcome the challenges faced in developing energy-reducing electrification concepts, and this inverter work is a critical step in Nasa’s Electrified Aircraft Propulsion effort.

“Our partnership with GE is key to advancing flight-weight and flight-ready components in the megawatt class.”

Last month, GE Aviation said that it was set to supply wireless mini quick-access recorders to assist Utair in meeting its flight data collection requirements from the State Civil Authority of Russia (SCAA).