Condor's E-Racer a Double-Engined Rule-Pusher

Credit: Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, head of Airbus Group Demonstrators (l), Condor Aviation's Martyn Wiseman (c) and Air Race E CEO Jeff Zaltman (r) with Condor's White Lightning racer at the Airshow

Aircraft design is all about trade-offs and pushing at the limits. Just ask British firm Condor Aviation, which is designing an aircraft to compete in the forthcoming Air Race E series of electrically powered air races.

"The problem is, when you start putting in the batteries you're going to be overweight," says Martyn Wiseman, Condor's founder and managing director, indicating the modified Cassutt racer that is making its public debut in the static display at the Airshow. "This one's 150 kw; we're working on another one that's 400 kw. The motors are not much bigger but you've got a lot more power, which means you can have a bigger airframe and more carrying capacity."

The Cassutt uses a contra-rotating propeller system with each prop run from a separate electric motor.

"The motors are small, but the horsepower is very low," Wiseman says. "You couldn't get off the ground with one, so you need two. So why not run one backward, and have contra-rotating props? It's more efficient than a single prop."

The planned platform for the second aircraft is a Harmon Rocket, but that will push beyond size and weight limits for the Air Race E series as they currently stand. Fortunately, series organizer Jeff Zaltman – and sponsors Airbus – are willing to listen to arguments.

"Airbus is going to be hosting a workshop with all the teams," Zaltman says. "We'll take the feedback from the teams and try to bake it back into the rules. Ultimately, the fundamental premise is that the rules and parameters for the series have to drive us toward something that'll have a market application in the future."

Failure, as the cliché runs, is not an option.

"Can we build it?" Wiseman asks, rhetorically. "This is what we get off on. More to the point, how the ---- do we build it? Because we will."