Bombardier Unveils EcoJet Research Project With Drone Prototype

Bombardier's Stephen McCullough and Michel Ouellette stand by a model of the testbed drone.
Credit: Mark Wagner/Aviation Images

GENEVA—Bombardier chose to focus on the sustainability initiatives it is undertaking at its press conference here at EBACE on May 22, which include the EcoJet Research Project to explore and refine new technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

The company unveiled a small-scale model of a testbed drone it has been using for flight and wind-tunnel testing at a secret location in Quebec.

Bombardier emphasized that it was not a new aircraft but rather a prototype to help understand and refine technologies for future projects.

“We actually believe that blended wing bodies are a part of the future,” Stephen McCullough, Bombardier vice president of engineering and chief of aircraft design and development, told assembled media, adding that technology readiness is progressing sufficiently and initial testing is proving its benefits.

“It’s also very, very scalable to what business aviation needs,” McCullough said, and adaptable in terms of payload, range, mission profile and other abilities. The technology allows Bombardier to “plug and play the propulsion systems of the future,” and is compatible with sustainable aviation fuel, hybrid electric and hydrogen propulsion.

“We’re fully committed to reducing business aviation’s environmental footprint … in line with business aviation’s commitments on climate change,” McCullough said. The goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050 through a combination of aerodynamic and propulsion enhancements.

“These reductions will actually create significant levels of innovation in our industry,” McCullough said. “Our EcoJet research program is really focused on understanding the technologies that are available, progressing those technologies and maturing those to our level of acceptability to go and actually put on our path to the future.”

It also will develop the people, processes and tools to utilize those technologies.

Going forward, Bombardier plans to work on larger-scale test models with increased representation of systems and subsystems and form domestic and international partnerships with academia and with industry partners.

At EBACE, Bombardier also announced that it has published its Environmental Product Declaration for the Challenger 3500 jet, an industry first in the super midsize category, according to Michel Ouellette, Bombardier executive vice president of engineering, programs and Bombardier Defense.

“We’re really proud of this,” Ouellette said. “These declarations are all about being fully transparent when it comes about sustainability.” The EPD covers the lifecycle of the aircraft, from the source of materials, assembly and completions and aircraft operations to aircraft retirement. 

“It serves as a roadmap, actually, to assess and make long-term strategic decisions supporting or reducing the overall carbon footprint at every state of the lifecycle,” Ouellette said.

Work involved assessing Bombardier’s 26 Tier 1 suppliers, 40,000 aircraft parts and a cross collaboration between 44 teams. It’s been more than a year in development. All the results were audited by an internal team.

Bombardier designed the Challenger 3500 with eco-friendly materials for the interiors, including the choice of eucalyptus veneers, wool and hemp, upcycled polyester and upcycled fabric blends.

In addition, Bombardier has introduced the Eco App, developed by SITA, which helps reduce aircraft fuel burn and emissions by taking into account the route, aircraft, historic data and flight and weather conditions and creating an optimized flight plan.

The Bombardier Challenger 3500, which upgrades the Challenger 350, is on track for first delivery in the second half of 2022, Ouellette says. Bombardier announced the program in 2021.

The aircraft’s auto throttle was certified by Transport Canada in April. Production “cut-ins” are in progress to transition from the Challenger 350 to the Challenger 3500.

The aircraft, which will have a 3,400-nm range, features a redesigned cabin with Bombardier’s signature Nuage seats, voice-controlled cabin to manage lighting, temperature and entertainment systems, wireless chargers throughout the cabin and a 24-in. 4K display in the cockpit.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.


1 Comment
Before exhibiting such futuristic aircraft, Bombardier should reduce its debt and find successors for its antique Challenger 350 (Challenger 3000 first flight in 2001) and Challenger 650 (Challenger 600 first flight in 1978).