IPROP: ion propulsion in atmosphere

Actual ion-powered prototype aircraft to be realised

The European project IPROP – Ionic PROPulsion in Atmoshpere had its kick-off meeting on 21-22 November. The project is co-ordinated by Prof Marco Belan of the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DAER) at Politecnico di Milano and funded through the ‘EIC Pathfinder Open’ call, promoted by the European Innovation Council to support innovative ideas that can pave the way for new technologies.

So far, ion propulsion has only found application in space, and now IPROP aims to explore its development potential for application in the atmosphere, going beyond the current pioneering phase to understand whether this technology can achieve widespread use in the future.

The programme will engage the partners in an extensive fundamental research phase that will cover the very theory of ionisation phenomena, the study of electrode geometries used in ion propulsion and even explore the integration of innovative thrusters on flying prototypes. 

As part of the project, an actual ion-powered prototype aircraft will be realised. It will be an airship and will serve as a technology demonstrator: a first step towards larger-scale applications at higher altitudes. Great expectations are focused is precisely on the possible uses of this technology in the stratosphere, as it combines long, maintenance-free operating times and very low environmental impact.

The IPROP consortium, led by Politecnico di Milano, also includes Università di Bologna, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, Technische Universität Dresden, Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Aeronord company.
The team involved for Politecnico currently includes Filippo Maggi, Carlo Riboldi, Stefano Cacciola, Raffaello Terenzi, Stefano Trovato, Davide Usuelli, Domenico Montenero and Marco Belan for the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology; Paolo Barbante, Lorenzo Valdettaro and Carlo de Falco for the Department of Mathematics.