Mark Broadbent
By Mark Broadbent

Mark Broadbent is a freelance journalist specializing in aerospace and technology. He has written for numerous magazines and websites and became the assistant editor of Air International magazine 2014. He has covered a wide variety of topics across the aerospace industry spanning commercial aircraft, airline industry, unmanned, technology and historical subjects. Follow him on Twitter @mjbwriter.

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RCbenchmark to release higher-performance eVTOL test equipment

RCbenchmark is to launch a new range of motor and propeller test equipment specifically tailored for the eVTOL industry.

RCbenchmark Series 1780 thrust stand
RCbenchmark’s Series 1780 thrust stand measures thrust up to 75 kgf and torque up to 48 Nm. RCbenchmark Photo

The Gatineau, Quebec-based company’s test equipment for brushless motors and propellers has already been used in several eVTOL projects to test efficiency and performance. 

RCbenchmark co-founder and CEO Charles Blouin told eVTOL.com: “We’re developing a new generation of product that will have a better calibration and a high acquisition speed, which will allow dynamic testing.”

As eVTOL developers pursue endurance and payload improvements there will be a need for test equipment to advance in step with the latest technology. The new tool will support thrust measurements up to 130 kilogram-force — around double the capability of the company’s Series 1780 thrust stand.

In the latest tool, customers will be able to test up to eight motors simultaneously, up from a maximum of two motors on the current version. 

Blouin said the new model, specifically developed to support propulsion systems for eVTOL applications, has a planned release date in the next six months.

RCbenchmark was created in 2014 as a direct result of Blouin and co-founder Dominic Robillard’s master’s thesis at the University of Ottawa, which used test stands to evaluate different combinations of brushless motors and propellers on a small helicopter drone to find the most effective levels of thrust and torque.

Blouin and Robillard discovered their stand could double flight time if the right motor/propeller combination was used. Realizing that unmanned aerial vehicle designers would find such a tool useful, they decided to create a company that could provide professional testing equipment for drone developers.

RCbenchmark’s first product was the Series 1580/1585, which measures thrust up to 5 kgf and torque up to 1.5 Newton meters, and can test motors of up to 2,750 Watts and propellers up to 22 inches.

Next came the Series 1780, which measures thrust up to 75 kgf and torque up to 48 Nm, and can test 50,000-Watt motors and 70-inch propellers.

Blouin explained, “Our products take five main measurements: current, voltage, RPM, torque, and thrust. In addition, it is possible to measure temperature and airspeed using additional accessories. The software calculates mechanical power, electrical power, propeller efficiency, and motor efficiency, all in real-time.”

“You are able to compute the system efficiency, optimize batteries, test different kinds of power and motor, and find the best combination. We’re the only company that provides this tool.”

RCbenchmark Series 1780 thrust stand
RCbenchmark is seeing growing demand for its products in the eVTOL market. RCbenchmark Photo

RCbenchmark’s data acquisition software enables a developer to find the optimal motor/propeller combination for their specific product.

A customer can manually control the electronic speed controller, three servo sliders can control propeller blade pitches, and servo ports can be used to plug external devices such as an optical RPM probe, or control the air velocity in a wind tunnel.

Customers can also select and flash firmware according to their needs and there is the possibility of setting safety cut-offs on the measured data to boost security.

The software additionally enables automated propulsion system tests, and a scripting capability lets developers write their own scripts into the software to automate their specific tests.

Quality control is at the heart of the approach. Blouin said, “You can also use our tool on the production line to test the conformity of the propeller and motors. We have clients [who] use our tool on the production line to check whether their motor is within specification.”

RCbenchmark has sold more than 1,000 units of the Series 1580/1585 and more than 100 units of the Series 1780 so far, with quadcopter, hexacopter and octocopter drone developers all key customers.

Applications in eVTOL account for a growing portion of the company’s business. “We have seen a huge increase in demand for our product in the eVTOL market,” Blouin told eVTOL.com.

Airbus Helicopters has used Series 1585 equipment for its CityAirbus multicopter project. RCbenchmark is also working with Airbus on the European company’s urban air mobility project in Singapore, which was announced in February 2020, Blouin said.

Volocopter and SkyDrive are other eVTOL players to have used RCbenchmark equipment. SkyDrive is using the Series 1780 for its cargo drone to optimize geometry and size, and undertake component tests, with the company reporting the software is “easy to use, and automatic control is very helpful” for its tests.

Blouin said “it’s going to be so important to develop different types of testing equipment” tailor-made for eVTOL applications.

Beyond the forthcoming new equipment allowing up 130 kgf, he told eVTOL.com that RCbenchmark is already thinking about further evolving the company’s offering to other equipment to test and certify powertrains.

“We also want to work on certification. In the future we see companies testing a propulsion system and certifying their eVTOL with our tool,” Blouin added.

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