“The one great value of the electric light – and the electric railway too – is that they expand mankind’s day … In the old days man went up and down with the sun. A million years from now we won’t go to bed at all.  Really, sleep is an absurdity, a bad habit. We can’t suddenly throw off the thraldom of the habit, but we shall throw it off.”

This was a prediction made by Thomas Edison on the impact of electric light on the modern world. Obviously, there weren’t enough hours in the day, for this man of uncommon brilliance. When Thomas Edison switched on his Pearl Street generating station’s electrical power distribution system in 1882, he provided 110 volts DC current to 59 customers in lower Manhattan.

Characterized by Edison’s penchant for bold innovation, GE Aviation is investing big in power generation, power distribution and electrical system integration for commercial, business, regional and military aircraft worldwide. This is perfect timing as the trend toward all-electric aircraft accelerates.

In addition to optimizing performance, efficiency and reliability in aircraft power systems, “GE Aviation is taking on a greater degree of system integration responsibility,” says Joe Krisciunas, engineering executive, GE Aviation – Electric Power Systems. “As aircraft become increasingly more electric, airframe manufacturers are looking to us to develop the entire electrical system from conception through modeling and simulation, to validation, qualification testing and eventually, certification.”

To build these complete end-to-end electrical power systems, GE Aviation created advanced manufacturing, simulation and physical integration facilities in Dayton, Ohio, and Cheltenham, England. The two virtually linked locations can design and test an entire aircraft electrical power generation and distribution system in the lab before it ever reaches the OEM’s factory floor.

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Using large motor drive stands rated up to 3,000 horsepower, GE technicians electrically simulate the aircraft’s engines, which are the main source for aircraft electrical power. Through sophisticated software applications, they can link real hardware such as avionics, electronic flight controls and cabin systems, and create a virtual aircraft’s entire electrical system. The process speeds aircraft development and ultimately decreases OEM costs by reducing the need for on-airframe and engine electrical power system testing.

One of the toughest challenges with generators, the key component in any aircraft electrical system, is thermal management. To tackle that issue, GE is incorporating cutting-edge, thermally conductive and electrically insulated nanomaterials to remove more heat while maintaining electrical isolation. The result is substantially higher levels of performance and efficiency. By using nanotechnology, engineers are able to design a smaller, lighter device with the same power rating or obtain more power in the same space.

More than a century ago, GE electrified the world and transformed what could only be imagined into reality. Today, that focus on breakthrough innovation remains a core part of GE Aviation’s DNA. With more than 50 years of experience in aviation electrical power and design, the company is leading the way to the future of flight.

Through pioneering solutions that precisely control the delivery of electrical power to specific aircraft functions, GE Aviation is helping aircraft designers and manufacturers develop the all-electric aircraft of tomorrow. Digitally controlled electric motors and fly-by-wire controls are replacing heavy, expensive-to-produce hydraulic systems. In the cabin, passengers are demanding power to stay in constant touch via electronic devices, smart phones and entertainment systems that can be as effective at 500 miles per hour and 40,000 feet, as they are on the ground. And, on the flight deck, electronic flight displays incorporating data from a wide array of electronic sensors are helping to enhance safety and provide pilots with previously unimagined levels of situational awareness, capability and operational efficiency.

The future of flight is contingent upon new, innovative solutions that result in better fuel economy, lower emissions and reduced operating costs. At GE Aviation, we believe that these goals are in our sights. We’re investing in our facilities to support our promise to invent the future of flight.

Learn more about GE’s electric power innovations with Gulfstream.