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Air travel by passenger volume has increased by an annual growth rate of 9%

since the 1960s. Although emissions created by aircraft represent a very small
percentage of all global emissions, the dependence on non-renewable energy,
costly oil and relatively large inefficiencies of jet engines has led to efforts to
move towards all-electric aircraft (AEA) in an incremental fashion. The European
Commission has guided the development via its Flightpath 2050 vision. The
document, among other goals, state that relative to aircraft of 2000 a 75%
reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer and a 90% reduction in NO
emissions should be achieved and aircraft should be recyclable with taxiing
emitting zero emissions and a 65% reduction in noise. A key part of this is to
consider the migration of the propulsion system to electrical systems. Currently
excessive masses of fuel cell and batteries has restricted electric aircraft to
unmanned and small aircraft such as the Airbus E-Fan, NASA Helios, EADS Cri-Cri,
Solar Impulse and a host of others driven by traditional electrical motors. It is
estimated that electrical cabling, motors and generators account for 70% of the
electrical system weight of a 300 seater aircraft providing room for huge
improvement.
HTS technology has been touted as the enabling factor of AEA especially in
distributed propulsion designs being developed by NASA and Airbus due to their
enhanced airframe integration leading to boundary layer management, easier
maintenance and reduced noise emissions. HTSs provide a means to transport
improved current densities with zero resistance under DC conditions at a
fractional density of copper conductors provided they are cooled to cryogenic
temperatures. Under AC conditions a superconductor will show losses due to
screening currents, flux pinning and coupling currents. According to various
studies it had been estimated the power densities of HTS machines can be up to
3 times larger than turbine engines once technology barriers have been solved.
A small selection of these barriers include cooling constraints, stability, quench
protection and manufacturing of HTS wires. Issues relating particularly to
propulsion design include developing and demonstrating fully superconducting
rotating machines with a power density above 25 kW/kg, developing low AC loss
conductors to less than 10 W/Am at 500 Hz and achieving cryocoolers capable of
30% Carnot efficiency and 3 kg/kW input.