NASA has recently designed an electric aircraft that they hope will help usher in a brand new era in the history of aviation – a period where planes finally use clean and environmentally-friendly power. The electric aircraft prototype has a wing-span of only 31-ft, as a result, it is extremely light in weight. Its lightness is also due to the fact that it is built from carbon composites.
The design has a total of 18 motors that operate independently in order to keep the electric aircraft flying. NASA is confident that its plane will soon be able to achieve speeds that are similar to that of traditional small planes. Experts agree in saying that the electric aircraft could soon be the flying Tesla of the skies.
Electric aircraft could usher in a new chapter in avaiation
NASA has ironed plans that will find its team working on the testing of the electric aircraft design. Apart some of the experiments involving the wings being placed on top of a truck that runs at the necessary speed, others involve the plane’s wings being mounted on top of real airplanes such as the Tecnam P2006T. The final tests involving a NASA pilot flying the whole electric aircraft unchaperoned.
If the project is successful, the plane’s cruising speed will be set at 200 miles an hour. The electric aircraft is expected to boast a 230 mile range if it is run solely on electrical power. On the occasion when it will fly as a hybrid, the range will be 460 miles.
NASA design boasting a range 230 mile unassisted, all-electric range
The impressively fast lift to be created by the plane, together with its 31-foot wingspan, means that the electric aircraft will be able to take off easily from short runways. The shortest runway being 2,000 feet, which is 700 feet shorter than the runway that FAA recommends for similarly-sized passenger planes.
At this point, no one from the LEAPTech team will declare the electric aircraft to be a functional design as of yet. It is apparent that the only physical work that has been completed so far is on its wing where all the motor engines attached to it.
LEAPTech construction expected to commerce within the next few years
However, everyone working on the project is confident that eventually all other parts of the plane will be manufactured and tested as well. Assembly of the LEAPTech electric aircraft is seen to be happening in the next few years, together with the tests necessary to measure its effectiveness as a commercial plane.
Overall, electric planes such as the LEAPTech are faced with range issues and all others which are characteristic of electric cars. Still, those involved are hopeful about the project, aware that electric power can effect major positive changes in the world of aviation. They look forward to the day when airplanes are not anymore dependent on gas and can run primarily on electric power.
Photo courtesy of Dave Schumaker on Flickr