Along with trying to get us into space, NASA is looking to refocus back on the aeronautical piece of its mandate with a cutting-edge electrical airplane that could prove to be one of the most efficient modes of transportation once it’s built.
Dubbed the X-57, the electric-powered airplane was announced at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Washington. The project is aimed at creating a plane that is more efficient and creates less pollution. NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. heralded the initiative as a “new era” in aviation.
Though the technology couldn’t currently scale up to replace the engines in full-size passenger airliners, the space agency believes it could prove a major breakthrough for smaller general aviation and commuter craft. As The New York Times notes, the plane is styled like a Cessna and features skinny wings embedded with 14 motors. The plane tops out at 175 miles per hour.
To make the plane work with those smaller wings, it utilizes propellers to blow extra air over the wings for takeoff, then those propellers are folded up once the plane is aloft. Of course, by eliminating the gas engine, you have to make room for the batteries — which will take up the back two seats, while the passenger seat will be converted to include new instrumentation — meaning the X-57 model can only carry a pilot and no passengers.
The current model proposed would only be able to fly for about an hour on a charge, which again isn’t extremely viable in its current state. But it’s a fascinating tech demo for what can be done with electric motors in the coming decades.
(Via The New York Times)