NASA unveils its first electric airplane

X-57 Maxwell

NASA presented the X-57 Maxwell, an early version of its first all-electric experimental aircraft Friday.

Inspired by Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane, the X-57’s development started in 2015 and is still a year away from its first test flight.

Equipped with two largest of 14 electric motors to propel the plane, powered by specifically designed lithium ion batteries, NASA presented it for first public appearance.

Agency exhibited a newly built simulator that will give the feel to move the finished version of the X-57. It is the latest experimental aircraft developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 and the X-15 rocket plane. It will be the agency’s first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades.

NASA’s X-57 project is focused at designing and proving technology according to standards that commercial manufacturers can imitate for government certification. These will include standards for airworthiness and safety, as well as energy efficiency and noise.

An executive, Cobleigh said in an interview that we are wishing to fly this airplane by end of 2020 and also we’re focusing on things that can help the whole industry, not just one company.

A much narrower, lighter-weight wings fitted with a total of 14 electric engines – six smaller “lift” props along the leading edge of each wing will be seen in final modification.

The lift propellers will be activated for take-off and landings, but pull back during the flight’s cruise phase. Electric motor systems are easy to maintain and weigh less, demanding less energy to fly, Cobleigh explained. They also are less noisy that traditional engines.

Battery remains a challenge as to store more energy with faster re-charging to extend the plane’s range,.

 

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