The US space agency NASA is developing a new hybrid plane that can boost quest to build cleaner and quieter planes which will replace the smaller commercial aircraft in future.
Named as X-57 and nicknamed as “Maxwell”, the hybrid electric research plane contains 14 electric motors turning propellers located along both the winds.
“With the return of piloted X-planes to NASA’s research capabilities – which is a key part of our 10-year-long New Aviation Horizons initiative – the general aviation-sized X-57 will take the first step in opening a new era of aviation,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) annual Aviation and Aeronautics Forum and Exposition, on Friday in Washington.
Conventional planes have very large wings than required for a cruise flight, just to ensure the safe takeoff. However, the X-57 has narrower wings and can ensure safe cruise flight thanks to the two 60-kilowatt electric motors installed at the wingtips that spin 5-foot- wide propellers. The plane has 12 other smaller 9 kilowatt motors that spin 2-foot-wide propellers to generate the necessary lift. However, smaller propellers are folded away during the flight.
According to NASA, the unique design of the plane has enabled it to cruise at 175 mph with five times lesser energy consumption than the conventional planes. The new design has made internal combustion engines bulkier while electrical engines have become smaller and less complex.
Maxwell is a battery operated private aircraft designed for travel of shorter distances. Battery is the limiting factor, but companies like Tesla are developing a new mechanism for increasing storage capacity of batteries so that planes can travel longer distances as well.
Energy efficiency of Maxwell will help it travelling at faster speed, reducing the flight times by a significant amount. Also, NASA engineers have found success in decreasing the sound emanating from the aircraft which makes it environment-friendly and less annoying to people.
“Talking about going around the world in six hours or going from Dubai to New York in an hour,” Bolden said. “That’s absolutely incredible.”
NASA revealed about the X-57 in a press release.