News / USA

Electric-Powered Aircraft Closer To Reality

Battery-powered WAIEX aircraft
Battery-powered WAIEX aircraft
Kane Farabaugh

The drive to develop a battery to power automobiles, without using petroleum, is also behind the effort to develop an electric powered airplane.  New designs for electric aircraft were recently unveiled at the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) AirVenture show in Wisconsin. While plans for electric powered passenger planes are still way in the future, sport airplanes and small helicopters powered by batteries could be on the market in the next few years.

John Monnett is the founder of Sonex Aircraft. He gets excited each time he demonstrates the capabilities of his new, experimental WAIEX aircraft.

It looks like a small plane. It feels like a small plane, but it doesn't sound like a small plane.

That's because this version of the WAIEX is not powered by a combustion engine.  It's uses batteries.  

"We wanted to stimulate thought about electric airplanes, and this is really the culmination of that," said John Monnett. "It's ready to fly, it's a completely autonomous electric airplane now, meaning that it has its own electronics battery and motor."

The battery-powered WAIEX is the product of the Sonex e-flight initiative. The company launched the program in 2006 to promote the development of alternative energy sources for aircraft.

"We are faced today with what I believe is a watershed event," said Craig Willan.

Craig Willan is a flight engineer. He's closely monitored the development of electric powered aircraft.

"What is electric mobility going to give us?  Not only on the ground but in the air?  The sky's the limit," he said. "It's a clean, renewable, highly efficient form of propulsion."

Sikorsky Engineer Jonathan Hartman agrees.

"Electric propulsion has a lot of benefits over internal combustion engines," he said. "It's quieter, it has less vibration, its inherently less complex which drives down costs, and it's easier to operate."

Hartman is part of a team at Sikorsky Aircraft working on Project Firefly. It's a single rotor helicopter powered by batteries made by US Hybrid.

"The power source for the aircraft are the two battery packs you see on either side, which are lithium ion batteries which are similar to what you find in our laptops, only custom made for us for this application," said Hartman.

Hartman says the wide swing in fuel prices made Sikorsky think about an alternative.  

"Rotor craft specifically play a critical role for both military and commercial applications," he said. "And that role could be threatened by shortages in fuel or spiraling fuel costs."

But the very thing that drives electric powered aircraft is also the biggest hurdle. Batteries are bulky and heavy, and for machines that need to be light. the major innovation ahead is making those batteries lighter and smaller.

Hartman thinks Sikorsky has found a solution. Although Project Firefly is still grounded, Hartman expects manned flight tests to begin soon.

"This can fly, and will fly," said Jonathan Hartman. "And we're looking forward to doing so when ground tests end, which we anticipate for later this year."

The Sonex and Sikorsky projects are two examples in a growing field of innovation in electric powered flight - most in their infancy.

Experts say bringing this technology to commercial air travel is a dream far in the future.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More