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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid