With 14 electric motors NASA’s new experimental aircraft X-57 will begin a new era of x-plane research. “Maxwell”, named after James Clerk Maxwell, 19th century Scottish physicist, is testing new electric propulsion technology.
X-57 has 14 propellers and 14 electric motors, 7 on each of the aircraft’s wings. 12 of the motors will be used during takeoff and landing, while the other two, which are larger, will be used when the plane is cruising. NASA’s researchers hope to prove that the new technology can reduce up to five times the energy used for reaching cruising speed of 282km/h.
“Maxwell” is part of the 10-years-long NASA initiative “New Aviation Horizons”, funded with $790 milion by the President’s FY 2017 budget, and the purpose of the researchers is to show and prove the advantages of electric propulsion. Engineers are developing technologies that will make the plane a lot more efficient and environmental friendly. Reducing the noise of the aircraft, decreasing fuel usage, expected to result into a much lower operational cost.
“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 Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator.
Compared to internal combustion engines, which require lead-based fuel, electrical engines have many pros. They are smaller, with fewer moving parts, solving emission problems. The problem with aircrafts like “Maxwell”, is the recharging of the batteries powering the engines. This suggests that the airplane will be capable of only doing flights on a short distance. NASA, however, stated that X-57 is planned to be a private plane, which are, in most cases, not designed to complete long-distance flights, anyway.
NASA have been researching X-planes for over 70 years, and they are bringing new horizons in aviation. Five more larger planes are planned, beside X-57, looking forward to this being the future of flying.