Future for clean aviationWednesday 8th March 2017
Thirteen years ago electric propulsion was considered anecdotal. Today it’s part of all major development programs of the aviation industry. Solar Impulse illustrated its incredible efficiency and reliability, having flown around the world in an electric airplane with unlimited endurance flying capabilities.
According to the Airbus Group and a recently published white paper by Uber, Vertical Take Off and Landing electric aircrafts will become a major element in urban and mid range travel. Aviation experts predict a future market potential 100 times bigger than today. Many large and start up companies working on new concepts have led to national civil aviation authorities and municipalities actively studying how to integrate VTOL transport into ground transportation structure and systems.
Electric propulsion allows for new concepts with today’s existing technologies.
Electric technology can already be used for short distances; midrange flights can be achieved with hybrid concepts, which still benefit from the considerable advantages of electric technologies. Last year, the Swiss based Hangar 55 group developed an electric acrobatic airplane thanks to Solar Impulse technology and knowhow. It already demonstrated it’s potential: energy efficient, quiet, clean and incredibly easy to use with very little maintenance. .
What makes electric aviation special and unique? Using electric motors, you can build an aircraft, which combines the flexibility of a helicopter with vertical take-off and landing capabilities and the speed of an airplane. It’s safer than fuel based existing solutions through straightforward designs and fewer moving parts. It’s more reliable through simple redundancies. Electric motors and software commands with their ease of programming and quick response time, make it possible to control the airplane in the same way as you can experience it in small electric drones.
This will ultimately lead to autonomous aircrafts capable to move people in and out cities in a very efficient, quiet and non-polluting way. What was science fiction yesterday will become a reality in a few years time.
Certification and a new organization of airspace will be necessary, however this process has already started with the development of electric drones. In 2015 alone in the USA, more than 500’000 licenses to drones operators were granted compared with 300’000 airplane permits provided over the last 100 years. With the use of drones to deliver products in an autonomous way, we will be able to gather much flight experience, that it will make it possible to transport passengers.
Electric airplanes, a new paradigm? Yes for sure, through disruptive and innovative concepts that will deliver significant customer benefits. Think about affordable, fast, quiet, clean, door-to-door transportation!