NASA is developing an experimental electric plane that could help cut operational costs by around 40 per cent as compared to a similarly sized, fuel-guzzling jet aircraft, The New York Times reported. The plane too would run quieter than a traditional aircraft.
However, before one could start dreaming of all the comforts a Tesla-style plane might bring to flying, a few key issues would need to be sorted out.
For starters, batteries took up a lot of space, and the X-57 plane NASA was currently developing would require around 800 pounds of batteries to be just functional. This would require NASA to eliminate all seats but the pilot's and even with that, the plane would be able to fly only for about one hour or so.
"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, in a statement.
Unlike earlier X-Planes designed by NASA, the new all-electric concept would have thinner wings and 14 motors. Two of these motors, driving five-foot-wide propellers, would be used mainly to maintain an average cruising speed of around 175 miles per hour.
Five larger transport-scale X-planes had also been planned as part of the initiative. Like the X-57, its goals would include demonstrating advanced technologies to cut fuel use, emissions and noise, and thus accelerate their introduction to the marketplace. The first plane in the X series, the X-1 became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound in 1947.
NASA's aeronautical innovators expect to achieve a five-time reduction in the energy required for a private plane to cruise at over 280km per hour with the distribution of electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft thus.