Are Electric Aircraft the Future of Aviation?

Electric cars are already becoming a daily sight for many people with the strengths and weaknesses of electric versus traditional clear, but the move to electric skies is taking much longer by comparison. But a team of NASA researchers may have something to say about that.

A team at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia has completed test flights of a small scale, unmanned vehicle called the Greased Lighting or GL-10. The aircraft, which has a 10-foot wingspan, has 10 battery-powered engines that allow the prototype to take off and hover vertically and fly horizontally like an airplane.

During the initial design process, engineers envisioned a dual-turbine engine powering the aircraft’s rotors, but rather than putting the onus on fewer engines, the team opted for a more economical solution and spread the distribution across 12 electric motors at 25 horsepower each. These motors power 8 propellers across the single fixed-wing and two horizontal propellers for balance and pitch control.

Furthermore, the research team discovered that electric motors actually performed better than internal combustion engines, as they don’t require air to produce power. This allows the aircraft to maintain their efficiency and performance at higher altitudes and reduce drag that would be present otherwise on planes with secondary air intakes, fuel lines, and exhaust systems.

While test flights have been successful, the aircraft’s battery has been a major hindrance. Batteries are heavy, expensive, and hugely inefficient, limiting the aircraft’s ability to stay in the air for long periods of time (which its intended use as a surveillance or delivery device would require). And NASA’s team isn’t aimed at battery development, limiting the creative flexibility for innovating on the problem.

Aside from the sheer feat of developing highly-functional, versatile electric aircraft in this world of cheap, but impressive consumer-level drones, NASA has a secondary goal in mind: provide the FAA with the engineering data needed for future aircraft certifications.

Check out that video above to see the GL-10 in action and be sure to browse our newly redesigned store to find all the connector parts and accessories you need for aircrafts of any size!

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