Elec­tric X-plane named after Scottish sci­en­tist

Pilot - - NOTES -

NASA’S forth­com­ing X-plane elec­tric propul­sion demon­stra­tor ( Pilot Notes, Jan­uary) has been des­ig­nated X-57 and named Maxwell after James Clerk Maxwell, a 19th century Scottish physi­cist who did ground­break­ing work in elec­tro­mag­netism.

NASA’S Scal­able Con­ver­gent Elec­tric Propul­sion Tech­nol­ogy Op­er­a­tions Re­search project is bas­ing the X-57 on a mod­i­fied Tec­nam P2006, re­plac­ing the stan­dard wing and two pis­ton en­gines with a wide span, high-as­pect-ra­tio wing em­bed­ded with four­teen elec­tric motors, twelve on the lead­ing edges for take­off and land­ing, and one larger mo­tor on each tip, for use at cruise al­ti­tude. NASA hopes to val­i­date the idea that dis­tribut­ing elec­tric power across a num­ber of motors in this way will re­sult in a five-times re­duc­tion in the en­ergy re­quired for a light air­craft to cruise at 175mph.

‘ Maxwell will be pow­ered only by bat­ter­ies’, says NASA, ‘elim­i­nat­ing car­bon emis­sions and demon­strat­ing how de­mand would shrink for lead-based aviation fuel still in use by gen­eral aviation.

‘In­creased ef­fi­ciency at cruise al­ti­tude us­ing X-57 tech­nol­ogy could re­duce flight times and over­all op­er­a­tional costs for small air­craft by as much as forty per cent. Elec­tric propul­sion es­sen­tially elim­i­nates the en­ergy penalty for cruis­ing at higher speeds.’

NASA is plan­ning up to five more, larger transport-scale X-planes as part of the over­all pro­gramme.

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