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NASA is leading research and development on electric plane

Different manufacturers particularly automobile are on the quest to creating cleaner and quieter cars to replace fuel guzzlers with the main aim of environmental pollution reduction. Planes manufacturer and other relevant groups have not been left behind, with the likes of NASA, Boeing, Airbus and even countries investing in electric aircraft. Among them, NASA is leading much of the research and development efforts in this area. The have just announced the name of their next X-plane concept: the X-57 ‘Maxwell.’

Maxwell is a hybrid electric research plane that has 14 electric propeller-turning motors along the wings. During take-off and landing, it uses all of the motors to create sufficient thrust, but once it is up in the air, it only uses two larger engines located on the tips of the wing. The experimental plane will be tested over the next four years with the aim of demonstrating that electrical propulsion can make planes more efficient, quieter and environmentally friendly. NASA believes that the plane’s unique design will result in a five-time reduction of energy required for small private planes to cruise at 175 mph.

It is quite common that most of the us associate NASA with planets especially Mars or astronauts on board International Space Station but we shouldn’t forget the acronym A for aeronautics in NASA. The agency has for many years used experimental aircraft to advance aviation technology. Through government funds, the agency has managed to reduce expensive research and development that constrain many private companies.

Maxwell is as a result of NASA’s New Aviation Horizon Initiative – a 10-year program to design a new generation of X-plane that will use greener energy and be half as loud as commercial aircraft. NASA received $790 million to fund the initiative and others from the President’s FY2017 budget.

Plane design change could bring about a number of advantages. The current internal combustion engine requires bulky, drag-inducing mechanism for cooling air, fuel lines, combustion air intake and handling exhaust gases. An Electric motor is smaller, simpler and has fewer moving parts.

However, electric plane requires an energy source. In Maxwell’s example, it will be powered by batteries. With batteries, it is necessary to recharge them unless the entire plane’s design uses solar panels. This means that the aircraft can only cover short trips. NASA has specified that Maxwell is intended to be a private plane that will not often be used for long-haul flights.

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