NASA just showed off its first all-electric aircraft prototype, and as a commuter tool, the X-57 Maxwell promises to be quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than current aircraft. At the same time, this is NASA’s first X-Series aircraft in two decades. Although the X-57 Maxwell is not intended to go into space, the all-electric vehicle could still have a long-term impact in the future.
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It is reported that the X-57 Maxwell is part of NASA’s work to develop safety standards for a new generation of electric aircraft. Several companies are already working on similar projects to replace commuting engines that are noisy, fuel-hungry and difficult to maintain.
Given that there is currently no set of certification standards for such vehicles, NASA hopes to change that with the advancement of the X-57 program.
When the project is complete, NASA will work with regulators to share this electric propulsion-focused design and airworthiness program with the aerospace industry, the agency said.
This is especially important for Uber and other companies considering “flying taxi” projects that want to operate in dense urban areas.
The delivery of this X-57 Mod II prototype demonstrates some of the advantages that electric aircraft have over ICE. It is based on a modification of the Tecnam P2006T, replacing the traditional fuel engine with a cruise motor.
The newly designed driver can increase the efficiency of high-speed cruise by 500%, while achieving zero carbon emissions in flight. For communities on the ground, this can lead to a much quieter experience for people.
Initially, NASA conducted ground tests of the new Mod II aircraft at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, and had a suite of simulators to try out different ideas.
NASA staff say its ultimate goal is to conduct flight tests of electric flying taxis, which could happen as soon as the end of 2020.
It’s important to note that while the current prototype closely resembles a conventional aircraft, NASA’s final design will be very different.
In addition to the large cruise motors located at the ends of the wings, it has six smaller motors, all with a thruster on the wing.
They will function during takeoff and landing and retract back during flight to improve aerodynamic efficiency on the road.
Of course, limited by battery technology and range, electric planes are more suitable for short commutes than long-distance flights.