Electric aircraft come center stage

Dr Peter Harrop
Electric aircraft come center stage
Uniquely, IDTechEx updates its reports on a continuous basis, so purchasers get the latest information. Nowhere is this more important than with electric aircraft in all their shapes and forms because progress is so rapid. For example, both the Germans and the Americans have been developing airliner nose wheels that make them electric vehicles when on the ground. No more waiting for the tug on landing and no belching of deafening megawatts while waiting to take off. The cost savings will be in millions of dollars a year and the noise and pollution reduction will be considerable. However, the latest news is that Boeing has won the race and, following trials, has ordered parts for several hundred airliners to be converted to use the power of their existing auxiliary power system APS to achieve this. The German system was to use a large lithium battery with a fuel cell because fuel cells alone cannot cope with power surges. Unfortunately the airlines are cautious about large lithium-ion batteries following the fatal crash of a FedEx plane when its lithium-ion battery cargo spontaneously caught fire so this is not proceeding further.
Many electric airship projects are progressing apace as is the conversion of a best-selling Cessna to electric. There are also swarming electric micro-craft that collaborate using latest computer technology and the huge success of hand-launched military and civilian surveillance aircraft, further orders having been placed. In the IDTechEx report, Electric Aircraft 2012-2022, these and other latest developments are fully covered. For example, pure electric fixed wing aircraft are proving ideal for training where their silence and easy, low cost refuelling from solar panels is valued and the short duration of flight is not a problem. For longer duration, hybrids will be the way to go initially and several versions have been trialled recently with innovative range extenders. In some cases there is no loss of power with height, just like a pure electric craft.
Showing what will follow are the intercontinental and soon round-the-world flights of craft using nothing but photovoltaics on-board. The radically lighter-weight motors being researched will help all these projects and also with the pure electric helicopter that has now flown as well as the hybrid. In both cases, the primary cause of fatal crashes with helicopters is greatly reduced or eliminated. It is not all about landing silently in residential areas at night, though that is valued as well. Read about fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs that will soon stay aloft for five years just on sunshine and consider the size of the projects, some over half a million dollars. Here are a few of the smaller ones past and present.
Project costs of electric aircraft in millions of dollars
Source: IDTechEx
For more information and sample pages of Electric Aircraft 2012-2022 please see www.IDTechEx.com/EVaircraft
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Image: Solar Eagle, source: Boeing
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