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Electric Aircraft

The FlyNano prototype, at Finland's Lake Hepari

Last April, we told you about the FlyNano – a single-occupant petrol/electric microlight amphibious aircraft being developed by a Finnish aeronautical firm of the same name. At the time, some readers expressed skepticism, rightly pointing out that there was no video of the plane actually flying. That changed this week, however, as the company posted a video of one of the prototype’s first test flights.  Read More

Chip Yates of Flight of the Century has announced his intention to design, build and pilot...

Eighty five years ago, Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot to successfully fly from New York to Paris non-stop, claiming a substantial cash prize and securing a place in history in the process. Now another world record holder, Chip Yates, has announced plans to take on the same aviation challenge ... but this time the aircraft making the 3,600 mile non-stop flight will be all-electric. The ambitious project is still in its early stages but the Flight of the Century team has already developed a patent-pending battery deployment solution to replenish depleted batteries while the aircraft is in flight.  Read More

Volta Volaré has begun taking orders for its four-seater GT4 hybrid private aircraft it ca...

Volta Volaré has begun taking orders for its four-seater GT4 hybrid private aircraft it calls "the most technologically advanced private aircraft available anywhere on Earth." Though the GT4 is perfectly capable of taking off and flying powered only electrically, a gas engine starts when the airplane's battery drops to 25 percent capacity in order to recharge it mid-flight. Surprisingly, perhaps, Volta Volaré makes a strong economic case for the GT4. Because the powertrain has only one moving part - the motor or "EViation Drive" - the company claims the need for maintenance is reduced significantly, offering increases in TBO (time between overhaul) by up to a factor of ten when compared to a combustion engine.  Read More

Solar Impulse flying at the Paris Air Show in June 2011 (Photo: Solar Impulse)

After its successful inaugural Paris-to-Brussels flight last year, the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft will attempt to fly all the way to Morocco in May or June of this year, a journey almost ten times the distance, and its furthest flight and as a close as it has yet come to a trial run of its round-the-world flight planned for 2014.  Read More

Germany's DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics flew its unmanned solar-powered ELHAS...

There's no doubt that satellites have become an essential part of our daily lives, making things like communications, navigation, weather forecasting, and remote imaging all possible. Unfortunately, the orbiting objects can be very expensive, both to build and to launch into outer space. For some of the functions that they carry out, however, an actual satellite isn't required - a high altitude, long endurance (HALE) aircraft could also get the job done, and at a much lower cost. Some such aircraft have been powered by conventional fuel, batteries, and hydrogen. On November 13th, though, the Electric High Altitude Solar Powered Aircraft (ELHASPA) joined the ranks of HALE aircraft to fly using nothing but the power of the Sun.  Read More

German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned...

By now, most readers are probably pretty familiar with quadracopters - small hovering unmanned electric aircraft, which get their lift from a set of four propellers. Well, make the whole thing larger, boost the number of propellers (and accompanying motors) to 16, and you get what German aircraft developer e-volo calls a multicopter. While the company has previously demonstrated unmanned drones, on October 21st it accomplished what it claims is a world first - a manned flight.  Read More

NASA has just announced that Pipistrel-USA's Taurus G4 aircraft won first prize in its Gre...

Two years ago, aircraft designers were invited to build an electric airplane that could fly at least 200 miles (322 km) in under two hours, using less than one gallon (3.8 liters) of fuel per occupant – or the electrical equivalent. Whichever plane performed best would win its makers a prize of US$1.35 million. That was the idea behind the Green Flight Challenge, a NASA competition that was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation, and funded by Google. Well, the challenge wrapped up last week, with the winners being announced this Monday. Pennsylvania’s Pipistrel-USA team took first place, for its Taurus G4.  Read More

Pascal Chretien's prototype electric helicopter takes flight

It's easy to look back at the history of exploration and aviation and feel like there's no mountains left to climb, that the age of the great pioneers is behind us and we're doomed to a future of LCD tanning and monitor hypnosis. But don't try telling that to Pascal Chretien. On August 12, this electrical/aerospace engineer and helicopter pilot took to the air in the world's first untethered, fully electric manned helicopter flight in a prototype machine that he designed and built almost entirely by himself within a 12 month development period. In his 2 minute, 10 second test flight, Chretien beat aviation giant Sikorsky into the record books - but it was not without significant risk. As the man himself puts it: "in case of crash I stand good chances to end up in kebab form."  Read More

Elektra One and its solar SunAirport hangar will be sold together for less than EUR100,000...

PC-Aero's composite-construction, single-seat Elektra One electric Ultralight is one of the most efficient transportation devices ever conceived. It can fly for three hours, cruise at 160 km/h and has a 500 km range. The Elektra One's “SunAirport” hangar incorporates photovoltaic cells, providing zero emissions power for both the aircraft and hangar which will be sold together for less than EUR100,000 (US$145,000) from 2012. Significantly, the company's grand vision for taking recreational flying off-the-grid has just won it the Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft.  Read More

Google is sponsoring the Green Flight Challenge in which the e-Genius electric glider (pic...

Whether you view Google as a benevolent Internet overlord or the new 'Evil Empire', there’s no arguing that the search giant at least devotes some of its squazillions towards environmentally beneficial causes. Earlier this year the company invested US$168 million in what will be the world’s largest solar power tower plant and now it has partnered with NASA to sponsor the Green Flight Challenge that offers a prize purse of $1.65 million for the design of quiet, practical and energy-efficient aircraft.  Read More

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