NASA space budget might have been cut down in the past few years, but on Earth it is still working on some wacky projects, including a fully electric aircraft.
Named the LEAPTech wing, it is part of a joint operation between NASA, Joby Aviation and ESAero to build a replacement to the gas chugging airplanes.
Joby Aviation is the main organisation working on the design of the LEAPTech wing, previously working on small aircraft using a new style of propellers for maximum efficiency in the air.
The LEAPTech wing features 18 electric motors all independent of one another, allowing the pilot to command each individual motor for even more efficiency. These motors are powered by lithium ion phosphate batteries, with a range of 200 miles.
NASA has tried the wing on several tests and will use the Tecnam P2006T aircraft with a customised LEAPTech wing to test for the first flights.
There is still the issue of range, currently at 200 miles. NASA could use a hybrid system for intermission between gas and fully electric, featuring a range of 400 miles.
Even with the hybrid engine, 400 miles is not enough to entice any commercial airline, considering most need enough fuel to travel more than one continent.
That said, electric car range has been doubled in the last five years, meaning we should expect to see similar gains in the electric aircraft market once more companies start getting involved.
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk did say the only mode of transport that could not use electric motors would be rockets, and said he would consider working on an electric aircraft sometime in the near future.