Over the past year, great leaps have been made in the advancement of sustainable aviation technology. The X-plane program is proving that it is possible to fly aircraft without producing loud noises, emissions, or expending large amounts of fuel. The Scalable Convergent Energy Propulsion Technology Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project is aimed at addressing these concerns, namely by creating non-fuel powered aircraft – such as the x-plane.
Production has begun on a new x-plane, the X-57 Maxwell. The plane is based on the Tecnam P2006T. In July 2016 the fuselage of the Tecnam aircraft was delivered to Mojave, California to begin conversion to a fully functioning x-plane. The plane will be modified incrementally until it is ready for flight. Each new modification step will go through rigorous testing to ensure accuracy and operability before the next modification is made. This process will allow for the base plane to be transformed into a fully electric aircraft.
Projections show that the Maxwell can be ready for flight anywhere between mid-2017 and early-2018, but NASA isn’t wasting any time. Test pilots are using the X-57 simulator to prepare for future flight testing. The simulator will be updated to reflect any changes that are made to the aircraft.
One of the primary modifications that will transform the Tecnam into the X-57 Maxwell is the wings. The new wing will be longer, thinner, and contain electric motors. Each of the small electric motors in the wing will be used during take-off to generate lift. The aircraft is expected to take-off at 75 mph. During flight, two larger engines will take over (and the smaller engines will shut off and recede into the wing) to maintain altitude. This modification was made to ensure that the aircraft did not break FAA regulations for take-off speeds. The electric power will allow for shorter flight times (fuel-powered planes must travel at a lower speed to get better fuel efficiency).
We anxiously await X-57 Maxwell developments in 2017!