NASA unveiled an early version of its all-electric airplane, the X-57 “Maxwell”, on Friday at its lesser-known aeronautics lab in California.
According to Reuters, the airplane is adapted from an Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane. The X-57 has been under development since 2015 and remains a year away from its first test flight from the Edward Air Force Base.
Maxwell was declared ready for public view after NASA attached two of the largest 14 electronic motors to it that will be used to propel the plane – powered by specially designed lithium-ion batteries.
While private companies have been developing all-electric planes and hover-craft for years, NASA’s X-57 venture is aimed at designing and proving technology according to standards that commercial manufacturers can adapt for government certification.
“We’re focusing on things that can help the whole industry, not just one company,” Brent Cobleigh, a project manager for NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, told Reuters in an interview at the research center. “Our target right now is to fly this airplane in late 2020.”
According to Universe Today, like reusable spacecraft and infrastructure, electric craft is a part of NASA’s efforts to make aerospace ‘cheaper, more efficient and less harmful to the environment’.
NASA will share details of their aircraft’s designs and testing process with industry experts and aviation regulators. It is hoped that this will make way for the development of aircrafts that are environmentally friendly, cost-effective and quiet.