Although NASA is known for its space missions, the organization goes beyond just that as the company is responsible for numerous projects around the world. Earlier on Friday, the space organization showed off an experimental electric plane at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
Named Maxwell X-57, the airplane has been in development since 2015 and is adapted from an Italian-made, four-seat Tecnam P2006T. As you might have expected, the airplane will use special lithium batteries instead of traditional engine. However, NASA stated that the airplane is still at least a year away from its first test flight.
According to a simulator revealed by NASA, the plane is in the first of three configurations called Modification II with the final modification set to feature narrower and lighter wings. Although research related to all-electric aircraft is nothing now, NASA’s initiative is aimed to make such airplanes suitable for commercial manufacturers.
Talking about the project, Brent Cobleigh, a project manager for NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, told Reuters, “We’re focusing on things that can help the whole industry, not just one company. Our target right now is to fly this airplane in late 2020.”
As expected, the airplane will have limited amount of range due to the limitations of current battery technologies. However, NASA expects that the X-57 can be used for short flights for a small number of passengers in future.