Oct 9, 2019

Flight of an aeroplane with solid-state propulsion

Posted by in categories: energy, transportation

Circa 2018

Since the first aeroplane flight more than 100 years ago, aeroplanes have been propelled using moving surfaces such as propellers and turbines. Most have been powered by fossil-fuel combustion. Electroaerodynamics, in which electrical forces accelerate ions in a fluid1,2, has been proposed as an alternative method of propelling aeroplanes—without moving parts, nearly silently and without combustion emissions3,4,5,6. However, no aeroplane with such a solid-state propulsion system has yet flown. Here we demonstrate that a solid-state propulsion system can sustain powered flight, by designing and flying an electroaerodynamically propelled heavier-than-air aeroplane. We flew a fixed-wing aeroplane with a five-metre wingspan ten times and showed that it achieved steady-level flight. All batteries and power systems, including a specifically developed ultralight high-voltage (40-kilovolt) power converter, were carried on-board. We show that conventionally accepted limitations in thrust-to-power ratio and thrust density4,6,7, which were previously thought to make electroaerodynamics unfeasible as a method of aeroplane propulsion, are surmountable. We provide a proof of concept for electroaerodynamic aeroplane propulsion, opening up possibilities for aircraft and aerodynamic devices that are quieter, mechanically simpler and do not emit combustion emissions.


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  1. Ethan Krauss says:

    In the body of this MIT paper they state that they created “the first heavier than air ion propelled aircraft of any kind to carry its power supply.” In fact the first such craft had already been patented and independently verified to carry its power supply onboard. Please look on Google for “Self Contained Ion Powered Aircraft,” to see 11 flight footage videos of an earlier solely ion propelled aircraft.