NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

NASA is set to test out its X-57 Maxwell electric aircraft in the fall. The Maxwell uses a total of 14 electric motors for takeoff with only the two large outer motors in use during cruise.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

So what exactly is the X-57 Maxwell and how could it affect the way we fly in the future. Let's take a deeper look into this pure electric aircraft...

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

The new X-57 'Maxwell' is the latest in a lineup of experimental aircraft from NASA that have transformed the way people fly, especially the military. The first plane in this lineup was the Bell X-1, a bullet-shaped, rocket-powered that became the first plane to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, with Chuck Yeager at the helm.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

The latest in the X plane lineup is the X-57 'Maxwell', NASA's first all-electric, battery-powered aircraft. The X-57 project was revealed back in 2016 and the aircraft has been named after Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who was responsible for the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

The X-57 Maxwell is not an entirely new aircraft but is instead based on the existing Tecnam P2006T, an all-metal, high-winged, four-seater aeroplane that is powered by two liquid-cooled Rotax engines that can run on Avgas as well as regular 92-octane petrol. By using an existing platform, scientists at NASA have an existing baseline model with which they can compare the data collected by flying the Maxwell.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

For the X-57 Maxwell, NASA removed the P2006T's high wings and replaced them with a set of wings equipped with a total of 14 electric motors connected to propellers. NASA calls this system by the rather scientifically boring name of Leading-edge asynchronous propeller technology, or LEAP. The LEAP system on the Maxwell consists of 12 smaller high-lift motors that sit along the leading edge of the wings while two larger motors sit on the wing tips.

So why has NASA gone with so many propellers? A large number of propellers helps push air more quickly over the wings of the aircraft allowing it to generate more lift at lower speeds. These high-lift motors feature flexible propellers which stop and fold into the nacelles that hold them once the X-57 Maxwell reaches cruising speeds.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

Once cruising speeds have been achieved, the two large wingtip propellers are each powered by a 60kW motor take full control and help the experimental plane reach speeds of up to 138miles/h (222km/h).

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

Powering these electric motors is a rather conventional set of lithium-ion battery cells. NASA collaborated with California-based Electric Power Systems which used off the shelf lithium-ion batteries to create the power system for the X-57. Each battery module uses 320 cells and with 16 modules on board, the X-57's battery pack consists of a total of 5,120 cells states a report by the Daily Beast.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

NASA claims that the Distributed Electrical Propulsion (DEP)system of the X-57 Maxwell is cleaner, greener and cheaper to run than conventional aircraft. NASA claims that average fuel costs per hour for a DEP system powered plane will be just $35 (Rs 2,720) compared to $200 (Rs 15,541) for a conventional plane. NASA also claims that the percentage operating cost per hour for energy is much lower for a DEP plane at 9 per cent (of $275) compared to 45 per cent for a conventional aircraft which has an operating cost of $440 (Rs 34,190) per hour.

NASA Electric X-57 Maxwell Aircraft To Take To The Skies Soon - Is This The Future Of Flying?

Thoughts About The NASA X-57 Maxwell

The NASA X-57 Maxwell is looking to solve the problem of air pollution caused by aircraft with its fully electric powertrain. Its revolutionary 16 propeller setup could very well change the way we fly in the future if it proves to be successful when tests begin this fall.

Images Courtesy - NASA

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Article Published On: Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 14:10 [IST]
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