It has been decades since NASA unveiled a piloted X-plane, but the space agency broke that slump Friday, revealing an electric-powered passenger plane.
The X-57 Maxwell will eventually sport 14 propellers placed along the leading edge of its wings. It promises a 500% increase in high-speed cruise efficiency by retracting 12 of the propellers once it reaches cruising altitude.
The plane relies on 800 pounds of batteries to power the propellers and will run considerably quieter than internal combustion aircraft. Flight time is currently limited to roughly 45 minutes due to battery capacity.
NASA hopes the fuel efficiency, quietness and low maintenance cost of the X-57 will create a better market for short-distance air travel. Right now, short-haul trips from smaller airports using existing aircraft are prohibitively expensive.
The current version of the X-57 only sports two propellers and is slated for its first test flight in early 2020. The first flight of the 14-propeller version depends on how the current model performs.
NASA unveils first-ever all-electric plane, powered by 14 motors and propellers
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