Affordable, fast, quiet, clean transportation – what was science fiction yesterday will become a reality tomorrow

André Borschberg

Thirteen years ago, electric propulsion was considered anecdotal. Today, it’s part of many major development programs in the aviation industry.

Solar Impulse illustrated its incredible efficiency and reliability, having flown around the world in an electric airplane with unlimited endurance flying capabilities.

According to the Airbus Group and a recently published white paper by Uber, Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) electric aircraft will become a major component in urban and mid-range travel.

Electric propulsion can be blended with today’s existing technologies to create new concepts

Aviation experts predict a future market for these aircraft that is potentially 100 times larger than today.

Many large and start-up companies working on new concepts have led to national civil aviation authorities and municipalities actively studying how to integrate VTOL transport into ground transportation structure and systems. 

Electric propulsion can be blended with today’s existing technologies to create new concepts. Electric technology can already be used for short distances. And mid-range flights can be achieved with hybrid concepts.

Last year, the Swiss-based H55 group developed an electric acrobatic airplane, which is already demonstrating its potential. It is energy efficient, quiet, clean, and incredibly easy to use with very little maintenance.

In the US in 2015, more than 500,000 drone licenses were granted compared with 300,000 aircraft permits provided over the last 100 years

What makes electric aviation special and unique? Using electric motors, you can build an aircraft that combines the flexibility of a helicopter with vertical take-off and landing capabilities and the speed of an airplane.

It’s safer than fuel-based solutions thanks to straightforward designs and fewer moving parts. And it is more reliable because of simple redundancies. Electric motors and software commands, with their ease of programming and quick response time, make it possible to control the aircraft in the same way as a small electric drone.

These developments will ultimately lead to autonomous aircraft, capable of moving people in and out cities in an efficient, quiet, and non-polluting way. What was science fiction yesterday will become a reality tomorrow. 

Certification and a new organization of airspace will be necessary. However, this process has already started with the development of electric drones.

In 2015, in the United States, more than 500,000 drone licenses were granted compared with 300,000 aircraft permits provided over the last 100 years.

Are electric airplanes a new paradigm? Yes, for sure

With the use of drones to deliver products in an autonomous way, we will be able to gather large amounts of flight information and invaluable experience. That will ultimately make it possible to transport passengers in the same manner. 

Are electric airplanes a new paradigm? Yes, for sure. 

This disruptive and innovative concept will deliver significant customer benefits and lead to new opportunities. Think about affordable, fast, quiet, clean, door-to-door transportation! 

André Borschberg is Co-founder, CEO and pilot at Solar Impulse

 

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