NASA's first all-electric aircraft X-57 ready but to fly 12 months later

NASA showcased an early version of its first all-electric experimental aircraft, the X-57 "Maxwell," on Friday at its lesser-known aeronautics lab in the California desert

NASA X-57 Maxwell

Cars aren't the only mode of transport that are going electric in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint. Now, planes are also jumping on the electric mobility bandwagon. NASA has just revealed an all-electric aircraft that that will pave the way for greener air travel.

NASA, known for its space exploration missions, has showed off an early version of its experimental aircraft, the Maxwell X-57, as reported by Reuters. The X-57 aircraft, which is basically a Tesla with wings, has been adapted from an Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane.

NASA has been working on the plane since 2015 and will need an additional 12 more months before its first test flight, which means the aircraft won't be ready until 2020. The X-57, which will be propelled by 14 electric motors powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries, may not be ready for the skies yet but NASA has deemed it fit for its first public preview.

The X-57 was built with the intention to design and prove technology in line with standards that allow commercial aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing and Airbus, to adapt it for government certification.

These include standards for airworthiness and safety, in addition to energy efficiency and noise, according to project manager, Brent Cobleigh,"We're focusing on things that can help the whole industry, not just one company," Cobleigh said in an interview. "Our target right now is to fly this airplane in late 2020."

As it stands, the biggest drawback of the X-57 is the capacity of the batteries, which are only enough to power the aircraft for short-haul flights as an air-taxi or commuter plane for a small number of passengers.

In addition to the aircraft, NASA also unveiled a newly designed simulator that will allow engineers and pilots to experience and gain an understanding of what it'll be like to assume control of the finished version of the X-57 when it takes flight while it remains under development.

The Maxwell is one of many experimental aircrafts that NASA has been working on over the past few decades for a number of reasons. These include the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 that first broke the sound barrier and the X-15 rocket plane flown by Neil Armstrong before he joined the Apollo moon team.

Related topics : Nasa