San Luis Obispo company creates electric aircraft for NASA

October 10, 2019

NASA’s X-57 Maxwell


A San Luis Obispo company delivered an all-electric X-plane to NASA for researching ideas that could lead to the development of electric propulsion-powered aircraft, which would be quieter, more efficient and environmentally friendlier than today’s commuter planes, according to NASA.

In addition to space exploration, NASA sets standards for the aviation industry. Working with Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, NASA is striving to increase efficiency and lower harmful emissions.

ESAero transported a configuration of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell to the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards. The X-57, is NASA’s first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane.

The X-57’s Mod II vehicle features the replacement of traditional combustion engines on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft, with electric cruise motors. The delivery is a major milestone for the project, allowing NASA engineers to begin putting the aircraft through ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests and eventually, flight tests.

NASA will share the aircraft’s electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators and industry, which will advance certification approaches for aircraft utilizing distributed electric propulsion.

The X-57 team is using a “design driver” as a technical challenge, to drive lessons learned and best practices. This design driver includes a 500 percent increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and flight that is much quieter for communities on the ground.

The X-57 project operates under the Integrated Aviation Systems Program’s Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities project, within NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

“The X-57 Mod II aircraft delivery to NASA is a significant event, marking the beginning of a new phase in this exciting electric X-plane project,” said X-57 Project Manager Tom Rigney. “With the aircraft in our possession, the X-57 team will soon conduct extensive ground testing of the integrated electric propulsion system to ensure the aircraft is airworthy. We plan to rapidly share valuable lessons learned along the way as we progress toward flight testing, helping to inform the growing electric aircraft market.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

And we’ll get the electricity for these new planes from coal? no, natural gas? no, nuclear? no, new hydroelectric dams?, sorry, no, solar? maybe some day, wind? no…

Thorium. Look it up.

I have to wonder how they instituted the required triple redundancy in the energy distribution system. Nice work and if it is successful, can make living near an airport bearable.

No one reading this post will alive to experience commercial development of this “Show” tech. It is likely for keeping government programs in academia and NASA, alive. Sorry but shiny objects like this are full if waste, fraud and abuse and why the FED keeps spending more than it collects.

I think innovation is best when in the hands of private citizens, like Orville and Wilber Wright. No ‘gum’ent…

If you think the Falcon Heavy was developed with 100% private funding you’d be incorrect.

With incentives; the government created the private space program you tout.

The government funded the “competition” to develop alternative launching vehicles. The private companies formed shortly thereafter.

The private sector would never had entered this space, pun intended, without incentives (loan guarantees and technology sharing).

You also do not understand how the government funds science, nor promotes the public to private transfer of technology it develops. It has fueled our economic dominance in the world as a result.

Micro-electronics for example would have been developed by private sector, but at a much slower pace. Most of the technology you rely on was originally a DARPA funded project that was “spun off” to private sector.

Apple, IBM, Dell, Silicon Graphics, Google, Tesla, etc all have origins in tech developed by our government.

R&D investment is one of the most important things our government can do.

I’m wondering how the electricity is generated and stored for distribution to it’s motors during flight.

For the folks

Liquid energy is more “available.”