NASA is still testing wild new wing technologies to improve energy efficiency in flight. The agency announced yesterday that it is conducting research on a unique wing design that uses 14 electric motors. The experimental aircraft it's designing is called X-57, otherwise known as "Maxwell."
The X-57 is NASA's first X-plane in a decade, and the plan is to develop technologies that improve fuel use and emissions and reduce noise, while also potentially paving the way to faster and more efficient small aircraft. "With the return of piloted X-planes to NASA’s research capabilities – which is a key part of our 10-year-long New Aviation Horizons initiative – the general aviation-sized X-57 will take the first step in opening a new era of aviation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Paving the way to faster and more efficient small aircraft
The Maxwell, which is named after 19th century Scottish physicist Jams Clerk Maxwell, will be built by the Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology Operations Research (Sceptor) project. The aircraft itself will be a modified Tecnam P2006T, outfitted with 14 motors for propulsion. Researchers hope to prove that using that many motors can reduce the amount of energy required to reach a cruising speed of 175 mph.
NASA has been doing this research for X-planes for some time, and it'll be awhile before these experimental planes are ready. NASA also awarded Lockheed Martin $20 million for the company to develop its own supersonic X-plane designs. NASA hopes that these efforts represent the future of flight. Here's hoping they're right.