Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NASA's X-57 and LEAPTech

NASA’s latest experimental aircraft, the X-57, looks to break all the rules of how planes fly and may pave the way for entirely new aircraft designs.

Code-named LEAPTech (Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology) the plane will be about the size of a small general aviation aircraft, but instead of a single large propeller, LEAPTech will integrate 18 tiny electrically powered propellers into a narrow wing with a total area of about 5 square meters. A conventional plane of the same size would need three times as much wing area. 

-from World Magazine's May 16, 2015 issue and an article by Michael Cochrane.

The image above is 

only a rendering of the wing mounted to a small X-plane. NASA plans to fly the oddly shaped wing in a few years, but right now the wing is still undergoing testing. This could revolutionize aircraft, but NASA could also be grasping at straws with this model as NASA pushes for electric engines to be used in a significant part of the aircraft industry.

-from a post on by Lindsey Caldwell.

Flying Magazine reports that

NASA has selected Tecnam's P2006T, more commonly referred to as the Tecnam Twin, as the base platform for a new all-electric program named the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology project, or LEAPTech for short. Within a few years, NASA hopes to fly a prototype of the airplane modified with a 31-foot wing equipped with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. The conceptual airplane project currently goes under the name X-plane.

I was puzzled how NASA would have the time and resources to develop this technology.  Lindsey Caldwell gives the answer: 

LEAPTech was created by a partnership between two private aviation firms, ESAero and Joby Aviation.

ESAero has a website here and Joby Aviation here.  (It is worth clicking the link to Joby to see its opening webpage.  In fact, the entire Joby website is very well done, with some great artwork, photos, and links to other articles on  LEAPTech developments. )

What say you, Sean?

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