A solid-state aircraft was presented at MIT: its initial flight lasted fifteen seconds, which was enough to show what could be the future of aeronautics.
The surprising thing is that this device, which according to its creators has a design based on “Star Trek”, runs on battery-powered electricity, is silent and does not generate exhaust. It also has no propellers or turbines.
The contraption is almost five meters long and weighs about two and a half kilograms. Its propulsion system has no moving parts. It was able to fly nine more times after the inaugural flight.
He is a “trekkie”.
Steven Barrett, a professor of aerospace engineering at MIT and part of the team responsible for the design and construction of the aircraft, related that ten years ago, he envisioned that in the future, aircraft should fly silently and without moving parts. In addition, he said that the design was inspired by the well-remembered “Enterprise” spaceship from “Star Trek” and that he was a “trekkie”.
But the fantasy of science fiction led Barrett and his colleagues to the “ionic wind” concept. This is created by a magnetic field that stirs up the free electrons and causes them to collide and ionize, creating a chain reaction that results in an “ionic wind” flowing into a collector.
This technology had been imagined some fifty years ago. However, at the time it was not considered to be suitable for aeronautics: it was simply too inefficient.
But Barrett and his colleagues succeeded in developing the original idea to the point where it was capable of carrying out their purposes. Among the advances achieved was the increase in battery voltage.
These first flights with this technology are just the beginning of what could be to come: although they were performed without significant payload, researchers are hopeful that commercial flights using this technology can be made.
In Barrett’s opinion, the closest application for this type of aeronautical technology is that related to drones. He indicated that it could be very useful if drones become, as expected, transportation vehicles for different deliveries, with the advantage that they would be much less noisy and more efficient.
For researchers, this is a road that is just beginning to be traveled. So remember that although at this time the airplane is limited in its functionality, the Wright brothers’ early flights were not flashy either: they are remembered for the genius of their feat and the foolproof inventiveness that led them to blaze a trail that is still being traveled.
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