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NASA unveiled an early version of its first all-electric experimental aircraft, the X-57 “Maxwell,” on Friday in the California desert.
The craft is adapted from an Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane. While the X-57 had been known to be under development since 2015 it still remains at least a year away from its first test flight.
NASA ultimately decided to give a first glance at the plane after completing the attachment of two of what will be 14 electric motors that will be used to propel the plane. The X-57 will also be powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries.
NASA also took the opportunity to debut its newly built simulator that allows engineers — and pilots – the ability to get the feel of what it will be like to fly the X-57.
The Maxwell will be the first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades of the NASA program. It is being designed to help commercial manufacturers meet standards for government certification, such as airworthiness and safety, as well as for energy efficiency and noise.
Brent Cobleigh, a project manager for NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research, told Reuters that this is not just an innovation for the agency, but for all of aviation.
“We’re focusing on things that can help the whole industry, not just one company,” he said. “Our target right now is to fly this airplane in late 2020.”
More information about Maxwell can be found on IEN.com.