The electric Lindbergh: Chip Yates wants to cross the Atlantic with an electric plane

Chip Yates with electric plane
CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia

UAV battery packs and other innovations

Chip Yates, who already holds a Guinness Book of World Records title for “World’s Fastest Electric Motorcycle" and broke a speed record in an electric plane that he designed (well, based on a Burt Rutan design), now wants to be this century's Charles Lindbergh and be the first to cross the Atlantic - without stopping, and at least as fast and Lindbergh's historic flight - in an electric airplane. This is even more impressive considering that he only got his pilot's license on July 12, 2012, a few days before he broke his speed record.

Long ESA electric plane© Long ESA

WIRED writes:

Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic when he made the flight in 1927. Electric aviation is in its infancy, and its longest flight thus far is less than 1,000 miles. Yates plans to fly 3,500 miles, and do so at least as fast as Lindbergh did. [...]

To fulfill the ambitious goal, Yates must overcome the great disadvantage of electric drivetrains — their limited range. His solution is to use unmanned aerial vehicles that will provide additional electricity during the flight. That’s another way of saying he will use autonomous battery packs that will meet him in flight, transfer energy to the plane and return safely to an airport.

This is so far beyond anything that’s been accomplished in electric aviation as to sound impossible. Electric aviation has only become something approaching practicality for hobbyists happy to fly slowly and silently within a short radius of home. There are some ideas for extending range, but no one is considering anything approaching what Yates is proposing. His idea makes the Solar Impulse transcontinental flight on solar power seem sensible.

UAV battery packs! This man is truly thinking outside the box!

But he's going to need to do something radical if he really wants to match Lindbergh's speed (a bit above 100 mph on average). A huge solar glider would be much too slow to reach that goal, so he needs a faster plane.. But faster means more power is needed, and he can't possibly carry all those batteries up there. Quite the engineering challenge!

I wrote about Chip Yates last summer when he broke the electric plane speed record: New World Record for Electric Planes: 202.6 MPH

Here's the video:

Via WIRED, Inhabitat

See also: Electric taxiing demo shows how existing planes can become greener

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