Aircraft

Battery-powered electric plane quietly takes to Australian skies for the first time

Battery-powered electric plane...
Electro.Aero plans to use the battery electric plane for new pilot training
Electro.Aero plans to use the battery electric plane for new pilot training
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Pipistrel is an aircraft manufacturer based in Slovenia
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Pipistrel is an aircraft manufacturer based in Slovenia
The company is currently mass-producing the Alpha Electro for sale around the world
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The company is currently mass-producing the Alpha Electro for sale around the world
The plane can fly for up to one hour on a single battery charge
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The plane can fly for up to one hour on a single battery charge
The plane is powered by two lithium ion batteries
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The plane is powered by two lithium ion batteries
Pipistrel has developed a fast-charging station for its planes allowing the batteries to be charged in under one hour
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Pipistrel has developed a fast-charging station for its planes allowing the batteries to be charged in under one hour
The simple electric motor is significantly quieter than fossil fuel-powered engines, meaning the plane can fly in areas with sound restrictions
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The simple electric motor is significantly quieter than fossil fuel-powered engines, meaning the plane can fly in areas with sound restrictions
The plane has an extra 30-minute reserve of power on top of the 60-minute flight time in case of emergency
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The plane has an extra 30-minute reserve of power on top of the 60-minute flight time in case of emergency
The test flight launched out of an airport in Perth, Australia
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The test flight launched out of an airport in Perth, Australia
The plane was certified to fly in Australia in October 2017
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The plane was certified to fly in Australia in October 2017
Electro.Aero plans to use the battery electric plane for new pilot training
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Electro.Aero plans to use the battery electric plane for new pilot training
The first test flight of a commercial electric light aircraft in Australia
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The first test flight of a commercial electric light aircraft in Australia
The Pipistrel Alpha Electro
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The Pipistrel Alpha Electro
The craft is a small two-seater
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The craft is a small two-seater
The Alpha Electro
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The Alpha Electro

Pipistrel's Alpha Electro took to the skies in Australia recently, marking the first time an electric light sport aircraft was certified and flown in the country. The plane has been expressly designed to be an efficient and cheap pilot training craft and this successful first test flight marks a new frontier for electric aircraft in Australia.

The test flight was spear-headed by Australian sustainable aviation company Electro.Aero. The company is at the forefront of electric aviation technology in the country after obtaining certification for the Alpha Electro by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority in late 2017.

The plane, developed by Slovenia-based manufacturer Pipistrel, is a two-seater, single-propeller light aircraft, powered by two llithium-ion batteries. A single charge can reportedly keep the plane in the air for up to one hour, with 30 minutes of extra power in reserve.

The plane can fly for up to one hour on a single battery charge
The plane can fly for up to one hour on a single battery charge

Perhaps the most common comment reported by onlookers witnessing the test flight was how quiet the plane was, and it is this very feature that both Pipistrel and Electro.Aero are suggesting will make the aircraft highly sought after.

"This is the start of the next revolution in general aviation," says Richard Charlton, finance director of Electro.Aero. "We are already fielding enquiries from airports located in major cities where noise complaints have become their number one concern."

The simple electric motor is significantly quieter than fossil fuel-powered engines, meaning the plane can fly in areas with sound restrictions
The simple electric motor is significantly quieter than fossil fuel-powered engines, meaning the plane can fly in areas with sound restrictions

The plane's batteries are easily replaceable for quick flight turnovers or can be fully charged in just under one hour. Charlton also points out that the simplicity of an electric engine means significantly cheaper running and maintenance costs when compared to a traditional fossil fuel-powered engine.

"The electric engine is really simple," says Charlton. "It has one moving part, it's a very small piece of equipment and it is a solid-state motor."

Sources: Pipistrel, Electro.Aero

9 comments
VincentWolf
The future of all transportation is electric. Eventually batteries with 10 times the energy density and weighing even less will power planes like this for 12+ hours or 1500 miles. That spells the end of small jet planes since electrics can go over 350 mph if designed right and that's plenty fast.
CAVUMark
Bravo. Australia needs general aviation. Such a large country with no GA is ironic. The government charges for landing and movement fees which stifles aviation and the passion which many Australians have. Making training less expensive is the start.
michael_dowling
These aircraft are good for short hops,but long haul flights will still depend on liquid fuels,ideally carbon neutral biofuels.
notarichman
there is solar panels produced by Nanosolar that are very thin, light that could be applied to the wings, etc. to charge the batteries. i suggest pipistrel contact them to try out the idea. could possibly get one airplane covered for free as an experiment and then make a deal for the future.
christopher
It's actually the prop which makes almost all the noise, so 90%+ of the praise for the "quietness" is actually nothing to do with the electric motor, and all to do with their selection of the prop blades.
Martin Hone
Chris is right. The prop is usually the source of most noise, especially the old Harvard T-6 trainer. In this case, the prop is probably pitched up ( coarse) to slow it down and suit the torque of the electric motor.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is both cool and green. I doubt neighbors would hear that plane and won't have a reason to complain about the 'noise' it makes. I think a fuel cell would extend the range of the airplane and give extra power when needed. I have some really small fuel cells that could provide power; ones that are already powering cars and motorcycles.
F. Tuijn
Build the batteries into the wings which enables you to select a high aspect ratio. Electro motors are reliable so use multiple motors to have good airflow over extended flaps for take off and landing. Use direct drive from motor to propeller. Use coaxial propellers. These give some 10% more thrust at low and high speed for the same power. Use a larger front propeller than rear propeller so the tips of the rear propeller do not cut the tip vortices from the front propeller ( see An-70 transport aircraft ).
JonStron
@Chrisrtopher, i can hear a piston banger from miles away, the prop noise is distinctly different from the loud piston noise and ICE engine produces. Nothing compares to the quietness of an electric motor, nothing !