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Current Affairs

Largest electric flight

Date: 29 May 2020 Tags: Energy

Issue

In a breakthrough for electric flight technology, a 750-horsepower electric engine made by MagniX, will power a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft to fly for an expected 20-30 minutes over Washington state. This will be the largest aircraft ever to fly on electric power.

 

Background

In December last year, an engine from the same company powered a seaplane in Vancouver, Canada, in what was described as the “world’s first” 100 per cent electric flight.

 

Details

  • The retrofitted Caravan plane, which can carry nine passengers, is expected to take off at 8 am Pacific time on May 28, and will fly at a speed of 183 kmph.

  • Such electric flights could require significantly less maintenance compared to fuel-based aircraft, and could lead to short-distance flights becoming cheaper, thus helping make it more viable for airlines to fly to remote locations.

  • Apart from MagniX, several companies are involved in making electric flights a reality. The ride-sharing company Uber has announced air taxis to fly as early as 2023.

  • Major industry players such as Airbus and Rolls Royce, a number of startups, as well as the space agency NASA are involved in developing electric flight technologies.

  • Despite the promise shown by short-range electric flights, several more years of development is expected for powering long-distance journeys. A major obstacle in this process is battery technology, with the weight of the battery being a major challenge.

  • The aviation sector is a fast-growing source of carbon emissions, and significantly contributes to climate change. According to the World Wildlife Federation, unregulated carbon pollution from aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • By 2050, the aviation industry is expected to cater to 16 billion passengers, up from 2.4 billion in 2010. If the sector solely relies on conventional technologies, emissions would triple by 2050.

  • Making the aviation sector eco-friendly is an important step for meeting the 2016 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to below 2 deg Celsius, and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 deg Celsius.