Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LEAP Awards Electric Aviation Prizes

Eric Lindbergh, grandson of Charles A. Lindbergh, awarded the LEAP Prize to Pipistrel's Ivo Boscarol at the just-finished AERO General Aviation convention in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
The 3rd annual e-Flight gathering took place there also, and Lindbergh's Best Electric Aircraft award went to Pipistrel's Taurus Electro.
There were some notable challengers in the category and three finalists: the Taurus, the Electric Cri-Cri (power by Electravia), and Eric Raymond's Sunseeker II solar airplane.
Also awarded was the Best Electric Propulsion.  The two finalists were the LZ Design FES (Front Engine Sustainer) system and the Rapid 200 Fuel Cell propulsion system from Polytechnic Torino.
The LZ FES was the winner -- check out this video.

The LEAP 2011 Outstanding Achievement Award went to Bertrand Piccard, Andre Borschberg and the Solar Impulse Team for its electric around-the-world project airplane. 

A romantic, and apt, spin on the awards is linking today's electric pioneers to Lucky Lindy's amazing transatlantic flight in 1927, which pretty much singlehandedly changed the global perception of aviation from a daredevil hobby or foolhardy mail delivery system to the common transportation, recreational and warfare tool it has become. 
It may be years before there is a viable non-motorglider style electric aircraft.  Battery density advances are needed, since gasoline still has more than 70 times the energy per pound of the best commercially available batteries today.
But...it's coming, and publicity-rich enterprises like the LEAP award are helping fuel public acceptance of the new technology.  Meanwhile, we can all have fun thinking about flying for pure enjoyment...on near-silent propulsion.
And congratulations to all the winners, including Pipistrel for the Taurus Electro, which is the first commercially available electric two-seater aircraft in production. And it sells with a Solar Trailer, which charges the batteries with sun power while the bird is stored. 
Kinda cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely LOVE the FES concept! It seems like a natural retrofit for get-me-home capability on existing glider designs and I'm sure the guys are working that angle. The reliability of electric start, the lack of mast door drag and mast drag/weight, all make it a very elegant solution. Electric self-retrieve seems like a "no brainer" for anyone who just doesn't want to put their $100k toy - or their precious butts - at risk in a landout. And, unlike 2-strokes, electric eliminates the fuel smell in the cockpit, oily hands, constant fiddling with the tuning, damaging vibration - and the shattering noise! Love it!
Longer-term, I do wonder whether the right answer isn't to put an aft-folding prop on a motor mounted at the junction of the tail, which has built-in ground clearance. Of course, all that weight at an extremity may not be so great for tailboom weight and for handling - so maybe the FES guys are already the future!
One thought - does any of the engineers, who have thought about this, know whether electric favors light (13m/ultralight) sailplanes, which require minimal launch energy, or larger (17m/2 seat motorglider) designs where the battery may be a smaller percentage of total weight?
- Thomas