NASA awards Green Flight Challenge Prizes; electric-powered winners fly 200 miles on .5 gallon fuel equivalent per passenger
|the Pipistrel Taurus G4 in flight. Click to enlarge.|
NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. (Earlier post.) The first place Green Flight Challenge prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa, for the Taurus G4. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.
The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles (322 km) in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The winning aircraft also had to take off from a distance of less than 2,000 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle and deliver a decibel level below 78 dBA at full power takeoff, as measured from a 250-foot sideline.
The twin fuselage Taurus G4 motor glider features a 145 kW electric motor, lithium-ion batteries, and retractable landing gear.
The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.
Fourteen teams originally registered for the competition. Three teams successfully met all requirements and competed in the skies over the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. The competition was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation under an agreement with NASA. The technologies demonstrated by competitors in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century, NASA said.
Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction. Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.—Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com
The competition marked the culmination of more than two years of aircraft design, development and testing for the teams. It represents the dawn of a new era in efficient flight and is the first time that full-scale electric aircraft have performed in competition. Collectively, the competing teams invested more than $4 million in pursuit of the challenge prize purse.
NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge. Prize competitions stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize and further NASA’s mission by attracting interest and attention to a defined technical objective. This prize competition is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, part of the Space Technology Program, managed by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist.