NASA has showcased the concept art images of its first fully all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell, flying in its final configuration over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
The X-57 Maxwell is based on an Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller (conventional four-seater) plane. It is NASA’s first-ever electric X-plane and the first experimental plane to fly manned again in two decades. The X-57 is seen here in its final all-electric configuration, known as Modification IV, or Mod IV.
In the final stage, the X-plane will be equipped with a skinny, high-aspect-ratio wing, designed to boost efficiency by reducing drag in flight, and electric cruise motors with five-foot diameter propellers on the wingtips, to recover energy that would otherwise be lost to wingtip vortices. The twelve smaller high-lift motors and propellers, six on each wing, will allow it to take-off and land at standard speeds. These motors will activate during take-off, spinning the propellers, and will deactivate during cruise mode, and their propeller blades will fold in to the nacelles to reduce drag.
For landing, the motors will then reactivate and use centrifugal force to spin the blades back out to provide the necessary lift.
Such aircraft would present a wide array of potential benefits to aviation, with reduced in-flight emissions, less noise, and reduce operating costs by an estimated 30%.