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article imageFirst aircraft with no moving parts takes off

By Tim Sandle     Dec 8, 2018 in Technology
Boston - Researchers have designed an aircraft with no moving parts – that is no propellers or turbines - and they have successfully flown the craft. The aircraft is lightweight, constructed at a low cost and it flies silently.
Technologists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully designed, constructed and flown the world’s first-ever plane with no moving parts. The craft contains no propellers or turbines; instead the craft is powered by an 'ionic wind'. This works by a steady flow of ions that produced from a device housed within the plane. The ion movement can produce sufficient thrust as to propel the aircraft over a sustained distance. The test flights have been stable and steady.
The aim behind the development, as Inside Science reports, is to design aerial vehicles that are more efficient and quieter than drones. In the longer-term, ion-based aircraft could replace passenger planes.
The ion-drives are technically known as electroaerodynamic thrust. This is a form of in-atmosphere electrostatic propulsion, which requires no on-board propellant and has zero primary gaseous emissions. Essentially, provided sufficient voltage is applied, the air in between the electrodes can produce the right level of thrust in order to propel a small aircraft.
Commenting on the craft’s flying success, principal researcher Professor Steven Barrett said: “This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system.”
He adds: “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.” He also adds that inspiration for the ion-drive came from watching the shuttle craft in Star Trek, which became an inspiration.
The output of these ideas is a small glider-type aircraft. The craft weight just five pounds and has a five meter wingspan, with the wings composed of small wires which function as the electrodes required to generate the ions. Located in the fuselage of the craft are lithium-polymer batteries used to store the generated energy.
The aircraft in operation is shown in the following video:
These features lead into a clear advantage with the new craft is that it does not need any fossil fuels to fly, raising the possibility that the aircraft could be used as a next-generation environmentally friendly form of air travel. The fact that the plane can also fly silently is an advantage to built-up areas.
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