NASA Uses Electric Propulsion in Experimental Plane

Engineers work on a wing with electric motors that is part of an integrated experimental testbed. (Photo: Tom Tschida/NASA)

NASA is researching ideas that could lead to developing an electric propulsion-powered aircraft that would be quieter, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly than today's commuter aircraft. The proposed piloted experimental airplane is called Sceptor, short for the Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology and Operations Research. The concept involves removing the wing from an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T aircraft and replacing it with an experimental wing integrated with electric motors.

Researchers are integrating Sceptor aircraft systems with a NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center flight simulator for pilots to evaluate handling qualities. Researchers also will be able to study balancing the power demands of the motors with batteries and then a turbine. Sceptor could be a solution to greater fuel efficiency, improved performance, and ride quality and aircraft noise reduction.