NAWA’s Straight Line Electrode to More Power

Most battery breakthroughs are five years in the future, following the basic rules of scientific journals and Popular Science magazine.  The usual refrains are, “Further research is required,” and “Researchers expect commercial development within the next decade.”  Rather than wait for the future, NAWA Technologies claims the world’s fastest electrode today and production now.

Conventional batteries present an obstacle course while NAWA’s carbon nanotubes present a straight path

NAWA’a brochure explains their Vertically Aligned Carbon NanoTube (VACNT) architecture is “key to its next-generation energy storage.”   Think of a forest of carbon nanotubes through which current can flow.  In the jumble of usual battery materials, an ion would have to clamber over boulder-like obstructions and possibly get hung up in the random intersections of conductive material.  The VACNT architecture allows ionic flow as though they are cruising down a well-maintained interstate freeway.

Constructed from carbon and graphene, VACNTs hold the promise of a “quantum leap” in battery performance.  NAWATechnologies foresees “revolutionary improvements in power, energy, lifecycle and charging time.”  Their Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode contributes to better performance and “significant cost savings.”  NAWA points out that, “Electrodes account for almost 25 per cent of the cost of a battery while today’s global lithium-ion battery market is worth in excess of $35 billion.” (Avicenne report 2019)

A Balancing Act

Demonstrating an application for their ultracapacitor and battery development NAWA developed a Racer Motorcycle which splits power and energy demands between a tenth of a kilowatt-hour ultracapacitor pack and a nine kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack. This combination powers 100 metric horsepower (98.632 mechanical horsepower) motor that propels the 150 kilogram (330 pound) cycle.

Because the capacitors represent one-ninetieth of the total energy available, they make up for that by discharging quickly to give sudden power boosts and pull in energy from braking to regenerate their charge.  Their ability to charge and discharge quickly takes that burden off the battery pack, which can store energy for long-term cruising but is not as good at producing high-power bursts.  Such bursts, also called high C rates of discharge, heat things up and shorten battery life. They also lead to thermal runaways and resulting battery fires.  The ultracap/battery combination can alleviate those issues.

Short- and Long-term Outlooks

NAWA’s brochure provides another short-term possibility, combining their Ultra Fast Carbon Batteries with hydrogen fuel cells.  “When combined with existing lithium-ion batteries – which boast greater energy density – or hydrogen fuel cells – that are not capable of harvesting energy at all – they can provide more power and extend a product’s lifetime. In the long term, the possibilities offered by NAWATechnologies’ Ultra Fast Carbon Battery could enable the company to develop hybrid ultracapacitor cells. With energy densities approaching those of lead acid batteries but with much faster charging times, these cells would lower overall battery pack weight and extend service life, ideal for use in automotive, wider mobility and renewable energy sectors.”  Note that the ultracapacitors have energy per weight performance only approximating that of lead-acid batteries – disappointing but offset by other advantages.

NAWA products have gained recognition by the Solar Impulse Foundation, hinting at use in aircraft, perhaps

NAWA sees a rosier future for their UFCB.  “In the long term, the possibilities offered by NAWATechnologies’ Ultra Fast Carbon Battery could enable the company to develop hybrid ultracapacitor cells. With energy densities approaching those of lead acid batteries but with much faster charging times, these cells would lower overall battery pack weight and extend service life, ideal for use in automotive, wider mobility and renewable energy sectors.”

As noted in their video, NAWA sees potential structural battery applications in transportation – including aircraft.  This again may be a way to lessen the less than stellar energy density.  It will be fascinating to see where this relatively young company goes.


MissionGO Drones Make Medical Deliveries

The Nevada desert near Las Vegas formed a dramatic backdrop for the delivery of a kidney and corneas to a simulated emergency surgery site this last week.  MissionGO’s rotary-wing drone delivered the kidney on one flight and the corneas on another – just to clarify.

This cooperative effort among Mission GO’s technology and the Nevada Donor Network’s (an organ procurement organization, or OPO) fearless supporters proved a huge success.  The Network’s numbers provide the impetus for this project.  According to their web site 650 Nevadans and 110,099 Americans await transplants, ranging from hearts to pancreases.  1,447,906 potential donors are signed up in Nevada alone – a heartening circumstance and disheartening pun.

MissionGO President  Anthony Pucciarella, explained, “These flights are an exciting step forward – the research conducted during last week’s test flights are another data point to illustrate that unmanned aircraft are a reliable mode of transportation for life-saving cargo, and that MissionGO’s UAS are safe for both the payload and people on the ground – even at greater distances.  We are grateful to be testing our technology with our partners at the Nevada Donor Network and look forward to what we can achieve together with more research like this.”

MissionGO Praxis drone carrying organs over Nevada desert

Deniz Yilmaz, reporting for Interesting, noted the tests were successfully completed on September 17.  She reports that the first flight from Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center to the Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican, San Martín Campus carried research corneas.  The second carried a “research kidney”from an airport to a small town in the Las Vegas desert.  MissionGO claims it is the longest organ delivery flight in an unmanned aircraft.

Currently, the majority of organs donated in Las Vegas are sent to recipients in other states because transplant programs locally are limited.  It’s unfortunate that unpiloted aerial vehicles will probably not solve the lack of such programs, but the quick transportation of organs and tissue may open links to hospitals and clinics in the area that do perform such transplants.  The fact that the second flight was the longest such mission for a UAV-delivered transplant payload so far helps open that possibility.  This would also apply to other regions here and abroad, where other UAVs are delivering medical supplies daily.

We reported here on an earlier, shorter flight delivering a kidney to a Baltimore hospital, where it was used in a successful transplant operation.  That mission was carried out by between two hospitals and avoided the usual downtown traffic impediments.

The second flight delivered a research kidney from the Searchlight Airport (1L3) to a location outside of the town of Cal-Nev-Ari, marking the longest organ delivery flight in UAS history. This flight surpassed the distance of a historic flight in April 2019 when MissionGO team members Anthony Pucciarella and Ryan Henderson, in their roles at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site and in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center, delivered the first kidney by UAS that was then successfully transplanted into a patient.  Photo: MissionGO

According to MissionGO, opportunities abound with this new technology.  “The second flight test underlined an exciting possibility for the future of organ transportation within the Las Vegas region specifically. The use of unmanned aircraft in a multimodal transportation chain will reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, reduce the carbon footprint by using electric aircraft, and potentially expand organ procurement efficiency, saving more lives. The Nevada aviation research is the beginning of a series of medical and aviation research flights with OPOs in other regions.”

MissionGO explained the tests, “Emphasized the feasibility of a touchless solution, reducing the number of handoffs by transporting the human organ directly between hospitals through the air, in lieu of ground-based couriers.

Loading the drone at   Airport.  MissionGO conducts test flights of the unmanned aerial system (UAS) in the Nevada desert. The tests aim to prove the viability of unmanned aircraft in the organ transplantation chain, Source: MissionGO

Joe Ferreira, CEO and President of Nevada Donor Network, was happy with the tests’ outcomes.  “The success of last week’s tests launches us into the future of organ transportation and will enable us to be even more successful in the coming years. The work we’re doing now to maximize the gift of life and health can only be amplified with the services that MissionGO demonstrated. The future of organ donation and transplantation will be defined by innovation.”


ZEROe on the Rise at Airbus


Airbus, taking a new direction, announced that they are, “Exploring game-changing concept aircraft – known as ZEROe – powered by hydrogen, a disruptive zero-emission technology with the potential to reduce aircraft emissions by up to 50%.”

Two seem to be evolutionary, employing a different fuel and powertrain within fairly conventional airframes.  The third, a blended-wing body (BWB) structure, emulates Boeing’s and NASA’s BWB.  All three, though, employ hydrogen to meet the planet’s need to reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide and other emissions.  All three use hydrogen hybrid power systems.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in a 2019 report looked at the different electric and hybrid systems available.  The organization included a factor examined before in this blog.  “The climate benefits of electric aviation may come not only from its reduced CO2 emissions, but also from the elimination of contrails – the long, thin clouds that form in the wake of jet engines2. Although no scientific consensus exists on the radiative forcing effect of contrails, some studies point out that they may have further warming impacts on the global climate.”

To counter the effects of CO2 emissions and radiative forcing, Airbus employs a different type of hybridization in their ZEROe craft. “This means they are powered by modified gas turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. At the same time, they also use hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical power that complements the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system.  However, each option has a slightly different approach to integrating the liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system.”

By 2035

Airbus promises to bring the first of these aircraft to flight by 2035, noting a sense of déjà vu for two of the designs.  The jet airliner sporting higher-aspect ratio wings than current designs, still would hardly stand out on the ramp.  Likewise, the turboprop appears similar enough to current regional commuters to elicit notice.  The BWB will certainly draw eyes and comments.  All three will employ hydrogen as a fuel, but the difference should be transparent to passengers.

Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus Vice President for Zero-Emission Aircraft explains, “As recently as five years ago, hydrogen propulsion wasn’t even on our radar as a viable emission-reduction technology pathway. But convincing data from other transport industries quickly changed all that. Today, we’re excited by the incredible potential hydrogen offers aviation in terms of disruptive emissions reduction.”  Airbus’ calculations show that up to 50 percent of aviation’s CO2 emissions can be eliminated by the use of H2 as a fuel.

All the Airbus craft will use a hydrogen-hybrid power system. According to Airbus, “This means they are powered by modified gas turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. At the same time, they also use hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical power that complements the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system.”  Each aircraft, though, will have a different approach which optimizes its use of the hybrid system.

Three New Designs

Discover the three zero-emission concept aircraft known as ZEROe in this infographic. These turbofan, turboprop, and blended-wing-body configurations are all hydrogen hybrid aircraft

Turboprop: Two hybrid-hydrogen turboprop engines burn hydrogen to provide thrust through eight-bladed propellers. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system are located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.  The turbofan design has a design range of 1,000+ nautical miles (1,150 statute miles) and will carry 100 passengers.

Turbofan:  This concept can carry 120-200 passengers over a range of 2,000+ nautical miles (2300 statute miles), “capable of operating transcontinentally and powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion. The liquid hydrogen will be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.”

Blended-Wing Body (BWB): This configuration features an exceptionally wide interior, thereby opening up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution. In this ZEROe example, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Like the turbofan aircraft, two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust.

New Challenges

Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus Executive Vice President of Engineering explains, “Hydrogen has a different volumetric energy density than jet fuel, so we have to study other storage options and aircraft architectures than existing ones. This means the visual appearance of our future zero-emission aircraft will change. These three configurations provide us with some exciting options for further exploration.”

Guillaume Faury, Chief Executive Officer for Manufacturing, adds, “These concepts will help us explore and mature the design and layout of the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft, which we aim to put into service by 2035. The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem. Together with the support from government and industrial partners we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”


A Dash of Hydrogen

Getting the Parts Free, Charged for Refills

What if future flight had a simple “return the old fuel container and get a new one” business model?  Paul Eremenko, founder of California startup Universal Hydrogen, wants to try it out in a Dash 8 airliner equipped with two 2-megawatt motors supplied by MagniX.

Poor analogy perhaps, but in his boyhood, your editor had a camera that was sold at the store complete with a roll of film already inside.  All you had to do when you took all your pictures was send it by mail, with a check or money order, and a week later, you got the reloaded camera back with the prints and negatives of your pictures.  This klunky, pre-digital plan carried over from Kodak’s version 100 years before.

Today, with digital photography having supplanted those earlier, more tedious processes, we save on postage and wasted photos. Let’s face it – we all like rapid rewards and instant gratification.  Charging your electric airplane takes hours and some of us just can’t wait around.

Loading cycle would form closed loop with H2 made locally if possible

Universal Hydrogen will supply hydrogen fuel modules directly from their production facilities to the aircraft.  Universal offers, “To cover all or part of the conversion kit costs for the new propulsion system in return for long-term contracts to supply the hydrogen.”  This should encourage “early adoption” and place new power systems in existing craft – speeding up the usage of H2 while manufacturers develop new designs more optimal for its use.

True Believers

Eremenko, his fellow Universal founders and partner Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX are true believers – in the best sense of the term – in the future of electric aviation.  MagniX runs its electric motors from batteries, as on its DeHavilland Beaver and Cessna Caravan conversions. Universal plans on running two of the largest MagniX motors to date on its DeHavilland Canada Dash 8 conversion.  The Dash 8 is officially a DHC8-Q300, and is now manufactured by Bombadier as a Q8.  The same system can be applied to the Avions Transport Régional ATR 42 family.

The kit proposed by the partnership will use twin two-megawatt motors – the largest for MagniX and possibly all of electric aviation.  Although the motor is a more powerful version of the MagniX line, the fuel system will be different.  Eremenko plans to change the way hydrogen is delivered to the aircraft though packaging the element in modular form.

According to AIN Online, “Universal Hydrogen’s response has been to treat the fuel as dry freight and find a safe, efficient way to maintain supply to airlines. Its modules, which measure about seven feet long and three feet in diameter, can carry the hydrogen in liquid or compressed gas form to be loaded into the back of the aircraft via standard cargo loading equipment or a forklift.”  Modules would be delivered directly from H2 manufacturing plants, presumably close at hand.

If filled with water, each module would hold about 208 gallons.  They can be stacked in racks so that 54 would fit inside a standard freight shipping container.

An additional partnership with Plug Power, a fuel cell creator, links the fuel and the motors.  “The carbon-free propulsion system will incorporate a lightweight Plug Power ProGen-based hydrogen fuel cell stack designed for aerospace applications and Universal Hydrogen’s modular hydrogen distribution and fuel cell delivery system.”

Eremenko further explained his push to bypass the conventional infrastructure. “There is fundamentally an incrementalist mindset in the incumbents.  Hydrogen is a fairly drastic step for the industry. I think it’s a necessary step, given the industry has no other way to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.’’

With increasing amounts of “green” hydrogen being produced and prices dropping, the fuel may be a way to reduce or eliminate the 2.5 to 5 percent of greenhouse gases produced by aviation.  This figure is bound to climb as flights resume and passenger numbers grow.  Clean H2 fuel would reduce the amount of “flight shaming” currently fashionable.

Paul Eremenko has hopes for his idea’s early series production. “Clearly there is still a lot to be done in terms of reducing emissions from commercial aviation, and the future of the industry lies in hydrogen-based, carbon-free energy.”

“Universal Hydrogen, through its hydrogen transport and distribution infrastructure solution, is on a path to change the way regional flight is achieved and transform it from being powered by decades-old, expensive, polluting technology to low-cost clean solutions,” says Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX. “Together, we will bring scalable, proven technology to the next level of electric aviation.”


An Historic Hydrogen Outing

While Airbus and MagniX promote the near- and not-so-near virtues of hydrogen-powered flight, ZeroAvia has demonstrated such flight with the largest H2-powered aircraft so far.  Their Cranfield, England-based Piper Malibu flew on H2 power for the first time September 24 on an eight-minute circuit.  The blue Malibu reached 1,000 feet and a top speed of 100 knots true air speed.

Quick to capitalize on the successful mission, , ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov held a press conference the next day.  In it, he explained his team,“has had discussions with seven aircraft manufacturers about possible retrofit and new-build applications for the propulsion system. He said the company has signed letters of intent with 10 airlines that have expressed an interest in the program based on presentations made to around 30 different prospective operators.”

Earlier flights in Hollister, California and Cranfield were battery powered “to evaluate different elements of the powertrain.”   Unspecified modifications helped prepare the craft for the short hydrogen flight.

With only a few months left in the year, ZeroAvia has announced plans to make a flight of up to 300 nautical miles (345 statute miles) by the end of 2020.  The craft, with “full propulsion system” will fly from the Island of Orkney, which has a hydrogen production plant, to the UK mainland.

ZeroAvia intends to do even more and quickly, intending to obtain a type certificate by the end of 2023 to retrofit a 10- to 20-seat aircraft.  The plane, along the lines of a Cessna Caravan, their new SkyCourier, a DeHavilland Twin Otter or Dornier 228, would carry enough hydrogen to go 500 nm (575 statute miles).

Miftakhov looks ahead to his systems powering a 50- to 100-seat aircraft in commercial service by 2030,  H2 could be flying 200 passengers up to 3,000 nm (3,452 statute miles) by 2040.  Similar to plans by MagniX, DeHavilland Dash 8s and ATR42s are potential interim airframes for conversion to H2 power.

Working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, ZeroAvia will increase the Malibu’s hydrogen storage capacity and increase the motor’s power from 230 kW (308 hp) to 260 kW (349 hp).  This will probably keep Gabriel DeVault, the company’s head of drivetrain development, busy for the next few months.

Tricky Politics Ahead

ZeroAvia won a September 2019 award of £2.7 million ($3.4 million) from the UK government through its Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) under its HyFlyer project.  This is an early step in the government’s plan to achieve zero carbon air transportation by 2050. The successful Malibu flight was witnessed by UK business and industry minister Nahdim Zahawi and aviation minister Robert Courts.  Their comments can be found in ZeroAvia’s press release for the event.

Because the UK is exiting the European Union, certain aspects of aircraft certification may become a bit jumbled in the process.  “Miftakhov acknowledged that it is still uncertain how a UK-based company will be able to navigate the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) certification process at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020.”  Existing rules of reciprocity among Union nations may continue to apply to a former member country, but nothing seems to be engraved just yet.

Support from Government and Industry Partners

Several government and industry partners provide support for ZeroAvia and its HyFlyer program.  Two well-established operations, the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) and fuel-cell developer Intelligent Energy, provide hydrogen and a Hydrogen Airport Refueling Ecosystem at Cranfield.  This ground-based setup will demonstrate its capabilities while the Malibu demonstrates H2’s capabilities in the air.

When the hydrogen-fueled flight from Orkney succeeds, true cross-country flight in emissions-free aircraft will promote a new perspective for green aviation.  Beyond that, expansion of a green hydrogen infrastructure will benefit all of transportation.


End the Year on a Volocopter Note

Volocopter has an exciting way to end 2020, leaving the old year with a ticket for your future flight in a VoloCity VC 2-1 aircraft (the “Aircraft”).  Fine print, spelled out in the eight-page General Terms & Conditions for the Volocopter World Premiere Ticket Program, might cause the hesitant to pause. The more adventurous among us will start planning an overseas trip two or three years from now.

Here’s the Deal

“Berlin, 16 September 2020 — At Greentech Festival in Berlin today, Volocopter, the pioneer of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), announced that the world’s first public sale for electrical air taxi flight reservations has started. Effective immediately, Volocopter fans world-wide can reserve their tickets online and be amongst the very first to take this new form of mobility. The VoloFirst costs €300 ($351.25) and can be reserved with a 10% ($35.12) deposit.”  There are only 1000 presale reservations available for a limited time, and as of this morning, only 313 left.  We don’t think the supply will hold out to the December 31 deadline with 687 reserved in the first six days.

The Fine Print

One will have to take a trip to experience the Volocopter trip, with rides offered in Europe and Asia only at this time, and at probably limited locations.  These rides will only take place after Volocopter attains certification in the host countries.  That’s why lucky winners will have to cool their Jetson jets for a few years.

Participants will probably fly from a purpose-built Voloport in a host city

The announcement follows Volocopter’s successful demonstration flights in Stuttgart, at Helsinki’s international airport, and over Singapore’s Marina Bay. Volocopter’s CEO Florian Reuter explains, “Based on our public test flights and regulatory achievement record, we have paved the way to make electric flight in cities common in just a few years. With the start of reservations, we now invite our supporters and innovators around the world to join us and be amongst the first to experience this new and exciting form of mobility.” Reservations for the first VoloCity flights are available world-wide on the Volocopter Reservation Platform.

What You’ll Get

  • A flight with a duration of approx. 15 minutes (approx.) scheduled within the first 12 months after commercial launch.
  • A video of the passenger’s flight.
  • A limited edition, personalized certificate included in reservation.

Volocopter’s Chief Commercial Officer Christian Bauer adds, “While the final certification for air taxis is still pending, we do have a detailed realistic timeline to launch commercial VoloCity flights in the next 2-3 years. Moreover, those who reserve now can receive the latest updates about our progress and the commercial launch plan.”

Volocopter has made enormous progress in only nine years, having demonstrated safe flight in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.  Its work toward certification and ticketed flights has elicited immediate public interest and a willingness to join in a greener future.

Thanks to Helena Treeck at Volocopter for her timely updates.


Uwe Beger, competition director for a new form of sailplane contest, wrote this in response to our entry on the Pipistrel Velis’ multiple records flying from Switzerland to the North Sea.  “From August 29th to September 5th 2020 fifteen pilots from 6 different nations flew a cross country flying contest (E2 Glide), where the usage of electric engines (Front Electric Sustainers as well as Retractable Electric Engines) was allowed within some contingent of 2 up to 2.5 kWh per flight. Altogether the participants managed to fly a distance of nearly 10,000km (6,214 miles) with the use of 150 kWh of energy in sum.”  That’s about 41.4 miles per kilowatt hour.

Last year’s Eglide competition in Pavullo, Italy

“Not that bad compared to the world records of the Pipistrel Velis Electro ;-)”  Granted that sailplanes are highly optimized vehicles that generate as little drag as anything flying – other than birds, perhaps.  Each pilot in the E2 Glide gathering would have used an average of 10 kilowatt-hours of stored energy.  By comparison, a dishwasher uses about 1.5 kWh per load, so each pilot used less electricity than seven dishwasher loads for the week.  At an average cost per kWh in Europe of 21.1 cents, flying that week, other than the usual tow costs, would have consumed $2.11 in electricity.  Electricity for the whole event would have cost $31.65.

Gliding without auxiliary power can lead to unplanned loss of lift, outlandings

E2 Glide is a new application of something done with sailplanes that can self launch or sustain flight with electric motors.  Organizers explain, “New technology requires new ways of thinking. Electric drives in gliding multiply possible competitive variants. The aim of the E2GLIDE format is to take up the experience gained from the 1st eglide contest 2019 in Pavullo, Italy in a structured manner and to combine it with other ideas. The use of defined engine contingents during the competition flight enables increasing independence from the weather and high-profile racing events.”  This year’s contest was held in the Erzgebirge region of Germany – once a coal-mining area.  There’s no coal-rolling in this competition, though.

With auxiliary electric power, all airplanes return home at the end of a flight

Pilots fly two-hour competitions, and have a maximum energy quota of two kilowatt-hours they can use on each challenge.  Airplanes can use front electric sustainers (FES) or retractable electric motors.

Czech HPH sailplane with FES extending its time in the air. Aircraft can also be purchased with a retractable jet engine.  This is type of craft flown by Stefan Langer in videos

Through two well-done videos, we follow the adventures of Stefan Langer, flying an HPH Shark 304S, powered by an FES system.  It serves as a sustainer, enabling Stefan to stay in the air despite gray days and prevents those inconvenient outlandings.

Contest organizers reflect on “the dream of emission-free flying, praising gliding’s advancement of aerodynamics.  Now, with electric power, “The hybridization of aerodynamically favorable gliders with electric motors offers drive systems ready for series production, which can operate emission-free and also much more weather-independent than typical gliders.”

Considering the Lange self-launching sailplanes have been around a decade, along with the 13.5 meter span Silent motorglider from Italy, it’s time to incorporate the growing number of electric machines into a new variation on a century-old sport.


Electrifly-In, Grenchen 2020

Grenchen, Switzerland’s airfield hosted the fourth electric fly-in on that site over the weekend of September 11 and 12.  No fewer than 16 different electric craft flew in or were on hand to greet the lucky visitors.  Even celebrities were there, including Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard and Olympic champion, astrophysicist and pilot Dominique Gisin.

The Grenchner Tagblatt (daily news) was on hand to report on the proceedings, and seems to have come away impressed with the turnout and the technology.  The paper reported this sidelight on the recent record-setting trip from Switzerland to the North Sea of Germany in a Pipistrel Velis (also on display on the field).

Symposiums over two days helped give technical insight into the sights outdoors

“Lush parties were celebrated almost everywhere, all under the sign of electromobility, which according to Westermann must be the only possible future. Incidentally, the record aircraft had also been brought to Grenchen and could be viewed at close range. An amusing detail on the side: Westermann said that despite enormous media coverage, around two thirds of the television teams simply missed their landing because nobody had heard them coming.”

That idea of electric aviation’s quietude was borne out in the Tagblatt’s reporting.  “Sunday there will again be a symposium of interesting lectures on selected topics in the field of electrically powered aviation and their future, as well as the presentation of further electric aircraft. These will also be seen – and not heard – in the air. Electric planes are extremely quiet. Dominique Gisin will also be giving autographs from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.”  (And your editor is sure Bertrand Piccard obliged on request.)

Tobias Salbaum Co-Founder and CEO of Atlas Aero with display in hangar. eVTOL combines great looks with promising (promised) performance.

Two general symposiums and detailed talks by different participants gave participants a chance to take a deep dive into this new approach to flight.  Daily demonstration flights gave everyone a glimpse of the now and near future – including Bertrand Piccard piloting an Eck-Geiger ultralight trike.  For a small event, there was a lot to cram into two days.

Awards, including first prize for the longest flight to Grenchen, were given out by Dominique Gisn. Here, Klauss Ohlmann receives his WATERjet trophy.  Eric and Irena Raymond, who flew their Sunseeker Duo from Italy, stand behind him

His 357.6 kilometer (222.2 mile) flight from from Aérodrome de Serres (LFTM) to Grenchen (LSZG) with the Lange Antares 20E won Klaus Ohlmann the eTrophy, sponsored by WaterJet.
A second Lange Antares E piloted by Jürg Weiss took second prize and third place went to Toni Roth flying in his Birdy ultralight motorglider.

This event stays small, but seems to get better every year.  Next year, the weekend of September 11 and 12  will see event number five.


Eather One – When Friction is a Good Thing


Your editor has long promoted the idea of the Grand Unified Airplane, a vehicle which would essentially power itself from sunlight, piezoelectrics, structural batteries, and even the friction of the air over its surfaces.  He wrote about the concept in the May, 2013 Kitplanes, and has noted an increasing number of articles in scientific journals describing a variety of nanogenerators, including tribolectric types.

Your editor applied Grand Unified Airplane ideas to Richard Glassock’s concept for eight-seat powered sailplane.  (Wish someone would build it.)

Tribolectrics are not new, having been discovered in the 18th century and initially quantified by Johan Carl Wilcke, a Swedish Physicist in 1757.  “Tribo” comes from the Greek for “rub,” and as shown in the following video, even the rubbing of air over a surface can generate electricity.  Note that about the 1:25 point Dr. Wang blows across the nanogenerator and lights up the LEDs.

Taking that idea and running with it, Warsaw-based designer Michal Bonikowski designed the Eather One to run on electricity generated during the airplane’s movement through the air. As exotic as it looks, it’s not as wild-eyed as one might expect, coming as it does from a designer with 20 years experience and numerous awards to his credit.

Dark patches could be triboelectric nanogenerators on aircraft surface. Illustration: Michal Bonikowski

He was inspired partly by Airbus’ Maveric (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) a blended wing body design. Powered by next-generation turbine engines, Maveric would achieve a 20-percent reduction in carbon emissions over current designs.  A 3.2-meter (10.5-feet) span first flew in France in 2019.

But, it’s still burning some form of fossil fuel, unless Airbus manages to economically convert enough McDonald’s French fry oil to aviation use soon.

After being lifted by electrically-powered engines, airplane would maintain forward motion based on friction with air.  Illustration: Michal Bonikowski

Bonikowski  writes about his dream machine.  “I enjoy all attempts to revolutionize flying. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and what could happen if Airbus (Why not Boeing, or Embraer?) would like to create an electric plane. We all know that the main problem is the weight of a battery, but. The air is full of electricity, which can be recovered by the friction generated by the flying plane. In wings, during the flight, instead of fuel tanks, triboelectric nanogenerators can be installed, which, using the vibrations of the structure and friction generated by the bending of wings during the flight, can generate the energy needed to power several smaller electric motors. The energy efficiency of such systems is already large enough to be used in this kind of machine. In this case, the battery pack needed for carrying should only satisfy the need for takeoff and landing. The flight itself would be able to generate the energy needed to maintain it and most likely to charge the batteries.”

Electric motors, looking like ducted fans, would draw power from batteries, constantly recharged by triboelectric nanogenerators. Illustration: Michal Bonikowski

The elegance of pulling the energy for flight from the very air through which an aircraft passes seems like a wild dream, but coupled with increasingly power dense motors and energy dense batteries, this may not be a decades-out vision.  Could this concept be used with hydrogen fuel cells or advanced supercapacitors?  Certainly, the dream seems worth chasing.


The Elektro-Weltrekordflug (electric world record flight) team had great success in its flight from Schänis, Switzerland to Norderney, on Germany’s North Sea.  Setting five of its intended seven world records and then flying back to Switzerland, the team and its Pipistrel Velis showed that electric flight can be a reality for light aircraft.  All we need are charging stations along the way.

Your Editor will do something not normal to the blog – repeat most of someone else’s writing with a few comments tossed in.

“The world record flight with the first certified electric aircraft from the Alps to the North Sea in Norderney was a success. The “Pipistrel Velis Electro” landed again in Schänis (Switzerland) on Sunday evening. In addition, five world records were set. The EWF team has ushered in a new era in aviation and has proven that electric flying is possible on long-haul routes.

The electric world record flight team (from left to right): Tom Albrecht,  Morell Westermann, Kerstin Zulechner, Stefan Pieper, Marco Buholzer, Malik Aziz, Tobi Pape

“For most of them, passenger flights with small battery-powered aircraft were a long way off. To prove that it is already a reality today, seven daring electric enthusiasts set off with the first certified electric light aircraft on August 31, 2020 and reached Norderney on September 2, 2020. In the process, five world records tumbled the combustion aircraft: your aircraft used less than a quarter of the energy for the route than conventional planes.

“This required challenging planning: there is no infrastructure for electric aircraft on the entire route. Therefore, two ground crews in electric cars had to drive two chargers in a rabbit and hedgehog game in front of the plane. The aircraft flies at about 120-150 km / h in a straight line, the cars have to adapt to the road conditions. Meticulous planning was necessary to minimize waiting times when loading.

Chargers were carried between landings by team members in cars

“The community of the podcast helped in a great way by testing the suitability of the three-phase current connections at airports throughout Germany in the run-up to the flight The mainstream press clearly shows this.  (Editor’s note: the public relations campaign the team managed was world-class itself.)

World Records

“The results documented by the Swiss ElectroSuisse for recognition as a world record with a certified electric aircraft will be submitted to the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) in the coming days:

Lowest energy consumption (kWh / 100 km):

  • Overall, the flight consumed 190.951 kWh of electrical energy on the entire route (including losses from the charger, approx. 15%)
  • Total flown distance: 453 nm / 838.964 km
  • This means that the average consumption is 22.76 kWh / 100 km, which corresponds to 2.33 l diesel (energy equivalent diesel: 9.75 kWh / l)
  • (Editor’s note: Europeans had a so-called “three-liter car” ideal of consuming only three liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers in their econoboxes. The little Pipistrel managed to beat that ideal at a much better speed!)
  • Calculated over the entire distance, the Pipistrel Velis consumed the energy equivalent of 19.58 liters of diesel!
  • This puts the aircraft in the range of a Tesla Model S, making it a new benchmark in aviation. Comparable aircraft with internal combustion engines would consume about 4x to 5x more energy.

Typical view of countryside on trip

Highest average speed over 700 km (km / h)

  • Average speed on 838.956 km flown: 125.217 km / h (linear distance Schänis-Norderney: 738.37 km) (Editor’s note: that’s 77.63 mph, much better than speeds one can attain by car through twisty roads.)

Highest flight altitude ever reached with an electric aircraft (meter above main sea level) and fastest climb rate of 0-1000m / 1000-2000m / 2000-3000m (m / s)

  • The two planned records related to the reached flight altitude and the fastest climb rate were planned for Norderney, but could not be flown due to the weather on September 3rd, 2020. This means that the benchmark from the specification remains. (12,000 ft altitude)

Fastest average speed over 100km (km / h)

  • 136 km / h (84.32 nph) on the route from Lahr Airport to Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden Airport

Smallest number of intermediate stops over a distance of 700 km

  • Number of stops: 11 (without start and finish)

Longest electrically flown route in 24/48/56 hours (km)

Velis in flight with a mix of glass panels and steam gauges

  • 24 hours: 326.878 km on the first day (202.66 miles)
    (departure from Schänis airport on August 31, 2020 at 8:00 a.m., landing in Bad Dürkheim on August 31, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.)

The absolutely longest distance in 12 hours was flown on the way back from Mainz-Finthen airfield to Schänis airfield, a total of 382.44 km (237.11 miles) (departure Mainz-Finthen airfield on September 6th, 2020 at 8:19 am, landing Schänis airfield at 7:23 pm )

  • 48 h: 608.382 km on the first and second day (377.2 miles)
    (departure from Schänis airport on August 31, 2020 at 8:00 a.m., landing at Münster-Telgte on September 1, 2020 at 4:36 p.m.)
  • 56 h: 838.956 km, we covered the entire distance in this time!
    (Takeoff from Schänis Airfield on August 31, 2020 at 8:00 a.m., landing at Norderney Airfield on September 2, 2020 at 3:24 p.m.)

Great help from the community and airport operators
This project would not have been possible without the great support from the community of the “ CleanElectric ” podcast , operators and employees at the airfields and airports and the sponsors.
The community has swarmed across Germany to test sockets at airports with their electric cars, to organize welcome events, to inform the local media or to donate money.

Oerlinhasen Flugplatz provided a hearty greeting to the record seekers

Many airports have specially checked or even expanded their electrical installations. The reception and the organization on site were unique. The sponsors not only gave money, but are also consistently committed to the fields of power generation, charging infrastructure or other sustainability issues. Some of them met the team at airfields, traveled with them in person or were on site when they landed on Norderney.

Highlights and obstacles
No pioneering feat without the unexpected: Right at the start, the rainiest day in 15 years in Schänis, Switzerland, was waiting for the team. Therefore, the start had to be postponed by one day, as the runway was 30 cm under water and could only be pumped out overnight. After that, however, further planning went smoothly. There was a brief moment of shock at Baden-Baden Airport when the aircraft’s charger suddenly tested “positive” during the explosives check. Fortunately, this was resolved quickly – after a forklift truck had driven the device to a special X-ray machine. Finally, the fire brigade on Norderney received the electric aircraft with the rare and special honor of a water arc over the runway, then the happy team was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd .

Broad media interest

The fact that the topic of sustainable mobility hits a nerve was proven not least by the great interest and reports from media such as Tagesthemen, WDR, NDR, SWR, SAT.1, RTL, dpa, Süddeutsche as well as countless local newspapers, blogs, YouTubers and podcasters .

Personal words from the team
“We would like to say thank you very much for your commitment and your time! This success is also your success. You all contributed to the fact that we were able to show a large public how efficient and everyday electric aviation can be! ”

Electric flying is still limited in range and so a lot of logistical effort had to be accepted for this long-haul flight. However, the aircraft was not originally intended for such a use: The Velis is a training aircraft for training pilots close to the airport, and it is ideally suited for this: practically inaudible, locally emission-free and cost-reduced.

The EWF team was convinced from the start that the flight would herald a new era in aviation – a milestone for aviation. Alex Vollmert, author of the comprehensive work “The golden book of aerospace” sees it that way. He traveled twice to stopovers on the flight so that he could immortalize the entire team in his life’s work – right behind aviation personalities like

  • the family of Otto Lilienthal
  • the grandson of the Wright brothers’ builder of the engine
  • the test pilot of the Concorde
  • 45 astronauts (including Buzz Aldrin and Eugene Cernan, the last person on the moon) and many others who have personally registered there.

The aircraft will be exhibited this weekend at the “Electrifly-In” symposium at Grenchen (CH) airfield (September 12/13, 2020).

All photos courtesy of shapes video production / Elektro-Weltrekordflug.