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NASA Believes the Future of Aviation Comes Equipped With Propellers — 18 of Them

Engineers at NASA believe the future of aviation could see more propellers across wings, leading to more efficient aircraft.

Are more propellers the solution for creating aircraft with greater efficiency? Engineers at Joby Aviation are experimenting with the idea in the hopes of creating an aircraft that performs cleaner in the future. Flight Club reports the new project, known as LEAPTech — short for Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology — is aiming to discover the answer.

The idea came from the concept of using electric engines to power an aircraft, as opposed to current fuels being used today. While battery technology has not caught up to the demand, engineers instead decided to focus on other ways to make a plane lightweight and more efficient. The answer came in a concept design featuring 18 propellers (nine on each wing) powered by electric motors.

The project, spearheaded by Joby Aviation, has earned the support of government aerospace administrations in both Europe and U.S. According to the manufacturer, if the tests are successful, then an aircraft powered by the smaller propellers could result in an aircraft that is more aerodynamic, more efficient and performs at the same parameters as modern aircraft.

“Joby has performed extensive aeropropulsive CFD analysis to determine the propeller and wing design that will achieve the greatest benefit from the advantages of electric propulsion,” the company writes on its website. “The use of electric motors, combined with slow-speed propellers, results in a drastically reduced noise signature.”

The project is currently in its testing phase, with one propeller-powered wing mounted to a truck at Edwards Air Force Base in California. If successful, engineers say the next step is constructing a prototype aircraft with the technology installed for further testing.

[Photo: Joby Aviation]

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weero March 25, 2015

Here comes the "engine out" on every second flight ...