Jan 20, 2010 (today) at American Helicopter Society meeting Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center and his colleagues will officially unveil the Puffin design
Scientific American has details
In principle, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour and dash at more than 480 kph. It has no flight ceiling—it is not air-breathing like gas engines are, and thus is not limited by thin air—so it could go up to about 9,150 meters before its energy runs low enough to drive it to descend. With current state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising, "but many researchers are proposing a tripling of current battery energy densities in the next five to seven years, so we could see a range of 240 to 320 kilometers by 2017," says researcher Mark Moore.
* At up to 95 percent efficiency, electric motors are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, which only rate some 18 to 23 percent.
* Electric aircraft are much quieter than regular planes—at some 150 meters, it is as loud as 50 decibels, or roughly the volume of a conversation, making it roughly 10 times quieter than current low-noise helicopters.
The UK Register has coverage and perspective and history of the work of Mark Moore.
Wikipedia has a survey of Electric aircraft Several electric aircraft are in low volume commercial production.
The Lange Antares 20E is a self-launching motor glider with a 42-kW electric motor and SAFT VL 41M lithium-ion batteries. The motor actuates 2-blade fixed pitch propeller. It can climb up to 3,000 meters with fully charged cells. After launch it can function as a conventional, though heavy, glider (sailplane). Over 50 had been built as at January 2010.
AMA is involved in Hyper-X. Hyper-X (X-43A)is an experimental flight-research program that seeks to demonstrate airframe-integrated, "air-breathing" engine technologies that promise to increase payload capacity for future vehicles, including hypersonic aircraft (faster than Mach 5) and reusable space launchers.
The numerical analyses of biologically inspired flight systems predict aerodynamic loads for further structural and controls research. The CFD software Fun3D and the potential flow code PMARC are used to calculate aerodynamic loads.
Amphibious Plane Design