The aircraft industry is due for a technological revolution. The promise of the Boeing 787, with its spectacular efficiency improvements over earlier models, did not materialise as many had hoped. Elon Musk has just unveiled the Tesla helicopter, which is set to revolutionise this. But how will this helicopter impact the industry?
The impact of aviation on climate change has become a major factor in the development of electric aircraft, with some development teams aiming for an electric powertrain with zero emissions. Airplane noise pollution decreases sleep, disrupts children's education, and may increase cardiovascular risk.
Due to the extensive use of aviation fuel and deicing chemicals, airports can damage nearby water sources if they are not properly contained. Transportation has surpassed power generation as the major source of emissions in the United Kingdom.
This includes the 4% contribution from the aviation industry. This is expected to increase until 2050, when it may be necessary to reduce passenger demand. According to the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK goal of an 80 percent reduction from 1990 to 2050 was still possible beginning in 2019, notwithstanding the committee's recommendation that the Paris Agreement's emission limits be strengthened.
They believe that greenhouse gas removal, carbon capture and storage, and reforestation should compensate for emissions from problematic industries such as aviation. The UK Climate Change Committee stated in December 2020 that mitigation strategies under consideration include demand management, increases in aircraft efficiency (including the use of hybrid electric aircraft), and the use of sustainable aviation fuels to replace fossil jet fuel.
International aviation and shipping will be included in the United Kingdom's carbon budgets, and the United Kingdom expects other countries to follow suit. Electric aircraft are pollution-free, and renewable energy sources can be used to generate electricity.
Including packaging and peripherals, lithium-ion batteries have an energy density of 160 Wh/kg, but aviation fuel has a density of 12,500 Wh/kg. Because electric machines and converters are more efficient, the available shaft power of electric machines and converters is closer to 145 Wh/kg of batteries, compared to 6,545 Wh/kg of fuel for a gas turbine; this is a 45:1 ratio.
According to Collins Aerospace, this ratio of 1:50 excludes the use of electric propulsion for long-range aircraft. The German Aerospace Center anticipated in November 2019 that large electric aircraft would be available by 2040. Large, long-haul aircraft are unlikely to be electrified before 2070 or the 21st century, although smaller aircraft could be.
According to the UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC), massive technological shifts are uncertain. However, Roland Berger predicts 80 new electric aircraft programmes between 2016 and 2018, with all-electric for the smaller two-thirds and hybrid for the larger aircraft, with commercial service dates in the early 2030s on short-haul routes such as London to Paris, and all-electric aircraft not expected until 2045.
Berger predicts that if fuel efficiency improves by 1% per year and there are no electric or hybrid aircraft, aviation will have a 24 percent CO2 share by 2050, compared to 3–6% if 10-year-old aircraft are replaced by electric or hybrid aircraft beginning in 2030 and reaching 70% of the 2050 fleet by 2050 due to regulatory constraints.
However, the value of the existing fleet of aircraft would be significantly diminished. Soon, electrification will be an absolute necessity in the aircraft business. How do electric aircraft operate?
We will provide a brief overview of how they operate. Solar cells that directly convert sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic materials, microwave radiation blasted from a remote transmitter, and power cables tied to a ground-based electrical supply are some of the methods for delivering the necessary electricity.
A solar cell converts direct sunlight into electricity, which can be used immediately or temporarily stored. Solar cells have a low power output and must be connected in large groupings, limiting their use.
Solar panels with a conversion efficiency of 15–20 percent (sunlight energy to electrical power) typically generate 150–200 W/m2 of direct sunlight.The price of solar power modules has decreased by 90 percent between 2010 and 2020, and it continues to fall at a rate of 13 to 15 percent every year.
The efficiency of solar cells has also grown dramatically, from 2% in 1955 to 20% in 1985, with some experimental systems topping 44%. Solar power is attractive for high-altitude, long-duration applications due to the unrestricted availability of sunlight, which is significantly more effective at high altitudes than on the ground because of the cold and lower air interference.
The environmental lapse rate (ELR), or the decrease in dry-air temperature as altitude increases, averages 6.49 °C/km (remembered in pilot training as 1.98 °C/1,000 ft or 3.58 °F/1,000 feet), indicating that the temperature at a typical airliner's cruising altitude of approximately 35,000 ft (11,000 m) will be significantly lower than at ground level.
Night flights, such as endurance flights and aircraft that offer 24-hour coverage over a region, typically demand the deployment of a backup storage system that is charged by extra power during the day and delivers power during the night.
Power-beaming electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves, requires a power source located on the ground. In contrast, power beaming permits the aircraft to move laterally and has a considerably lower weight penalty, particularly as altitude increases. The technology has only been demonstrated on a small scale and is still in its infancy of development.
For powered vehicles to replace tethered aerostats, an electrical power line can be coupled to a ground-based supply, such as an electric generator or the local power grid. 1917's Petróczy-Kármán-urovec PKZ-1 observation vehicle utilised this technology to eliminate the need to carry batteries at low altitudes.
However, as altitude increases, the length of rope raised becomes heavier. Tesla Aircraft ConceptsElon Musk has expressed interest in the concept design for a "Tesla Model V" electric aircraft. The CEO of the electric vehicle manufacturer responded to the design through Twitter.
Tom Abbot-Davies, a British industrial designer, invented the idea. According to eVTOL News, the design is inspired by the appearance of a manta ray and can transport a single passenger. Musk responded to a description of the plan shared on Twitter by "blue bnd" with, "Looks very cool."
Included are three ducted fans with titanium turbine blades capable of vertical flight, with the rear fan positioned on a gimbal to enable forward flight. This is entirely gyroscopically stabilised for a more comfortable flight.
Included in the three lithium-ion battery-powered motors are a 1,250-kilowatt rear motor and two 650-kilowatt brushless motors with rotor blades. All of this contributes to dispersed electric propulsion, which implies that even if a single component fails, the aircraft may still be able to land safely. The retractable landing gear is concealed on the outside beneath a carbon-fiber underbody.
It has a magnesium fuselage, a titanium exterior, and a large canopy with two seats. The alternative proposal has the shape of a helicopter. The Tesla Helicopter is a physical and spiritual representation of the company's DNA, as it was created at a period when Tesla's batteries could power large manned flying aircraft.
The helicopter, which is designed for efficiency and speed, would be ideal for safety and patrol organisations, enabling the administration to effectively police the air and ground and offer aid in an emergency.
It features a five-bladed top rotor, as opposed to the standard two or three blades, so that the helicopter may generate lift force more gradually and prevent turbulence during ascent and descent.
From these concept images, the cockpit appears to be completely enclosed, but we anticipate that Tesla will include technology to allow the pilot to choose between direct vision and a video-connected feed of the view. This might be immensely helpful when piloting the helicopter during snowstorms, sandstorms, or intense rainfall.
The basic exoskeleton-like fortifications around the helicopter's fuselage appear to be for stability, as do the two tiny fins on either side, similar to those found on fixed-wing aircraft but significantly smaller.
Using emojis for the latter two phrases, he wrote in 2021, "Adding additional work will make my brain burst if I do a supersonic, electric VTOL jet." During one of his podcast interviews with Joe Rogan, Mr. Musk has already expressed his goal of developing an electric aircraft and outlined a plan for doing so. "I have an aeroplane design," he remarked.
The most fascinating thing to undertake would be to build a supersonic electric vertical takeoff and landing jet. The proposal would employ two distinct propulsion systems: one to lift the aircraft out of the throng and into the air, and another to propel it forward at supersonic speeds.
Musk reaffirmed the need to prioritise other matters over the electric plane by stating, "We had quite a few fish to fry here, so perhaps the electric plane will be developed in the future."
Musk stated, after describing the difficulties of overcoming the battery density obstacle.
It would be a great problem to work on in the future, but we have a lot to accomplish over the next few years, so we must prioritise these tasks. "Perhaps one day, if you get things right, you will be able to do that." The Tesla aircraft may not be all that far away after all.