Meet Maxwell X-57, an electric plane that NASA takes seriously

nasa x57 maxwell electric aircraft plane 900x602
NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.
Sooner than expected, NASA has gotten back in the game with X-Planes. The program starts with the X-57, a 14-motor, all-electric, 4-seat plane nicknamed Maxwell.

The U.S. Air Force gets to assign X-plane numbers. The X-1 was the first airplane to break the speed of sound, in 1947. Each of the X-planes since the X-1 has demonstrated an aviation advance. The X-57 is the first, and the smallest design, of as many as six X-planes that NASA will develop to show that all-electric power can operate at a lower fuel cost and lower sound levels than conventional aircraft engines, and with no carbon emissions.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “With the return of piloted X-planes to NASA’s research capabilities — which is a key part of our 10-year-long New Aviation Horizons initiative — the general aviation-sized X-57 will take the first step in opening a new era of aviation,”

The X-57 is based on an Italian-designed Tecnam P2006T twin-engine light aircraft. With a new wing design and 14 electric motors, the plane will be able to cruise at 175 miles an hour. At cruising altitude and speed the X-57 will operate at 20 percent of the fuel cost of conventional planes. Twelve of the motors, six to a side, will be on the leading edge of the wing and will assist on takeoff and landing, but one larger motor on each wing tip will be sufficient to maintain cruising speed. Part of the X-57’s demonstration principle will be the effect of spreading the work across multiple smaller motors for greater fuel efficiency.

The Maxwell gets its nickname in honor of James Clerk Maxwell, a 19th-century Scottish physicist whose original work in electromagnetism figured significantly in the understanding of modern physics. 

“The tradition of X-Planes has kept the United States in the forefront as the world leader in aircraft and aerospace development,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “Planes like the X-57, and the others to come, will help us maintain that role.”

Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Cars

Lamborghini transforms the Urus SUV into a dual-purpose race car

Breaking stereotypes and tradition, Lamborghini has turned the Urus SUV into a race car that's equally at home on a paved track and on a dirt trail. The ST-X concept gets bigger air intakes, a full roll cage, and center-locking alloy…
Photography

Photography news: Best spot for fall photos, new firmware from Fuji and Nikon

Where's the best spot to take fall photos? Michigan, according to social media and a Nikon contest. The results and more in this week's photography news, including significant firmware updates for the Fujifilm X-T3, X-H1, and GFX 50S.
Computing

Want to use one drive between a Mac and Windows PC? Partitions are your best bet

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.
Emerging Tech

Toilet-scrubbing robot takes over one of the world’s crappiest jobs

When it comes to jobs that none of us enjoy, scrubbing the toilet would have to rank pretty highly. So why not hand the job over to robots? Very soon you might be able to do exactly that.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket goes bolder, changes its name to Starship

Elon Musk has revealed that he's changing the name of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket to the grander Starship. It's getting a redesign and may even be one day used to visit other star systems trillions of miles away.
Deals

This all-in-one shaving system lets you use over 40 blades from different brands

Trazor shaving system gives you the ability to shave using most of your favorite blades from various brands like Gillette and Schick. It even squirts out water, shaving gel, and aftershave making it an ideal solution for traveling.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Smart Home

With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow

MIT research scientist Caleb Harper wants to grow basil designed to prevent heart disease. It involves a personal food computer, climate manipulation, and open sourcing food. One day, your doctor could prescribe you a diet of food grown…