Using an electric field to charge nitrogen ions and expel them from the back of the aircraft, the first ever “solid state” plane has taken flight. The aircraft flew a distance of 60 metres and could be a step towards fossil fuel-free flight. The team of MIT researchers published its research in the Journal Nature and has proved that heavier-than-air flight without propellers or jets is possible.
Fully electric, nearly silent, and producing a nearly equal thrust-to-power ratio as conventional propulsion systems, ionic-wind power is a very compelling alternative. If perfected, scaled, and brought to economic feasibility, this technology could solve two chief concerns of air travel - emissions (C02, H20, N0x) and noise pollution. While only 60 metres of distance were traveled, radically adjacent technologies like ionic-wind propulsion represent important potentials for creating sustainable air travel and examples of innovative thinking brought to life. Will commercial applications of the technology follow, and if so, how long until they reach market? What, as travelers and citizens, can we do to stimulate swift development of this and other radically alternative technologies? Furthermore, is it possible to assess the research, its funding, and the educational institution where it occurred to glean insight for how to encourage similar breakthroughs elsewhere?
Read more about alternative aviation technologies here.