With rising fuel costs and the hunt for alternatives, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade or Minpromtorg has committed resources to funding a number of studies looking at alternatives to fossil fuels in their civilian airplane industry, with a lot of focus on solar research. The funding for the research amounts to approximately $21 million.
The Minpromtorg released a statement to the effect that the move was necessary as the domestic airline industry’s fuel needs are increasing with the industry’s growth. Apart from reducing costs, another objective is the reduction of emissions.
With the equivalent of RUB628 million allocated for the research, the Minpromtorg will choose from interested companies through a tender process which would end by March. The results of the research are scheduled to be available in 2015, after which they would be made available for the airplane industry in Russia.
This will become the second such project as Russia’s Ministry of Defense undertook a similar study with an investigation into solar energy use in light aircraft. Unfortunately, poor results meant that the project had to be discontinued in 2010.
The issue at hand that requires a solution is that when fossil fuels do become too expensive for the aviation industry, what alternatives are possible, and that would it once again limit flying to the military and the rich?
Another alternative that has been looked at is electrically-powered aircraft. These have been investigated for a while, with an electric aircraft flight as far as back in 1957.
With the options being battery power, power beaming or solar cells like the Solar Impulse available to electrically power aircraft right now, it does appear that electricity still does not meet the requirements set by fossil fuels. Thus, like the Ministry of Industry and Trade believes, new technology as well as research will be needed if the civilian aircraft industry is to have a future.