The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) might be best known for its space endeavors, but it does a lot of work inside our atmosphere, too.
Researchers at the NASA Glenn Research Center are working on the creation of a hybrid aircraft. Much like a hybrid road vehicle, it would be powered by both fossil fuels and electricity during flight.
The research includes creating all components of the hybrid system, such as new engines, but also optimizing smaller components, like wiring insulation in the aircraft. Developing lightweight machinery and electrical systems to make this type of technology possible is also part of the research.
Amy Jankovsky, a NASA engineer, was quoted as saying, “These systems use electric motors and generators that work together with turbine engines to distribute power throughout the aircraft in order to reduce drag for a given amount of fuel burned.”
When implemented, flying could become up to 30 percent more efficient, in terms of fuel usage. Commercial airlines in the United States alone used over 8.9 billion gallons of fuel last year.
With hybrid aircraft in place, huge savings on fuel would be realized, as well as a reduction in emissions. While either reducing fuel use or emissions is a good step, being able to do both at once with a hybrid aircraft solution would be even better for the development of sustainable travel.
Other NASA aviation research includes shape shifting wings and crash testing planes for safety improvements. This new project is not the first to attempt adding a green element to flying, but it is a good sign for sustainable transport that NASA is on board with a hybrid aircraft.