First Flight Success for Drone-Sized Electric Aircraft

If fully electric regional passenger jets someday fly from Cleveland to Atlanta, aviation historians will likely point out that the first successful in-air test of the battery technology making it possible happened on a frozen Dayton-area airfield in early 2019.

That’s when Case Western Reserve University professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Vikas Prakash—along with state government and private partners—launched an otherwise unremarkable, single-propeller fiberglass airplane into the skies at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport and waited to see how long it could fly before running out of juice.

In previous tests, the same automated plane stayed airborne for 91 minutes before the batteries died. This time, with a different set of specialized wings, it kept going and going—for 171 minutes total, nearly three hours aloft without recharge.

The difference: Tucked inside the 6-foot-wide wingspan of the 7-foot-long, red and white  (UAV) were “structural battery” components.

That innovation, being developed by Prakash over

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