With biodiesel filling tanks on new school buses and hybrids cars becoming the new norm, the world’s motorways are finally making progress towards becoming more ecologically friendly.
The same can’t be said for our skies, where the growing aviation industry still relies completely on jet fuel and other old, toxic petroleum products. According to recent estimates, the airline industry is responsible for nearly 5% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas contributions.
Chip Yates, a speed demon experimentalist, aims to change all that.
On July 19, in the skies above the Mojave Desert in California, Yates set a record that may pave the way for greener airways: he became the first human to fly 200 mph in an electric-powered airplane.
He only hit that speed for 15 seconds before his lithium polymer battery pack burnt out, sending his custom Long EZ airplane gliding unpowered through the skies. Thankfully, Yates, who only got his pilot license in June, was able to touch down unharmed.
The experimental flight is just the beginning for Yates and his electric-powered plane. Earlier this year, he announced plans to retrace Charles Lindbergh’s legendary 1927 trans-Atlantic flight in a battery-powered airplane.
“You could fly this route today in an unmanned solar craft at 80,000 feet being blown over there by the Jetstream, or in something incredibly slow, or in a balloon,” Yates said in a press release. “But that doesn’t get our society any closer to realizing long-range, legitimate payload, electric flight capabilities that everybody can actually benefit from.”
The trans-Atlantic flight, which may use unmanned drone battery rechargers, is tentatively set for 2014.