NEW YORK – Almost a quiet drone size drill proved that it could fly, thanks to a scientist who was inspired by watching Star Trek as a child.
With neither propellers nor jet planes, the plane gets hit by applying a strong electric field in the air. This general idea is demonstrated at scientific fairs, but the new work shows that it can power a free-airplane.
So, can people be eager to travel to planes that are almost silent and do not let air pollution emit?
"Not anytime soon," said Stephen Barrett of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who published the results in a study published Wednesday by Nature magazine.
It is unclear if technology could work on such a large scale, he said in a telephone interview. And even if it can, it will take decades to develop such planes, he said.
Prior to that, access can be used in aircraft as drones that perform tasks such as environmental monitoring and surveillance, he said. As drones become more common in urban heavens, the lack of noise will be an advantage in making less disgusting for people on the ground, he said.
The Natural Document announces the results of 10 test flights in the MIT Athletic Building. With a span of 5 meters, the plane with five kilograms (2.45 kg) sailed to about 17 kilometers per hour. Each flight covers about 60 meters (55 meters).
Barrett (35) said he was inspired as a child watching television episodes and movies at Star Trek, where he was hit by a shuttle that flew without moving parts in their propulsion systems. He recalled thinking: "There should be ways for things to fly without propellers and (airplane) turbines."
As an adult, he focused on it and came across a concept called "ion wind."
For the MIT plane, which includes a series of thin wires on the front of the plane, which generate a powerful electric field. The region throws electrons from the molecules of the air, turning the molecules into positively charged particles called ions. These ions flow to negatively charged parts of the plane, which collide with ordinary air molecules and transmit energy to them. It produces a wind that delivers a blow to the plane, Barrett explained.
A similar process has long been used in space to launch a spacecraft, he said.
Barrett said he hoped to find a way to eliminate the "very little buzz" that can be heard.
"I think they're something here," says Pat Anderson, professor of aeronautical engineering at Daytona Beach, Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University Campus. He did not play a role in the research.
He called the results impressive. But experimental planes have no scope and durability to serve as a useful drone, and it's unclear if technology can be increased to fix it or become useful for moving a passenger plane, he said.
Follow Malcolm Ritter in @MalcolmRitter
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