Tiny all-electric planes that can take off and land vertically – this sci-fi future is not that far away, and Solar Impulse pilot and co-founder André Borschberg wants a slice of the action. His electric plane start-up is one of dozens of firms worldwide hoping to make electric aviation a reality.
Nine months after touching down from his round-the-world solar-electric flight, Borschberg is on a new mission.
“I’m convinced that we are at a turning point in the world of aviation,” he tells swissinfo.ch excitedly.
The Swiss pilot is returning to the skies with H55external link (formerly Hangar 55), a small team of aviation specialists and aEro1, their experimental electric aerobatic plane (see video below). The company he co-founded is betting on a green aviation future (see infobox) and is currently testing the plane at Sion Airportexternal link in the Rhone valley.
Borschberg and H55’s long-term aim is to build on their unique Solar Impulseexternal link expertise to develop electric propulsion technologies – from the energy power source to the pilot interface and control systems – which others can integrate into their aircraft.
“We are now at the stage where we are seeing new technologies changing the world of aviation. It’s extremely exciting,” he declares.
“Electric motors are highly efficient and lighter. They are also cost-efficient and considerably less expensive to operate than the traditional combustion-engine aircraft. And all this with less noise and a much-reduced environmental footprint.”
In the future, electric planes should be able to take off vertically with little noise and be less dependent on large airports, he explains.