No Jet Engine, Shock Wave Or Smoke & Thunder

  • Jan 11, 2016 8:20am GMT

No jet engines, no shock wave or smoke and thunder? Nope this truck-plane mash-up on the airport runway is a NASA project called LeapTech. Don't expect it at an airshow anytime soon it is meant to test a whole new method of powering flight.

Technicians and engineers have been driving the Peterbilt (in the NASA video) below down a dry lake-bed runway at Edwards Air Force Base at more than 70 miles per hour with battery-powered propellers spinning.

Over the next several months, NASA researchers will perform ground testing of the 31-foot-span, carbon composite wing section with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries.

Those tiny electric engines are not moving the truck, it is a test bed for the wing above. According to NASA, "The truck experiment is a precursor to a development of a small X-plane demonstrator proposed under NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program. (see photos below the video) Researchers hope to fly a piloted X-plane within the next couple years after removing the wings and engines from an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T and replacing them with an improved version of the LEAPTech wing and motors. Using an existing airframe will allow engineers to easily compare the performance of the X-plane with the original P2006T."

They go on to say, "Each motor can be operated independently at different speeds for optimized performance. Key potential benefits of LEAPTech include decreased reliance on fossil fuels, improved aircraft performance and ride quality, and aircraft noise reduction."

LEAPTech is a key element of NASA’s plan to help a significant portion of the aircraft industry transition to electrical propulsion within the next decade. According to Mark Moore, an aerodynamicist at Langley, “LEAPTech has the potential to achieve transformational capabilities in the near-term for general aviation aircraft, as well as for transport aircraft in the longer-term.”

Joby Aviation did the truck design/fabrication as well as the wing design/fabrication, motor design and system power. I don't think Bill Braack, the Darnells, Paul Stender or any of the other Jet Truck operators on the airshow circuit have anything to worry about.