NASA has an ambitious $43 million plan to make electric planes a reality

Electric planes are set to become a reality sooner than most realise.

Boeing and JetBlue, both big names in the airline industry, have invested in electric-aircraft startup Zunum to explore using the planes at regional airports. Meanwhile, companies like Uber and Airbus are working on electric aircrafts for an air taxi service

NASA is also investing heavily in electric planes and has committed just over $US43 million towards the project. Scroll down to see NASA’s step-by-step plan to make electric planes a reality:

NASA's 10-year plan revolves around designing and building the X-Series, a line of environmentally-friendly aeroplanes. It has already committed $43.5 million through 2020 for the project.


The ultimate goal is to build a large, hybrid jet that has the potential to be sold commercially in the next decade.

NASA is first building a small, entirely electric plane called the X-57. It plans on completing the plane in just under four years.


The X-57 will be long and skinny with six electric motors on each of the wings. The plane will be able to fly at 175 miles per hour, but will only have a range of 100 miles.

'We're designing this aeroplane specifically for our test demonstration,' Sean Clarke, NASA's principle investigator on the X-57 project, told Business Insider. 'But for this tech to make its way to commercial, battery tech needs to improve.'

After completing the X-57, NASA will transform a standard aircraft into an entirely electric plane. That plane is set to fly in March 2018.


Engineers will remove the two cruise motors and add an 800-pound battery to get the job done, Tom Rigney, NASA's program manager for the X-57 project, told Business Insider.

NASA will then take that same plane and make some other small changes for Phase Three of the X-Series project.


Engineers will replace the standard wings with the skinny wing used to fly the X-57 plane. Just like the X-57 plane, the new wing will have electric motors to give the plane some more power. The plane is slated to fly again with its new wing in May 2019.

All of those steps are 'part of an overall roadmap' to build hybrid electric jets that could be sold commercially.


That final step doesn't have a clear timeline yet, but Rigney said NASA is aiming to complete that plane in 10 years.

'It will be a transition from the technology NASA develops,' Rigney said. 'We're going to reduce the risk and flight test these larger aircrafts with the technology required to fly them, and that will give way for the commercial world to commercialize it.'

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.