Electric-Powered Aircraft Designers Awarded $1.35 Million

Encouraging eco-friendly innovation, the Google sponsored Green Flight Challenge that was conducted by the CAFE Foundation culminated in the $1.35 million prize being awarded by NASA to Pennsylvania-based Pipistrel-USA for their electric-powered airplane. The award ceremony took place on 25 September at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa following a week of finalists putting their aircraft through their paces.

Pipistrel-USA consists of a team of dedicated industry professionals, who not only managed to meet the fuel efficiency requirement set out in the Green Flight Challenge competition, but doubled it by flying a distance of 200 miles in under two hours, with electricity equivalent fuel consumption measured at just over half a gallon per passenger. The team to come in at second place was California-based EGenius, which was awarded $120,000.

Created to inspire the aviation sector to develop fuel-efficient aircraft the Green Flight Challenge started two years ago, with fourteen teams registering to take part. NASA estimates that collectively the teams invested over $4 million in their efforts to win the competition. Three teams met the requirements set out in the competition and participated in the week-long series of tests. NASA is known for using competitions to stimulate innovative thinking to overcome specific challenges in the aerospace industry, but the Green Flight Challenge prize is the largest to be awarded in the history of aviation.

In an interview, Pipistrel-USA team leader Jack Langelaan, noted that two years ago the concept of flying a distance of 200 miles at 100 mph would have been in the realms of science fiction, but having become a reality, we can look forward to the future of electric aviation. Certainly, NASA is hopeful that the competition will inspire a host of innovations in electric powered aircraft, leading the world into an era of quiet, clean air travel.

As noted in its mission statement, the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation aims to create and advance the understanding of personal aircraft technologies through research, analysis and education. With a keen understanding of the forces of gravity and the challenges aircraft face in moving through the earth’s atmosphere, the CAFE Foundation team continues to pioneer new ways of studying aerodynamics and improving aircraft. The team’s test flight expertise is recognized by prominent aviation authorities, including NASA, EAA and AOPA.