A battery-electric plane takes to skies over England in latest example of 'zero-emission' flight

  • The Piper M-class six-seater flew a round trip of roughly 60 nautical miles.
  • The journey is the latest example of battery-electric aircraft capable of carrying passengers.

A battery-electric airplane took to the skies over England earlier this week in a trip described as the U.K.'s "first commercial-scale electric flight."

The Piper M-class six-seater, which used a powertrain from a firm called ZeroAvia, took off from Cranfield Airport in eastern England on Monday and flew a round trip of roughly 60 nautical miles.

Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia's founder and CEO, said in a statement on Tuesday that the flight was "the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality."

"We all want the aviation industry to come back after the pandemic on a firm footing to be able to move to a net zero future, with a green recovery," Miftakhov added. "That will not be possible without realistic, commercial options for zero emission flight, something we will bring to market as early as 2023."

As well as battery electric systems, ZeroAvia is concentrating on the development and commercialization of aircraft which use hydrogen fuel cells.

It is heading up a scheme called HyFlyer alongside project partners Intelligent Energy and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

EMEC has described HyFlyer, which is backed by the U.K. government, as aiming "to decarbonise medium range small passenger aircraft by demonstrating powertrain technology to replace conventional piston engines in propeller aircraft."

It adds that the project is looking to replace an aircraft's "conventional powertrain" with "electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells and gas storage."

A goal of HyFlyer is to carry out a flight of between 250 and 300 nautical miles from the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located in waters off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The plane on this flight will use hydrogen-fuel cells.

Monday's journey is the latest example of battery-electric aircraft capable of carrying passengers. Just last month a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan with a 750-horsepower all-electric motor completed its maiden flight.

The plane took off from an airport in Moses Lake, Washington, and used a motor developed by Redmond-headquartered company magniX. Work to convert the aircraft was undertaken by magniX and another firm called AeroTEC.

Other examples of innovative planes include the Solar Impulse 2, a manned aircraft powered by the sun. In 2016 it managed to circumnavigate the globe without using fuel. The trip was completed in 17 separate legs.

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