A US-built solar-electric aircraft is “weeks away” from achieving first flight to begin a 2- to 3-year flight test campaign for certification as a two-seat flight trainer, says George Bye, chief executive of Aero Electric Aircraft Corp (AEAC).
The Sun Flyer prototype displayed at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture fly-in is the first of three flight test aircraft planned by AEAC. Each will be equipped with a 400V batteries made by LG Chem, a popular battery supplier for electric cars. The Sun Flyer will use the same 400V “super-chargers” popularized by electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Roadster. The batteries will drive a Slovenian-buil motor with 100kW continuous power, rising to maximum output of 200kW.
The 400V super-charger should replenish the power of the batteries within 20-30min of landing, he adds. AEAC has partnered with a company named Bloomington to set up a network of super-charging stations.
The production version of the Sun Flyer will be equipped with a ballistic recovery system, adding to the safety provided by a spin-resistant wing.
US Federal Aviation Administration regulations currently do not allow aircraft in the light sport category to be powered by electric motors. AEAC plans to certificate the aircraft under Part 21, which limits the maximum take-off weight to 750kg (1,654lb).
The AEAC’s optimal schedule calls for certification two years after first flight, but Bye says that timeline could stretch by another year. By then, if the FAA’s Part 23 rewrite proposal has taken effect, the aviation regulations would support development of an electric-powered four-seater.