How To Make Flying Airplane – Caption: A new MIT plane powered by the wind of pigeons. Batteries inside the fuselage (the tan enclosure at the front of the plane) supply voltage to the electrodes (horizontal blue/white lines) that run along the length of the plane, producing an ion wind that propels the plane forward.
Title: Blueprint for MIT’s ion wind-powered aircraft. This system may be used to power small drones and even light aircraft as an alternative to fossil fuel propulsion.
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MIT’s new plane is powered by the wind of pigeons. Batteries inside the fuselage (the tan enclosure at the front of the plane) supply voltage to the electrodes (horizontal blue/white lines) that run along the length of the plane, producing an ion wind that propels the plane forward.
Schematic diagram for the MIT jet powered by the wind of the doves. This system may be used to power small drones and even light aircraft as an alternative to fossil fuel propulsion.
Since the first airplane flew more than 100 years ago, almost every plane in the sky has flown with the help of moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades, or fans that make a constant whine.
Now MIT engineers have built and flown the first airplane with no moving parts. Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by “ion wind” – a quiet but powerful stream of ions generated in the aircraft, which provides enough thrust to propel the aircraft into steady, stable flight.
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Unlike turbine aircraft, airplanes do not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller drones, the new design is completely silent.
“This is the first sustained flight of an aircraft with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” said Stephen Barrett, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “This may have opened up new and unknown opportunities for quieter, mechanically simpler aircraft that do not emit combustion emissions.”
In the short term, he expects such ion wind propulsion systems to be used to fly low-noise drones. Additionally, he is combining ion propulsion with more conventional combustion systems to make hybrid airliners and other large aircraft more fuel-efficient.
Barrett says the inspiration for the crew’s monoplane comes in part from the film and TV series Star Trek, which he watched enthusiastically as a child. He was particularly drawn to the futuristic shuttles that glided effortlessly through the air, seemingly with no moving parts and barely any noise or emissions.
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“It made me think that in the long run, airplanes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines,” Barrett says. “They should look more like the Star Trek shuttles
About nine years ago, Barrett began looking for ways to design an aircraft propulsion system without moving parts. He eventually arrived at “ionic wind”, also known as electro-aerodynamic thrust – a physical principle first identified in the 1920s that describes a wind or thrust that can be produced by passing current between a thin electrode and forming a thick electrode. If enough voltage is applied, the air between the electrodes can create enough thrust to propel a small airplane.
For years, electro-aerodynamic propulsion was largely a hobby project, with designs mostly limited to small tabletop “elevators” connected to large power sources that generate enough wind to keep a small ship briefly airborne. It was widely believed that it was impossible to generate enough wind from pigeons to propel a larger aircraft in sustained flight.
“There was a sleepless night in the hotel where I was jet-lagged, and I thought about it and started looking for ways to do it,” he recalls. “I did some back-and-forth calculations and realized that this could potentially become a viable propulsion system,” Barrett says. And it turned out that it would take years of work to get from that to the first test flight.”
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The team’s final design looks like a large, lightweight drone. The plane, which weighs about 5 pounds and has a 5-foot wingspan, carries a series of thin wires that run like a horizontal fence along and under the front of the plane’s wing. The wires act as positively charged electrodes, while thick wires arranged similarly along the trailing edge of the aircraft wing act as negative electrodes.
The fuselage contains a set of lithium polymer batteries. Univert’s aircraft team included members of Professor David Prole’s Power Electronics research group at the Electronics Research Laboratory, who designed a power supply that converted the battery output into enough voltage to power the aircraft. In this way, the batteries provide 40,000 volts of electricity to positively charge the wires using a lightweight converter.
When the wires are activated, they attract and repel negatively charged electrons from the surrounding air molecules, like a giant magnet attracting iron filaments. The air molecules left behind the plane have recently been ionized and in turn are attracted to the negatively charged electrodes on the back of the plane.
As the newly formed ion cloud flows toward the negatively charged wires, each ion collides with other air molecules millions of times, creating thrust that propels the plane forward.
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Undistorted video of surf 2 without power, with position and energy notes from the camera tracking. Credit: Stephen Barrett
The team, which also included Lincoln Lab’s Thomas Sebastian and Mark Wollston, flew the plane on several test flights over the gymnasium at MIT’s DuPont Sports Center—the largest indoor space they could find to conduct their experiments. The team flew the plane 60 meters (the maximum distance in a gym) and found that the plane generated enough ion thrust to sustain flight the entire time. They repeated the flight 10 times with similar performance.
Undistorted camera footage of Flight 9, with location and energy annotations from the camera tracking. 2x Fast Credit: Steven Barrett
“It was the simplest plane we could design that could prove the idea that a pigeon plane could fly,” Barrett says. “It’s still far from a plane that can perform a useful mission. “It has to be more efficient, fly longer and fly out.”
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The new design is a “big step” toward proving the feasibility of wind-powered doves, according to Frank Floravo, a senior researcher at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics in Toulouse, France, who notes that researchers have previously been unable to fly anything heavier. . how many grams
“The strength of the results directly proves that sustained flight of an ion-wind drone is stable,” says Floravo, who was not involved in the research. This is not really a weakness, but a window for future developments, in a field that is now exploding.”
Barrett’s team is working on increasing the efficiency of their design to produce more ion wind at lower voltage. The researchers also hope to increase the thrust density of the design – the amount of thrust produced per unit area. Currently, flying the crew’s light plane requires a huge array of electrodes, which essentially make up the plane’s propulsion system. Ideally, Barrett would like to design an airplane without a visible propulsion system or separate control surfaces such as a rudder and elevator.
“It took me a long time to get here,” says Barrett. “Moving from the basic principle to something that actually flies has been a long journey of describing the physics, then designing and making it work. “Now the possibilities of this type of engine are applicable.”
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This research was supported in part by the Autonomous Systems Line of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a research grant from Professor Amar G. Bose, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). This work was also funded through the Charles Stark Draper and Leonardo Career Development Chairs at MIT.
Jeremy Bugaisky, writing about a new plane he built that will be powered by an ion thruster, noted that he is working to integrate a ridge system into the plane. “There is no reason to think in the long term that electro-aerodynamic propulsion aircraft designs should look like a modern aircraft,” Barrett explains.
It shows how MIT researchers built the first plane powered by an ion drive with no moving parts. “Using an ion drive means MIT has no moving propulsion parts in the form of propellers or jet engines.”
CNN’s Helen Regan introduces a new solid-state airplane developed by MIT researchers that has no moving parts and requires no fossil fuel. “Flight is a milestone in pigeon wind technology,” he explains
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