Within a few years, NASA hopes to fly a piloted X-plane, replacing the wings and engines with an improved version of the LEAPTech wing. (NASA)
NASA’s Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech) project will test the premise that tighter propulsion-airframe integration, made possible with electric power, will deliver improved efficiency and safety, as well as environmental and economic benefits. NASA researchers will perform ground testing of a 31-foot-span, carbon composite wing section with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries.

The experimental wing, called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed (HEIST), is mounted on a specially modified truck. Testing on the mobile ground rig assembly will provide valuable data and risk reduction applicable to future flight research.

Researchers hope to fly a piloted X-plane within the next couple years after removing the wings and engines and replacing them with an improved version of the LEAPTech wing and motors. Each motor can be operated independently at different speeds for optimized performance. Key potential benefits of LEAPTech include decreased reliance on fossil fuels, improved aircraft performance and ride quality, and aircraft noise reduction.

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