H55, an offshoot of Solar Impulse, the pro-ecological foundation launched by visionary solar around-the-world pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, has conducted the maiden flight of its Bristell Energic 2-seater electric plane above the Swiss city of Sion.
The zero emissions aircraft, manufactured by British BRM Aero, took off powered by an all-electric propulsion system designed by H55 on Friday above the hills of Sion.
Intended for the flight training industry, the 2-seater aircraft is no different to other planes that regularly take to Swiss skies, with one main exception.
Thanks to its 50kWh battery pack and H55 electric propulsion unit, the Bristell Energic can fly for up to 90 minutes from launch to landing, without so much as a whisper of noise other than the sounds created by moving through the air, and without a drop of fuel being used.
According the H55, which was founded by Borschberg, along with around-the-world Solar Impulse flight team members Sébastien Demont and Gregory Blatt, there is already “considerable interest from flight schools, airport resident associations and aviation authorities.”
Following the successful first flight, Borschberg noted that the shift of aviation towards electric propulsion would “deeply transform and improve urban mobility. Electric propulsion has enabled the world of drones, it will do the same for aviation.
“The Bristell Energic is a stepping-stone for the development of such new aviation transport solutions, where the challenge will be safety and certification,” he said.
“By having our electric airplanes fly and monitoring their performance, H55 will continue to build up big data essential for the development of VTOLs and flying taxis.”
It’s yet another example of the trend towards developing electric propulsion within the aviation industry.
With aviation-related emissions on an upward climb despite a growing movement to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, the industry is in the grips of a realisation that it too must reduce its contribution to global warming.
At the Paris Air Show earlier this month, a number of aviation startups and heavyweights from Israel-based Eviation to French Airbus demonstrated various electric planes and hybrid-electric propulsion units.
Solar Impulse’s own contribution towards the shift to not only electric but solar-powered flight, made a significant breakthrough in 2010 when its Solar Impulse 1 aircraft became the first solar plane to fly through the night with a pilot on board.
In 2015, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg completed the longest solar flight ever recorded, while also breaking all records for non-stop flight in the history of aviation.
While the Bristell Energic is not a solar plane (it recharges in an hour according to H55), its maiden flight is another step towards the future of aviation, joining Colorado-based Bye Aerospace who recently sold 60 e-planes to Norway-based OSM Aviation, in the mission to supply electric training aircraft for a new generation of eco-friendly pilots.