June 1, 2012 at 4:10 PM ET
If all goes according to plan, an electric-powered airplane will soar across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop in 2014 along the same 3,600-mile route Charles Lindbergh flew in 1927.
To do so, pilot-in-training Chip Yates, CEO of Flight of the Century, will take advantage of his company’s recently patented technology that will enable him to dock with flying UAV battery pods for mid-air refueling.
The range of current batteries is the primary limiting factor in electric vehicles, be they cars or planes. The Nissan Leaf, for example, averages about 100 miles per charge.
The flying battery pods would launch from predetermined points along the route and dock with the mothership. Depleted battery packs will be jettisoned, parachuting down for recovery and recharge.
“Our purpose in setting out on this very difficult path is to force innovation that drives electric flight technology forward in a significant way and measurable way,” Yates said in a press release.
He added that this flight is possible today in an solar plane flying at 80,000 feet as well as a blimp or balloon, but they fail to “get our society any closer to realizing long-range, legitimate payload, electric flight capabilities that everybody can actually benefit from.”
That said, Yates and his colleagues have some work to do. They need to build the plane, for example, and get the batteries ready for flight.
“The battery cells for the Lindbergh flight are in the lab right now but they’re not yet ready for prime time,” Yates told Gizmag.
In support of the transocean flight, the company is gearing up for a July maiden flight of its electric test aircraft, a converted Burt Rutan-designed Long-EZ.
The plane will serve as a development platform for the company’s battery pack technology and will also be used to attempt altitude and speed records.
In addition to the flying battery packs, the company is also working on what it calls Jettison and Balance System, which reduces aircraft weight — thus extending range — by sectioning battery packs and jettisoning depleted segments and rebalancing the aircraft.
A two-section battery pack gets a 40 percent range increase, according to the company. Ten drops nearly doubles the range thanks to the weight reduction.
“Our systems dramatically extend range without relying upon promises of future battery improvements,” Yates said in a press release.
“We believe our technology, and especially our JBS product, represents a near-term breakthrough that can literally be implemented today.”
— Via Gizmag
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.