Image via Zunum Aero
With drones and hybrid-electric cars becoming more common in the consumer market, it was only a matter of time before these technologies would be utilized by the aerospace industry. A new startup called Zunum Aero, funded by industry giants Boeing and JetBlue, is leveraging this technology and promising to make regional air travel cheaper and faster.
Zunum Aero's hybrid-electric aircraft can be operated by pilot who is physically in the aircraft, or remotely as a drone and can be switched from hybrid to fully electric without needing to make any mechanical adjustments.
Large, modular batteries in the wings provide power, while a gas turbine connected to a generator provides supplemental power during flights. Because the modular batteries, spent batteries can be easily swapped out for fully charged ones, meaning less time spent fueling and a potential flight turnaround time of only 10 minutes.
The smaller planes take up about 40% of the runway space that traditional commuter planes use. As part of their strategy, Zunum Aero wants to utilize smaller, less trafficked airports, as their hubs and focus on shorter, regional flights.
The first collection of airplanes will only seat 12 people and go a maximum of 1,000 miles, but this is only the beginning. As fuel prices rise we expect to see major airlines incorporating electric-hybrid aircrafts into their fleets and investing in fuel-efficient options. So far, Zunum Aero has 100 aircrafts and plans to have these quiet, efficient birds in flight by 2022.