Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering

Department

Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Richard "Pat" Anderson

First Committee Member

Dr. Albert D. Heltrick

Second Committee Member

Professor Charles Eastlake

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the current state of the electric airplane as primarily defined by results from NASA's Green Flight Challenge Competition. New equations must be derived in order to determine the endurance and range for electric airplanes since the standard equations depend upon weight change over a flight and the weight of an electric airplane does not change. These new equations could then be solved for the optimal velocity and altitude which were the two driving factors that could change range and endurance for a given airplane configuration. The best velocity for range and endurance is not a function of energy storage or weight change thus the results turn out to be very similar to internal combustion engine airplanes, however, the optimal altitude for the best range and endurance equates to flying as high as reasonably possible. From examining the Green Flight Challenge data of the two fully electric airplanes, the analysis suggests that the electric propulsion system is not the only measure, given today's battery technology, that helps create a viable electric airplane solution. Aerodynamic efficiency becomes very important in order to reduce the required amount of energy. Airplanes that are aerodynamically inefficient make bad electric airplanes because the energy density of batteries is still low and the energy available to carry on board is limited. The more energy wasted on drag, the less the range and endurance of the airplane can be since the addition of more batteries may not be an option.

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