NASA, Google award hyper-efficient airplane maker $1.3 million prize
Electric airplane travels 200 miles at 100 mph on less than a gallon of fuel.
NASA awarded the largest prize in aviation history — $1.35 million — to team Pipistrel-USA.com as the winners of the Google-sponsored CAFE Green Flight Challenge.
The winning aircraft — the 75-foot wingspan Pipistrel Taurus G4 — is a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft powered by a 145-kilowatt brushless electric motor driving a two-blade propeller mounted on a spar between the fuselages.
Under the terms of the competition, the winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. Both the first and second place teams — both electric-powered — achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, by flying 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.
“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”
Fourteen teams originally registered for the competition, but only three teams successfully met all requirements in the skies over the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in California. The competition was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation under an agreement with NASA.
This competition marks the culmination of more than two years of aircraft design, development and testing for the teams, who collectively spent more than $4 million in pursuit of the challenge prize purse.