Electra's Solar-Electric Hybrid Research Aircraft Completes Maiden Flight

Aerospace company Electra announced that its solar-electric hybrid research aircraft, Dawn One, successfully took to the skies. This is only the beginning for Dawn One, which is expected to reach the atmosphere on a future flight and help advance scientific research and expand climate research capabilities.
Dawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft takes to the skies 6 photos
Photo: Electra
Dawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft takes to the skiesDawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft takes to the skiesDawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft takes to the skiesDawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft takes to the skiesDawn One solar-electric hybrid aircraft
Since 2020, Electra has been developing hybrid-electric aircraft to advance air mobility. Although the company is known for its electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) that uses blown lift technology to operate, it also focuses on solar-battery hybrid electric unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The Dawn One project was born at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under the guidance of Professors John Hansman and Mark Drela. Electra was in charge of the aircraft's design, production, and testing.

This new solar-electric hybrid plane is part of the Stratospheric Airborne Climate Observing System (SACOS) program, which is developed under the leadership of Professor James G. Anderson at Harvard University. The program is "designed to innovatively address a broad range of scientific missions and serve as a climate observing system that will herald a new era in the quantitative dissection of the physics, chemistry, and biology controlling critical climate systems."

SACOS observations will help offer quantitative forecasts of the risk posed by fast-spreading wildfires, the accelerating sea level rise, storms, and changes in dry regions. So Dawn One will have a very important role in gathering the information needed.

The UAS, which features an impressive 90-foot (27.4-meter), successfully completed its first flight. The plane left Electra's development facility and took off from Manassas Regional Airport, Virginia on September 9th.

Following this successful maiden flight, Dawn One will undergo more testing. The team will assess different control inputs to see how the aircraft handles different speeds. Then, the UAS will have to climb to higher altitudes. The ultimate goal is the stratosphere. From there, it will observe our planet and gather valuable data for different future missions.

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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