Much has been said in the conference rooms and on the sidelines of this year's Dubai Air Show about the future of flight.
But one of the most significant developments can easily be missed among the giant aircraft and supersonic fighter planes of
The organizers behind the Airbus-backed electric racing series have released more details about their plans, including the unveiling of the first aircraft to be launched. competes in the series.
The small single-seat airplane is anointed by the airplane around it, but Jeff Saltman likes to think it points the way for aviation.
He is the American businessman behind Air Race E, a project that envisions 1
Mr Zaltman is already running a successful international aircraft race, Air Race One, in which planes powered by traditional engines make circuits with a 5.13 km oval course. This will be the template for Air Race E.
"I have no plans to stop Air Race One, but this is the time when the aviation industry will start thinking about electrical racing," he said. Just like Formula E, the global electric racing car series, has helped promote the potential and adoption of battery-powered road cars, he believes Air Race E can do similar work in aviation.
The aviation industry is in a bit of a panic about its carbon footprint. Ignoring its problem of harmful emissions for years, the industry sees stricter legislation coming down – as well as more environmental protests and customer reactions.
Critics have accused the car industry of being too slow to invest in new technologies. By comparison, the aviation industry has hardly started.
Electrification in the aviation sector is about 20 years behind the automotive industry, he said. "There are many things to do. We provide a platform that can help accelerate this technology," says Mr Zaltman. "Motorsports have always been a test of technology."
Formula One innovations found their way into road cars, and the Schneider Trophy pre-WWII seaplane races helped design Spitfire.
"in Formula E, manufacturers are working to develop and use technology. We see no reason why we cannot help blossom aerospace technology, "said Mr. Zaltman.
Formula E started with cars of similar specification and only now allows crews to personalize their electrical technology. It begins with a different format.
Mr Zaltan said that using single-character vehicles is a way to reduce costs and establish Formula E. Air Race E allows teams and manufacturers to use their own electrical technology Although there are certain limitations to the design of the aircraft.
"This is a better way to test the technology," says a former U.S. Navy avionics engineer. "In fact, it is not much tested whether all technology is the same. We think this is a better way to help companies jump into the next generation of electric drive. "
That Airbus is ready to introduce its name on Air Race E is a bold statement from a European manufacturer. The series, like any in the motor sport, carries some degree of risk.
So what's up with Airbus?
"We're here because we believe in electrical technology," says Sandra Bur Schaefer, CEO of Airbus ExO Alpha, a division that explores alternatives to conventional aircraft and design fuels.
"Some of the answers to the future of electric flight will come from such programs."
Airbus has negotiated a sponsorship deal whose details are confidential. In return, she says, Airbus meets and develops ideas with engineers and scientists who usually can't find themselves in the world of large outer space. There will be data exchange and cross-pollination of information.
Using the battery instead of conventional engines creates all sorts of problems around weight, handling, aerodynamics and design. Airbus sees Air Race E as part of its electrical training curve, and as the racing series and its technology evolve so will enter commercial aircraft.
Airbus is already working on a small hybrid electric aircraft called E-Fan on schedule to make its first demonstration flight in 2021. However, projects will remain separate.
The first team, Condor, was unveiled on Sunday, with seven more being announced later this week to maximize the publicity potential of one of the world's
Condor is operated by Condor Aviation International, a UK-based specialist company in the construction and testing of custom aircraft.
Mr Zaltman describes the other teams as an "eclectic mix" of companies, developers, engineers and pilots who see the "potential and fun" of air racing. Universities, including Nottingham, Hull and Teeside of the United Kingdom, are involved in assisting technology development teams.
Place in History
The list of host cities is expected to be announced early next year and the first race will be held later in 2020. Mr. Zaltman will not reveal the list of locations, except that they will be cities – competitions will be at the airports – they want to promote their "genealogy of the environment".
After leaving the Navy, Mr. Zaltman went to Boston University, then did an MBA in London and, among other jobs, worked in the business development of the Ford automobile company.
"But I was always a little entrepreneurial and wanted to create something for myself," he said. This "thing" became the series Air Race One, which airs in 100 countries and attracts tens of thousands of viewers.
"Air Race One has been going on for seven years and I don't intend to stop it. But I can
" Hopefully when we all fly electric commercial planes, engineers will trace some of the roots back to Air Race E. "