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Bye Aerospace tests electric aeroplane prototype

The StratoAirNet prototype

The prototype is designed to provide support for long-endurance commercial and government security requirements

Bye Aerospace has announced the successful completion of the first flight of the solar electric technology demonstrator prototype for its StratoAirNet and Solesa families of medium-altitude aircraft systems.

The piloted prototype first flight and subsequent flight tests took place at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, north of Loveland.

CEO and founder of Bye Aerospace George Bye described the first flight as a significant industry milestone. “It was a great day for solar-electric aviation,” he said.

The Solesa and StratoAirNet family of aircraft systems is intended to provide support for long-endurance commercial and government security requirements, including patrol, observation, utility, mapping, precision agriculture, search and rescue and surveillance missions.

The Solesa aircraft system will be piloted, performing similar patrol and survey missions for shorter flight durations. It also provides an R&D test platform for new customer payloads. StratoAirNet is intended to be a longer-endurance UAV and will follow required steps to qualify this additional capability.

Both StratoAirNet and Solesa offer unique advantages over traditional systems, including lower unit cost, lower heat and noise signatures, lower operating costs and enhanced utility.

Bye Aerospace is collaborating with SolAero, integrating their advanced high-efficiency solar cell technologies on the advanced graphite composite wing.

Bye Aerospace has also received an order for 30 all-electric Sun Flyer 2 airplanes from the Aspen Flying Club (the largest order to date for the all-electric aircraft that first flew in April), and provided prices for both variants.

The two-seat Sun Flyer 2 made its first test flight in April, and has attracted both investment dollars and orders from around the world – more than 100 aircraft orders had been booked before the Aspen Flying Club deal announced August 13.

The company hopes to be the first to earn an FAA type certificate for an all-electric aircraft, and has begun developing a four-seat version, the Sun Flyer 4.

The Sun Flyer 2 is currently priced at US$289,900, and the four-seat version is priced at US$389,000. Eliminating the fuel tanks gives the Sun Flyer an edge in speed and reduces required thrust compared to traditional training aircraft.

The Sun Flyer 2, powered by a 90-kW Siemens motor will have a “full fuel payload” (battery weight does not change during discharge) comparable to a Cessna 172 – 440 pounds compared to the Cessna’s 450 pounds; a higher top speed of 138 knots (compared to 122 knots); and a significantly higher lift-to-drag ratio of 20.6, compared to the Skyhawk’s 9.1.

The company noted in 2016 that the Sun Flyer’s solar cells will help extend its flight endurance to three hours on a single charge. The company estimated in a recent email exchange that charging the batteries will cost US$3 per flight hour.

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