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Smallest Manned Electric Plane Flies 131

Posted by timothy
from the if-it-didn't-fly-would-it-be-a-plane dept.
garymortimer writes "EADs have successfully flown an electrified Cri-Cri aircraft. The Cri-cri (short for cricket) is the smallest twin-engined manned aircraft in the world, designed in the early 1970s by French aeronautical engineer Michel Colomban, the Cri-cri aircraft is the world's smallest twin-engine . At only 4.9 m (16.1 ft) wingspan and 3.9 m (12.8 ft) length, it is a single-seater, making an impression of a dwarf velomobile with wings at close range. After its manned flight trials the airframe will be configured for autonomous flight. Obviously once the pilot is removed payload increases dramatically and the airframe itself has been approved for manned flight so certifying it for UAV flight should be simpler."
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Smallest Manned Electric Plane Flies

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  • QOTD (Score:4, Funny)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @07:24PM (#33503890)
    "Obviously once the pilot is removed payload increases dramatically"

    At first glance I thought they were going to complete the conjunction by saying "and the plane cannot fly." But Cpt. Obvious reminded me that UAV is the new aviation buzzword (trend?).
    • by imsabbel (611519)

      Brain usage would help.
      We live in the year 2010. Ever heard of a remote control?

      UAV= unmanned aerial vehicle.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        This plane is smaller than a few of the largest [youtube.com] RC planes out there. Imagine throwing a leg over your RC airplane with controller in hand and taking off! Do you hear me, mythbusters!?
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Um, that and it was in the same sentence. In TFS. A new low for slashdot?
  • Hmmm, TFA mentions 4 engines grouped in pairs with counter-rotating props...not 2 engines.
    • by cosm (1072588)
      Who reads the article? The image shows two props, so the correlation is understandable, but not necessarily forgivable.
      • by scdeimos (632778)

        The image shows two props, so the correlation is understandable, but not necessarily forgivable.

        If you look at the image more carefully you can see four props (two pairs of contra-rotating three-blade props).

        • by cosm (1072588)

          The image shows two props, so the correlation is understandable, but not necessarily forgivable.

          If you look at the image more carefully you can see four props (two pairs of contra-rotating three-blade props).

          Observational skills severely lacking. No wonder outsourcing is so prevalent!

        • by ballpoint (192660)

          Inline counter-rotating... hmm, propably not too efficient.

    • four brushless electric motors

      Tim S.

  • Next thing you know, someone will be dragging this into a parking space at work, raving about the ecological benefits, and simultaneously getting denied both life and medical insurance!

  • If it didn't fly you couldn't really call it a plane now could you?

  • by RNLockwood (224353) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @07:48PM (#33504050) Homepage

    Here's a link to the same story with a picture taken from the side, much more revealing. Four motors total grouped in two pairs.

    http://www.aviationbusiness.com.au/news/cri-cri-the-all-electric-aircraft-gets-airborne [aviationbusiness.com.au]

  • by Snowblindeye (1085701) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @07:57PM (#33504132)

    The Cri-cri (short for cricket) is the smallest twin-engined manned aircraft in the world, designed in the early 1970s by French aeronautical engineer Michel Colomban, the Cri-cri aircraft is the world's smallest twin-engine .

    At first I thought the writer of the summary had simply messed up when editing and repeated the same thing twice. But when you check wikipedia, it has the same mistake, even down to the space in front of the period: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Colomban_Cri-cri&oldid=383417426 [wikipedia.org]

    At least when you copy and paste verbatim from wikipedia, read the sentence and see if it makes sense.

  • by nextekcarl (1402899) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:07PM (#33504180)

    Someone has an odd idea of 'short'.

  • by telomerewhythere (1493937) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:08PM (#33504188)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrbgcIOaDpw [youtube.com]
    Here is a video of this Cri-cri.
    Angle of attack seems high, and the landing looked a little rough.
  • by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:32PM (#33504326) Journal
    FTFA:
    "The combined utilisation of these environment-friendly technical innovations enables the Cri-Cri to deliver novel performance values: 30 minutes of autonomous cruise flight at 110 km/h, 15 minutes of autonomous aerobatics at speeds reaching up to 250 km/h, and a climb rate of approximately 5.3 m/sec."

    30 minutes of flight as a UAV! Sounds like those little rc helicopters from walmart
    • by fractoid (1076465)
      I know you're joking, but people seem to be using 'autonomy' as a way of meaning "range without refuelling" or "operation time without refuelling" these days, without any implication of being autonomous in the robotics sense. Anyone know why? It seems to be an European thing.
  • 30 minutes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caerdwyn (829058) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:42PM (#33504380) Journal

    I'll have to go read up on my copy of FAR/AIM, but a 30 minute cruise... for anything other than a developer-owned experimental, I'm not 100% sure that would even be legal for sale, even as a kit. It would certainly never make IFR, as that has a next-airport-plus 45-minute reserve hard requirement (FAR 91.167) regardless of commercial-vs-experimental status. Yes, I know, it's a development vehicle, not intended for sale. A little ways to go.

    Climb is 1000 feet per minute. That would be under full power, which aerobatics would also almost certainly be under. So assuming you want a good 5000 feet of "oops" between you and a dirt-nap, that's 5 minutes burned in climb, leaving 10 minutes of playtime (they mention 15 minutes of "aerobatics power"), assuming you're fine with a glide home. Any retired Komet pilots or BD5-J jockeys out there want to give this one a shot? :) That being said, I'd have no hesitation to fly an all-electric as long as it has been demonstrated to have a good 5000-hour MTBF and 4 hours plus IFR reserve in real-world at-altitude conditions.

    It's an interesting development on a path to all-electric or hybrid manned flight, certainly a milestone to be proud of, but I'll stick with a 172 until my RV10 is finished...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      This electric power plant would be great on a motor glider.

    • by Eivind (15695)

      It depends how it's used. A paraglider doesn't have the capability to stay airborn to nearest airport + 45 minutes.

      Some tiny planes have stall-speeds so low they can land on any random flat patch of ground, and with a speed low enough that even if you where to crash at landing-speed, you'd have excellent chances of walking away unharmed.

      If you're 5 meters wide (including wings) and can land at 45mph, there's -plenty- of landing-spots around, in most areas.

    • Yes, I know, it's a development vehicle, not intended for sale.

      So the point of your rant is..... what exactly?

    • As I see more and more focus on aircraft fuel efficiency, I keep wondering if somewhere down the road we will see catapults for regular airports to cut down on the amount of (portable) energy expended on takeoff. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean super-high-performance catapults like you see on an aircraft for extreme-short-runway takeoff. What I mean would be a system that provides similar acceleration to what the aircraft experiences now, but with most of the force coming from an external source so the a

  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:48PM (#33504414) Journal

    ...motorized self-launching glider. That's an application for which 30-ish minutes of power would be just fine, and an electric motor plus NiCad pack of batteries may well beat out a gas motor plus fuel on weight. Additionally, there would likely be greater reliability for a high-altitude restart. Make it sexy like a Stemme S10 and you're in business!

    • by ballpoint (192660)

      Here you go. [lange-aviation.com]

  • or death by Cri-Cri??
  • I thought it was hard to build large, useful electric vehicles. It turns out the real innovation is in small, impractical ones. Well done fellas.
    • by fractoid (1076465)
      Why must you conflate 'large' and 'useful'? If you want a flat-bed truck, obviously a motorbike isn't useful to you, but it is certainly useful to many others. Likewise, your flat-bed truck is useless to me but I don't discount its suitability for some tasks.
  • by DrugCheese (266151) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @09:16PM (#33504580)

    How is Cri-Cri short for Cricket? They're both two syllables and both 7 characters long ...

    Apparently the engineer, Michel Colomban, no longer sells the plans for this craft. Probably because he's involved in a defense contract through EADS.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by thygrrr (765730)

      It's actually not, Cricket was the name the Canadians gave it when they sold the kits for the plane, Cri-Cri was the designer's daughter's nickname!

  • Not the smallest (Score:5, Informative)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @09:55PM (#33504744) Homepage
    Not by far. There are ultralight planes and some come with electric engines If you actually read the article as opposed to the incorrect summary posted, you see no claims for smallness. It is just the first ever FOUR engine all electric plane. The only important thing here was the 4 electric engines, not size.
  • How is cri-cri, which is the same number of characters and syllables but harder to say, short for "cricket?" This makes no sense.

  • This is pretty cool, but I couldn't help being reminded of Jim Bede's BD-5, which as a kid I thought was THE coolest thing ever. Ultimately it was jet powered and looked awesome. Here's a couple of links:

    Richard Bach in a BD-5 [bd5.com]
    The BD-5 and other Jim Bede creations [bd5.com]

    I believe the BD-5 made an appearance in a James Bond film.
    • I believe the BD-5 made an appearance in a James Bond film.

      Yes it did in Octopussy.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      There has also been a jet powered Cri-Cri, powered by two turbines as used by RC modellers. (The cheapest twinjet time on the planet).

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      Yeah, I'd take a BD-5 over one of these. The dual nose-stalk-things for the engines on the Cri-cri look lame, and the BD-5 is I believe more aerobatic.
      • The BD-5 will also probably kill you (especially the 5J which is a total death trap).

        The Cri Cri is a bit more benign.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wjsteele (255130)
          Actually, the BD-5A had the horrible wings. Since then, the design has been modifed to have a standard GAW wing airfoil, which is quite benign. It's lowered the stall speed from 105 down to 74. There is even a retrofit, called the Ribblett Reprofile, that allows the original wings to be modifed with the new airfoil. There has only been one recent fatal crash of a BD-5, which was back in 2006, and it was simply becuase the pilot forgot to connect the flaps correctly after they reassembled the plane, when
  • If you go by the article the range of the aircraft at 110km/h is 55 kms but at 250km the range is 62.5km. How can an aircraft go faster, with the increasing drag proportional to the square of the speed, go farther? Would it not take more energy to overcome the drag and therefore decrease the range?

    • by ThreeGigs (239452)

      FTA: "15 minutes of autonomous aerobatics at speeds reaching up to 250 km/h"

      Note the 'up to' part, which I assume would be max speed in a powered dive, much slower climbing back up.
      And 62.5km range in a powered dive puts you somewhere south of Moho, at which point you'll be having bigger concerns :-)

    • In addition to what the sibling post said, maximum range and maximum duration aloft generally are not the same flight profile in traditional aircraft, with a maximum duration resulting in significantly less (10-20%, iirc) than the maximum range. It's been a long time since my undergrad aero classes, but that odd fact stayed with me.

  • and a climb rate of approximately 5.3 m/sec.

    Which is roughly 1040 feet per minute for climb performance. For a lightly loaded single engine ICE, on a moderately warm day and low altitude, that's not that bad. For a twin, that's fairly anemic given that these numbers represent an almost ideal test. Of course, its climb performance may have as much to do with wing design (low lift and good cruise) than available power. But then again, 110kph is roughly 60 knph, which is slow. In comparison, a new Cessna 172 will cruise at 115 knph and have roughly the

  • In the near future batteries will not able to propel larger aircraft.

    What does that mean? Tim S.

  • What I find most interesting about this craft is that it is powered by four small electric motors.

    There are a lot of interesting designs of future electric or hybrid aircraft powered by a large number of small electric motors. They are just as efficient as one large electric motor, but can be distributed in fashion that aids aerodynamics and reduces propeller noise.

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