M-I-T Builds Revolutionary New Plane With No Moving Parts

Could traditional airliners be on the way out?

Scientists have developed a radical new approach toward flying in the form of a small, lightweight and virtually noiseless airplane that gets airborne and flies with no moving parts like propellers or turbine blades.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have described successful flight tests at an indoor campus gymnasium of the unmanned airplane, powered not by engines that burn fossils fuels but by ion wind propulsion called electro-aerodynamic thrust.

A 2006 design by MIT for an environmentally friendly passenger plane (Image AAP)

The aircraft, called Version 2 EAD Airframe, or V2, weighs only 2.45 kg with a wingspan of 5 metres.

"This is the first time that an airplane without moving parts has flown," said MIT aerospace engineer Steven Barrett, who drew inspiration from fictional shuttlecraft from Star Trek.

The Researchers Drew Inspiration From Star Trek (Image AAP)

Only time will tell whether the test flights at the duPont Athletic Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will become historic like the 1903 test flights of the first airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The engineers readily acknowledge their V2 prototype is inefficient and limited, but it could lead to big things.

"I'm trying not to over-sell it, but there are some really exciting possibilities here," said Barrett, who pointed to near-silent drones as a possibility within several years.

If the design works, planes like this Airbus A-380 may become obsolete (Image AAP)

"In the long term, I'm hoping for ultra-efficient and nearly silent airplanes that have no moving control surfaces like rudders or elevators, no moving propulsion system like propellers or turbines, and no direct combustion emissions like you get with burning jet fuel," added Barrett, who led the research published in the journal Nature.

The researchers conducted 11 test flights in which V2 flew about 60 metres, typically flying less than 2 metres off the ground.

The plane was built to be as light as possible using materials like carbon-fibre, balsa wood, a plastic called polystyrene, shrink-wrap plastic and Kevlar.

Feature Image AAP