A Pennsylvania-based team's electric-powered plane flew a 200-mile course to win a $1.35 million prize from NASA.
Team Pipistrel-USA.com won the CAFE Green Flight Challenge and the largest award ever given by the space agency after its Taurus G4 electric airplane flew a course that began and ended at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif., in less than two hours using just a half-gallon of gas for each person aboard.
"Two years ago, the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 miles per hour in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," Jack Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com, said in today's award announcement. "Now we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."
The winning aircraft featured a dual-fuselage design, ultralight 75-foot wingspan and a 6.5-foot-wide propeller powered by 450 pounds of lithium-polymer batteries.
NASA's acting chief technologist, Joe Parrish, said competition demonstrated that "ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp."
NASA, with sponsorship from corporations including Google, backs the contests to encourage the development of aeronautical technologies. The agency's Centennial Challenges were inspired by the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight, which in turn was inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize, won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, for nonstop trans-Atlantic aviation.