NASA is planning tests of an experimental electric aeroplane, which it believes could lead to reduced flight times and carbon emissions for future air travel (+ slideshow).
The X-57 aircraft will be used test NASA's new electric propulsion technology – part of a wider ongoing shift towards electric aircraft.
The space agency hopes that by distributing electric power across 14 motors integrated into the wings, the plane will require five times less energy to cruise at 175 miles per hour.
"Typically, to get the best fuel efficiency an airplane has to fly slower than it is able," said NASA in a statement. "Electric propulsion essentially eliminates the penalty for cruising at higher speeds."
The technology used in the X-57 could also help to reduce flight times, noise, and operational costs – up to 40 per cent – for small aeroplanes.
"As most drivers of hybrid electric cars know, electric motors are more quiet than conventional piston engines," NASA said. "The X-57's electric propulsion technology is expected to significantly decrease aircraft noise, making it less annoying to the public."
NASA will build the plane by modifying an existing Italian-designed light aircraft, the Tecnam P2006T, replacing its two gas-fuelled engines with a long, skinny wings and 14 electric motors.