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Nov 10, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Zunum Aero preparing the hybrid aeroplane of the future

A US start-up is hoping to have small hybrid passenger aeroplanes in the skies by 2022, and eventually, the technology developed by this aeronautical company could usher in fully electric aircraft capable of transporting as many as 50 people up to 1,600 kilometres. Travellers would no longer have to use major airlines or their respective hubs, thus saving them time and money.


Zunum Aero – a US start-up specialising in aeronautics – recently unveiled the characteristics of the hybrid craft that the company is hoping to have on the market by 2022. The first model of this revolutionary aeroplane is designed for regional flights and can carry a maximum of 12 passengers.

According to French magazine Sciences et Avenir, the small passenger aircraft could be controlled either by an on-board pilot or remotely, much like a drone. The latter technology is not set to be used immediately, but in the long term, it remains a possibility according to Zunum Aero management, who would also like to see fully-electric craft replacing hybrid engines at some point.


Non-stop flights of 1,600 kilometres in the future


A second, larger model, capable of transporting up to 50 people, is also currently being studied. The company’s engineers are ultimately aiming to have craft that can cover 1,000 miles (a little over 1,600 kilometres) in one journey.

For the time being however, the project is still very much in the experimental phase, with the first tests of the initial model set to happen in 2019. That particular aeroplane will be powered by two electric engines coupled with a generator – also electric - and another fuel engine. The maximum flight distance for that craft will be 700 miles (around 1,100 kilometres). 


Batteries similar to those used in electric cars


The batteries used to feed the electric engines are similar to the ones made by Panasonic and Tesla for electric vehicles. And as Business Traveler France points out, they would be located on the wings of the aeroplane, which makes them easier to recharge. It also means that the Zunum would make 80% less noise than traditional aircraft.

"We are changing the way people travel," an article on Zunum Aero’s website states. And as Matt Knapp, co-founder and chief engineer of the company located near to Seattle, states, there are various aspects of the new craft that will improve travel conditions for those on board.


Quicker, cheaper travel


Travellers will be able to take off from a wider variety of airports rather than having to go longer distanced by car just to catch a flight. Travel between smaller cities will also not have to transit via major airline hubs. Last but not least, passengers will not only gain time but also save money since the Zunum, with its various innovations, will make flights cheaper, which in turn will be reflected in lower ticket costs.


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