New Helium-powered plane can stay airborne indefinitely, and lighter than air: Read more

In a major breakthrough, British scientists have developed an aircraft which can stay airborne indefinitely, and guess what? It doesn’t use any fossil fuel. It is lighter than air and looks like an inflated balloon. Imagine if such a plane is used commercially in India; it will alter the aviation sector forever. Operators wouldn’t have to bother about fuel costs or pollution. Passengers, on the other hand, would benefit the most, with cheap air fares as a result of a drastic drop in the operational costs for not having to buy fuel by the operators, which in turn will help cut pollution from the widespread use of fossil fuels.

Using a revolutionary helium technology, known as variable-buoyancy propulsion, experts have built an aircraft that can travel faster than a normal airplane. The aircraft was recently successfully tested for the first time in Britain. Scientists said that this technology was earlier used in underwater ocean vehicles. Named Phoenix, the plane is designed in Scotland; and its unique propulsion technology allows it to travel through air like an airplane rather than bob like a balloon, the Daily Mail reported. 

However, at the moment, the plane is not designed to transport people. Its creators said that the engine-less aircraft can remain airborne for long periods and therefore could be a cheaper alternative to satellites. According to the report, Phoenix covered a distance of 120 meters when it was tested at an indoor storage facility in Portsmouth. The experts said Phoenix becomes lighter than air and lifts upwards after it is filled with helium gas. To make the craft heavier and move downwards, scientists have created a chamber inside the craft to draw in air from outside which is then compressed. Phoenix is 15 meters long with a wingspan of 10.5 meters and weighs 120kg.

Professor Andrew Rae, who led the design team, said Phoenix is designed to repeatedly shift its weight so that force is generated to propel the craft forward. The craft uses helium gas to allow it to ascend, and the air bag inside, which inhales and compresses air, enables it to descend, said the professor of the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College.