NASA awards $1.3 million grant to CWRU professor Vikas Prakash to develop advanced batteries capable of powering electric flight vehicles

Dr. Vikas Prakash, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at CWRU and affiliated faculty of GLEI, was featured in a New Atlas article discussing the future of autonomous electric flying vehicles. Prakash was recently awarded a $1.3 million grant under the Partnership for Research in Energy Storage and Integration for Defense and Space Exploration (PRESIDES) in order to develop batteries capable of powering electric flight vehicles, and has no doubt that flying taxis are just a few years away.

Prakash defines an air taxi as a flying vehicle with a range of 50-120 miles, carrying two to four passengers, and cruising at an altitude of 3,000 to 5,000 feet. In contrast to rotary wing helicopters, Prakash envisions these electric taxis to be more energy efficient, emit zero pollution, and be quiet enough to not disturb anybody when flying. While safety is definitely a concern, Prakash believes the electric flying vehicle will provide more safety than helicopters due to autonomous flight capabilities reducing the chance for operator error, and the vehicle not having to rely on any single part to maintain airborne.

While the future of flying electric vehicles seems promising, there are still many challenges that lie ahead. One major problem is that today’s batteries remain less efficient than jet fuel in terms of energy capacity per unit weight.  On top of that, vehicle reliability during inclement weather, safety, cost, and landing and takeoff infrastructure are all roadblocks that Prakash believes must be addressed before electric vehicles can begin to roam the skies.

To read the full interview and see the 61 image gallery of concept images as well as prototypes for the future of flying taxis, please click here.

Prakash’s research interests range from developing micro/nano devices for energy harvesting and storage to dynamics of earthquake fault rupture. To read more about Prakash’s research, visit his faculty page here.