Science: The Future of Aviation

The Story:

The human race has been using heavier-than-air flying machines for travelling about the surface of this planet, and for sending cargo about, since 1903. It is difficult to imagine our civilization learning to do without it. On the other hand, the usual method of moving these vessels — jet propulsion that pumps a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — will have to change, since climate science indicates that carbon emissions must be sharply limited, and ideally brought to or near net zero.


The future of aircraft may involve the revival of something that seems like a relic of its past: the propellers, now largely renamed the “propulsors.” The propulsors are driven by electricity either from batteries or fuel cells. Innovation is taking place now at the level of the regional aircraft. For the moment, jet propulsion is still necessary for the globe-spanning routes.

Strange New Worlds:

One of the innovators in the field of electric regional aircraft is Heart Aerospace, of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is working on the S-19, an all-electric, 19-passenger airplane that will have a 400-kilometer (250 mi) range and be able to charge in less than 40 minutes. It hopes to have this flying by the end of 2026.

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