World’s first battery-powered plane flies in Japan

OKEGAWA, Japan - The world’s first manned plane powered by conventional dry-cell batteries soared five meters (16 feet) above the ground in a demonstration flight here on Sunday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 16 Jul 2006, 10:31 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 3:11 PM

The glider-like plane with a single-seat gondola and a 31 meter (102 feet) wingspan was powered by 160 AA “Oxyride” batteries which have been produced by Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. since April 2004.

It soared as high as 5.2 meters, stayed in the air for 59 seconds and covered a distance of 391 meters (428 yards) at a private airport owned by Honda Motor Co.

“I was careful at take-off as it was very difficult,” said Tomohiro Kamiya, a senior member at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who piloted the plane.

“As it soared five meters, people on the ground looked so small to me,” he added. “I did not expect it to take off so beautifully. I realised again how poweful it could be.”

Kamiya weighs 53 kilograms (117 pounds), almost as much as the plane itself.

The institute, known for its experiments with human-powered planes, and the giant electronics firm launched a joint project to develop the battery-powered plane in January, said Matsushita spokesman Kazuhiko Zushi.

In April the joint team completed the plane and suceeded in rolling and taxiing the aircraft in its first test flight.

In the second test the plane soared two meters above ground and flew some 400 meters “almost independently,” Zushi said.

Sunday’s flight was the first in the presence of officials from the Japan Aeronautic Association. “This was officially the world’s first manned flight powered by dry-cell batteries,” Zushi said.

The Oxyride battery is a long-lasting battery said to be 1.5 times as powerful as a regular alkaline battery.

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