CleanTech Breakthrough: Wind-powered Airplanes

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

“Air” plane

An announcement made this week is stirring excitement in the aviation industry as a scientist turned inventor claims he can dramatically reduce or perhaps remove fossil fuels from modern flight. His innovative design employs wind power to make an airplane version of popular hybrid cars. He claims his prototype is cheap and scaleable–and it can easily be added to existing aircraft. The implications are far reaching as the aviation industry comes under increasing pressure to reduce their green house gas emissions.According to inventor Dr. Josef Popf, “The idea struck me as I was driving through a wind farm in Kentucky. Why not strap one of those puppies to an airplane? When I first started doing the math, it was really just for fun. I expected the wind turbine to slow down the airplane. But the deeper I delved into the problem, the more plausible it started to appear. Then, after about two solid months, I found the answers I needed and filed for a patent.”

Essentially, it’s not so different from the hybrid systems employed by hybrid cars. As an airplane cruises or comes in to land, the turbine super-charges high-capacity batteries. That energy can then be used during future take-offs and landings. The trick, according to Popf, is to use the wind turbine at high altitudes, where the thinner atmosphere puts less stress on the airplane, preventing excessive drag. Then, during landing, the wind turbine helps to slow the plane, saving even more fuel. Popf estimates airlines could increase fuel efficiency by 50%-70%, depending on the craft. And with biofuels already undergoing tests in the industry, carbon-based jet fuel could be a thing of the past.

“I was surprised to discover that the technology and parts are already available, you just have to rearrange some of the components. Existing manufacturing and assembly plants could start making and outfitting them tomorrow with minimal investment,” said an airline executive. “We’re very excited, and Dr. Popf is working with us to make this technology readily available around the world.”

Dr. Josef Popf is a physicist better known for his work with the U.S. Navy–some of which is still top-secret. His experience with fluid dynamics helped him innovate his wind turbine design. He claims that the application of his invention is not only limited to aviation; he’s working on designs for cars, buildings, boats, and even submarines.


U.S. Patent Office

Video of Press Conference

Scientific Data

(Cloud-plane courtesy of p.j.maracle via Flickr)

** This post was written exclusively for April Fools Day **

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica TV Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.