Ion drive: The first flight
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Ion drive: The first flight

September 8, 2019

The future of flight shouldn’t be things
with propellers and turbines and should be more like what you see in Star Trek;
with a kind of blue glow and something that silently glides through the air. When I got an appointment at University I thought well, now I’ve got the
opportunity to explore this and started looking for physics
that enabled that to happen. The sort of mechanism that I found
that works was ionising air and then using electric fields
to accelerate the air. What we achieved, was the first
ever sustained flight of an aeroplane that is propelled by
electroaerodynamic propulsion. And that’s also by many definitions
the first ever solid-state flight, meaning no moving parts. Well the idea is – is kind of – it dates
back until at least the 1920s. Where an eccentric inventor at the time started
experimenting with high high voltage electrodes. And thought he had discovered anti-gravity,
which of course was not the case. But that set some of the initial
groundwork on mechanisms for creating what’s called an ionic wind in the
atmosphere, by having high-voltage electrodes ionising air and then
accelerating the ionised air. So what we did for this design is to try and stick to something that looks
somewhat like a conventional aircraft. But under the wing rather
than conventional engines it has a series of electrodes. And those consist
of an array of very thin wires at the front, and then an array of aerofoils at the back. Now those thin wires at the front are set at
a very high voltage – plus 20,000 volts and that constitutes the source of ions –
this is ionised nitrogen from the atmosphere. Now the the aerofoils at the back there
set at minus 20,000 volts and so that creates an electric field. So the ions go from the
positive to the negative colliding all the way with neutral air molecules and creating this wind
that goes behind the plane. And that’s essentially how it flies. The flight was about sixty meters long,
something like ten seconds – so quite short. It was constrained by the size of the
gym that we found to fly it in. Lacking infinite money in time and just wanting
to do things as quickly as possible that was what was on hand and so we just asked the facilities manager
if they would let us use the gym, they forced us to create a very long and
detailed safety management plan but then we were
able to go ahead. Many attempts failed because
of various things going wrong like structural failures,
the power electronics frying itself so there are many many first days,
but the first day that it actually worked wasn’t a sustained flight it was about
50% power, so it was a power glide. Until that occurred we still didn’t know
100% whether this was really achievable. But after that point we knew that we were then within touching
distance of successful flights. And the first sustained flights
followed quite soon after, which were… which were pretty exciting. It’s probably the first solid-state flight
of a heavier-than-air vehicle and I think that is, has the potential to be
a step that is very interesting. Of course we don’t yet
know whether it will be practically useful and widely used
and obviously I hope it will be and have an expectation –
there are a number of applications. There are definitely some limits, so one of the limits is
the breakdown voltage of air and that varies as a function of altitude. And we’ve worked out theoretically what the limits are to the thrust density
which is the amount of thrust force per unit area that’s producible. Now what that suggests
is that in the nearer term, it will be easier to create smaller
vehicles like drones for example. I think the near-term advantage
is probably in noise especially if you think that perhaps in ten years we might have urban
areas that are filled with drones doing things like monitoring traffic,
monitoring air pollution or many other services we’re yet to imagine. And drones today are
quite noisy and irritating. Now we wouldn’t want our urban environments
to be polluted by all this noise, so developing a way of propelling drones
that’s silent or near silent would be advantageous in that context. In many ways it’s much easier to make
progress now than it was in the past. I mean if you look at this
wonderful aircraft behind us which was the first ever
transatlantic flight – about 1919 I mean people were risking their lives
to make that kind of progress. Today we’re not risking our lives we’re able to test things using
a remote control, without having to have pilots on board test vehicles. That means the vehicles can be much smaller which enables us to build them and test
them with less resources. In terms of how this fits in I don’t know whether you’ll see
large aircraft carrying people anytime soon. But obviously I’d be very
excited if that was the case.

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  1. they should have shown us two flights, one with its juice on and one without, because from where i am sitting i just see a big flimsy glider that isnt flying under any sort of propulsion.

  2. Thank you for how you made and how It works. Now, I can do this for a 3D printed drone. Ion Propulsion here I come. I just need to change my design of propellers to wings and lighten the load, which is easy for me.

  3. Self contained Ion Powered Aircraft with onboard power. US patent number 10,119,527 filed in 2014. Sorry if some one already commented on this in one of the 1500 posts!

  4. There was a video from some years back over a decade or more, where a man was hovering a similar but smaller and very lightweight frame in his garage using simple components, even perhaps aluminum foil with similar concepts. So MIT took an already developed concept and ran with it. Good to see that he old adage, there is nothing new under the sun, remains true.

  5. When I was a kid my grandmother would buy me these little balsa wood airplanes.

    They flew with no moving parts.

    Seems I was decades ahead of MIT.

  6. Ion lifters are interesting crafts.
    It's good to see this technology getting some attention for terrestrial applications, outside of tabletop novelty.
    For your design i see just straight bars for the propulsion, however if you make a cylindrical wing, even if it's not the main wing, you can modulate power at different points of it's radius to steer, while also getting an airfoil ducting effect, pulling more air around said wing.

  7. And where is all the electricity that charges the front and rear elements of the ion drive coming from? 20,000 volts doesn't simply come from nowhere.

  8. No, the future is Orman Force Drive: Electromagnetic mobility for all… No noise, no pollution and green energy security for ever… No need for roads, shoes, tires everything levitates using just small amount of electric energy to compensate ohmic loses… Works everywhere including vacuum of space and only needs electric energy converting it to kinetic trough use of Orman Force… Amazing fact is that this invention was possible in Tesla times… It is a joke or is it?

  9. 7:22

    Just Like Wright Brother And The Invention Of The LIGHT BULB, You Have To Fine The Right Material For The Ion Drive engine: To Work Right, To Give It More Thrust, If Not Copper And Aluminum, You Have To Search For The Correct Material,. The right Material Will Give The Ion Propulsion Engine More Thrust:- Wronght Material For The Ion Drive: A Air Craft Must Create Lift And forward Trust!,( Making A Warp Drive Useing Graviton Particle

    And Not Ion Particle

    The Ion Drive Use Ionic Wind For Propulsion The Graviton Drive Or Warp Drive Used Graviton For Propulsion, And No Ionic Wind. Graviton Has The Ability To Move SPACE Around It Drive Systen Creating It Propulsion, By Compress Space In Front It And Expand Space Behind It The Graviton Drive Systen Has Positive Charge In Front Going To Negative Charge Behind It. + <– –> – The Graviton Field Is Positive Charge. That Move In The Direction Of The Positive Charge Graviton Field, It Work Like A Ionic Craft, But No Ionic Wind.

  10. he mentioned a positive of this as being less noisy, but failed to think about how less (or no) moving parts leads to longer mechanical life, and zero percent chance of mechanical failure during flight. Basically, your flying car would last forever (or at least your lifetime) if cars ran off this concept

  11. Anyone with back copies of Popular Mechanics from the mid/late 1960s should check them out – I distinctly remember an article which featured a lad 'floating' a 3' x 2' wire lattice ion drive box kite-type 'vehicle' at waist height in his garage/workshop.

  12. Absolutely love the genuine joy and enthusiasm from this guy, it's palpable and infectious. Despite what the 6 o'clock news would have me believe – what a great time to be alive. Thanks for sharing your creation.

  13. novel idea but an obvious problem of upward scalability exist. mass increases in three dimensions whereas area increases in two dimensions. I am working on a 5 foot diameter ( looks like an umbrella without a handle) solar powered craft that could reach low earth orbit. ther eis a question if these 7 ounce craft can operate in .0001 atm but as orbital velocity increases there is less need for ballistic thrust. My goal is to get 2 ounces of water to the space staion for $200.00 and have the craft return to earth to be reused.

  14. How do you define "sustained flight"? As much as I'd like to see ionic flight, the clips in this video doesn't prove it. Let's see the data on multiple A, B, A, B flights with the system on and off that proves the glide distance increased beyond the margin of error in your test method/apparatus. A couple of flights look good but this is a catapult launched glider with a high aspect ratio wing, it should fly slow and long. Thats what a glider design is intended to do, produce a high glide ratio. And the additional weight increases its potential to produce a longer glide. Basic aerodynamics every student pilot is taught. Not saying you didn't do it, just want to see the data that backs up your claims.

  15. I have thought about this a while. Using series of plasma cutter torches to create the same heat as jet fuel in a fan jet engine…. Could this work?

  16. The first and only ion propelled aircraft to carry its power supply solely using ions is called the Self Contained Ion Powered Aircraft, US Patent No. 10,119,527. It flies for almost 2 minutes, can rise vertically, and is extremely well verified to have been operational long before the MIT device. Here is one of the videos and the website:

  17. "Solid-State Flight, meaning No Moving Parts" I approve of this because it would simplify maintenance. Besides, the fact that it uses electricity implies it can run on clean, renewable energy.

    Also, 60 M is almost 200 ft. And 200 ft in 10 Seconds is 20 ft/Second, which equals 14 MI/H. That's okay for a start.

  18. Biggest issue here is much higher thrust and high efficiency of electric motor with fan. I don't see potential here. Just exotic RC models affraid of wind blow..

  19. Ok, I hope you are reading the comments. I have been working on magnetic lift(single magnet) and started to look into ionic propulsion. MY QUESTION; how do you know the difference between the ionic propulsion and the gliding aspect for your craft?

  20. The silence of the plane is one of its distinguishing features, would have been nice to isolate that for a few seconds. But really good technical explanations and historical context, thank you.

  21. @Vernon Brechin, this technology makes sense up high in the air. Do you remember The Jetsons? How far are we from having all of that futuristic technology?

  22. Why can't this be tested outdoors on a perfectly calm day, or early morning when there is absolutely no wind? Wouldn't be constricted to an indoor arena or ionized or de-ionized air from an HVAC system. Then real sustained flight could be tested and could see if you guys are wasting my tax dollars in your largely taxpayer funded university.

  23. The fantastic thing about it is no moving parts. Reliability galore, electrical/chemical energy doesn't need to be transferred to anything else. When the efficiency is increased so it can operate on solar power then there are serious application uses for things like weather monitoring, surface mapping ect

  24. All the skeptics here remind me of Lord Kelvin and his famous saying that Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.

  25. Warp engine already exist but its top secret and the they want us to believe that only this crap engine works.
    The truth is out there #BobLazar

  26. well the foils should be more ''randomly put '' that way it would cover more clean air surface area.Think about them being in a vertical chess pattern , where the whites are clean air and the the black ones the thin wires , now imagine the stability it would give if you put a 32×32 pattern in front and the same in the back but with inverted black and white.

  27. If a magnetic field is used to enhance ionization efficiency could
    the sun or a planet's magnetic field affect ion propulsion?

  28. As always,did what hundreds of laboratories already did,but damn not who is not where not advanced….To this worked in **hardware**need at least new alloys..they're gone.And it will be simple,the next pumping out of money.

  29. "Drones are noisy"
    Depends on what drone and what rotorblades you use, for example the Yuneec Q500 is known to be very quiet ( which it is, i use it for photography )

  30. The 1903 Wright Flyer did not need or use a catapult to achieve the world's first flight of a manned controlled aircraft. They used a catapult in their later 1904 craft.

  31. how will be the nitrogen be collected by positive electrode & how can nitrogen atom convert into "positive" nitrogen ion?

  32. How long will it be before this MIT device has the power to weight, energy, and efficiency to rise vertically for about 2 minutes without a using a catapult with current technology?… The answer is, most likely not ever!

    If you click on the purple channel icon to the left, you will see 4 flight videos of a prototype ion propelled aircraft that is able to fly for about 2 minutes, ascending vertically, and with an onboard power supply!.. (There are also links to the website.) It predates the MIT craft by > than a decade. It is well proven and has an official US Patent. It required a power to weight ratio improvement that many said couldn't be done, that allowed it to carry its power supply.

    MIT is still claiming in the above video and "Nature" paper that they Built "the first heavier than air ion propelled aircraft of any kind to carry its power supply." It should be really clear that, their statements are simply incorrect!!..

    Development of the earlier solid state fixed wing invention began over 19 years ago, it was patented before the above craft ever flew, and has been well demonstrated to have a much higher power to weight and efficiency level.

  33. How about creating flying bug zappers for malarial areas! And how about coupling this technology with the new moisture harvesting mesh netting tech they use to gather water in arid places

  34. Have people so short memory ? 15 years ago internet experienced hight voltage Ion lifters build mania, hundreds of people built different constructions.

  35. If anyone knows why the MIT craft got almost 2M views, Please let me know. If you click on my purple channel icon to the left you will see 5 prototypes of a much earlier patented ion propelled aircraft that is over 1000% more powerful and efficient by weight. It was officially patented specifically for carrying an onboard power supply!…

  36. Note, at 16 to 17 seconds into the MIT video it isn't the MIT EAD V2 shown crashing. The video splices to a model glider with no EAD propulsion.

  37. This Nature video is one of the worst cases of mistaken news in history! The editor of Nature refuses to retract this story so far, even though it is factually incorrect! The level of proof offered for this claim is more than sufficient and it is extensive. While it is difficult to believe that MIT could be wrong, they are indeed mistaken in thinking they were the first to carry a power supply using ion propulsion! Furthermore, if you look on my channel to the left, you will see many prototypes of a device that not only predates the EAD V2 by MIT, it also has far higher lift to weight and efficiency levels.

  38. Hello monoham,
    I had replied to you under this Nature video, now I don't see my reply! Just google ion propelled and onboard power to see my earlier crafts in flight, or see my channel directly.

  39. This Nature video and accompanying research paper are some of the most mistaken "news" articles in history. This article should be amended to include the real first heavier than air ion propelled aircraft with onboard power. It is extensively verified to predate the MIT device with onboard power.

  40. I'd not have used thin wires for this, the trust it produces is spread out far too much and is incredibly inefficient. It is still a really interesting concept and I would love to see more experimentation being done.

  41. It looked like it was flying purely because of the momentum from the catapult and the "dead air" within the sports hall. One of my $2 foam chuck gliders will easily fly from one side of the local sports centre to the other without any moving parts, if I threw it over the swimming pool it would probably fly even further due to the rising hot air.
    I do not mean to cause offence, obviously I would love for a new means of propulsion to be found and become mainstream I just didn't see it here, maybe in future videos more evidence of the actual propulsion can be highlighted and shown with more detail.

  42. Many of my responses to people on this website, do not seem to be getting through. I hope there is just a delay or something. Since I am the inventor of the first heavier than air ion propelled aircraft to pick up its power supply, it is important that I be able to answer people's questions….

  43. In Dr. Barrett and his colleague's paper that was claimed to be "peer reviewed" and was released by the Journal of Nature, it is stated definitively that he and his team built "the first heavier than air ion propelled aircraft of any kind to carry its power supply." That paper is NOT correct!!

    At 3:04 minutes into this video Dr. Barrett says "this is probably the first solid state flight of a heavier than air vehicle." In the beginning of the video he insinuates the same thing a couple of times though the first time around only he says airplane. He is clearly implying it is the first ion propelled vehicle to carry its power supply as was written in the paper for his craft. Lifting a power supply has been the one main challenge with this technology mathematically! The video is also seriously historically incorrect, misleading about who was first to carry the power supply!

    The first ion propelled aircraft to carry its power supply has a US patent specifically for demonstratively being able to carrying its power supply already! (US 10,119,527) It has been shown in flight to many aerospace professionals including NASA personnel with its power supply onboard. There is a list of names on my website of officials that observed it flying with onboard power. It was widely published by the patent office before Barrett's team flew. In my opinion it would be difficult to miss online for any expert in the field, especially a team of like the MIT one.
    If you click on the channel icon to the left there are 5 public flight videos showing it flying with onboard power…, a patent number, and website for it, that anyone can see. Importantly, there is a complete unambiguous scientific explanation of how it works, in the patent and under the flight footage videos. It flies for minutes in any direction including vertically rather than just seconds horizontally. I hope people will please realize that it takes a lot higher thrust to weight and efficiency level to do that…
    It does not require catapults or large wings to carry its power supply. My comments are starting to get restricted online for some reason, so please share the truth before it is gone!
    Thank you! Ethan Krauss

  44. I'm sorry but ……. before the people of MIT, an inventor of OHIO did something superior, see it on this link , there you will also find the patent.

  45. Um guys… You seriously need to use the wings and fuselage as part of the ion engines. At least the upper wing surface where you're getting your lift. Don't you think so? o.O

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