Reminiscent of James Bond’s fold-away Acrostar mini-plane, the Cri-Cri is the world’s smallest electric plane and this week made its official maiden flight at Le Bourget airport near Paris. Jointly developed by EADS Innovation Works, Aero Composites Saintonge and the Green Cri-Cri Association, the lillipution aircraft is the first-ever four-engined all-electric aerobatic plane.

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Designed with numerous innovative technologies, the Cri-Cri boasts a lightweight composite structure that reduces the weight of the entire plane, allowing for the additional weight of the necessary batteries and the four brushless electric motors and counter-rotating propellers. All this leads to zero CO2 emissions and less noise compared to thermal propulsion that also utilizes higher-energy density lithium batteries.

With the batteries, the Cri-Cri is able to maintain 30 minutes of autonomous cruise flight at 110km/h or an alternative 15 minutes of autonomous aerobatics at speeds reaching up to 250 km/h. For the test flight, the plane remained airborne for 7 minutes before landing.

The Cri-Cri, the world's smallest electric plane, takes flight

“The Cri-Cri is a low-cost test bed for system integration of electrical technologies in support of projects like our hybrid propulsion concept for helicopters,” stated Jean Botti, EADS’s Chief Technical Officer. “We hope to get a lot of useful information out of this project.”

The Cri-Cri is not the only ‘environmental form of air travel’  that EADS is researching. Currently the company is also experimenting with algae based biofuel and a helicopter hybrid propulsion system combining electrical power with piston engines. With such technologies being enhanced, could it only be a matter of time before air travel is no longer one of the largest polluters on the planet, but one of the cleanest?


Images © EADS