Skip to Content

Little Electric Planes Today, Tomorrow … Slightly Bigger Ones

August 22, 2017

Sometimes it's good to start small. Or, in the case of the all-electric Sun Flyer plane, get small as quickly as possible.

That's been the goal for George Bye, the aerospace executive behind the Sun Flyer, a two-seat craft he said aims to be flying later this year. Writing about the development of the plane in IEEE Spectrum, Bye says the secret to making all-electric flight work is a motor that weighs just 20 kilograms (45 pounds), boasts 95 percent energy efficiency, and still has enough pep to heft a load of lithium batteries along for the ride.

Bye's craft is meant to be used for training pilots—a niche he sees as a good fit for a plane that will for now remain limited to shorter flights. But his company, Bye Aerospace, has its sights set on building planes that will one day ferry commuters on short-hop and regional flights.

In that, he has some competition. As battery technology improves steadily (but slowly), a raft of companies, including startups Zunum Aero and Wright Electric but also big incumbents like Airbus, are hatching plans to build battery-powered aircraft that could one day fly 150 passengers up to 300 miles—about the distance from London to Paris. 

Despite his diminutive aircraft, Bye is definitely thinking big.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build

“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”

Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives

The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.

Learning to code isn’t enough

Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.

Deep learning pioneer Geoffrey Hinton has quit Google

Hinton will be speaking at EmTech Digital on Wednesday.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.