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

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

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.