Slovenia-based Pipistrel Aircraft has won the Aircraft Design Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), for its environmentally friendly Velis Electro.
During a virtual award ceremony in August, the AIAA singled out the technical team behind the Velis Electro—a two-seat, prop-driven trainer powered by an electric motor. Accepting the award on behalf of the team were Paolo Romagnolli, head of engineering, and Tine Tomažič, chief technical officer.
By creating the world’s first type certified electric aircraft, the AIAA said the airplane is “leading the marketplace in a new era of green aircraft design and technology.”
Tomažič said the aircraft’s key tech attributes include a liquid-cooled solution that provides two functions at the same time. One: It introduces tolerance for thermal battery runaway. And two: It doubles battery life.
“We invented a system that not only provides much more safety, but it lowers the operating cost by half,” Tomažič said.
EASA announced certification of the Velis Electro in June 2020, calling it the “first type certification worldwide of a fully certified electric aircraft and an important milestone in the quest for environmentally sustainable aviation.”
Last month, Florida Tech purchased a Velis Electro, becoming the first U.S. college to own and fly an electric airplane. The school is flying it within the experimental category while the aircraft awaits FAA approval.
Part of the airplane’s name, Velis, comes from the Latin word for “sail,” according to the website.
As a zero-greenhouse emissions aircraft, it’s powered by two lithium-ion batteries with a total capacity of 24.8 kWh, according to Pipistrel’s website. The batteries will power the airplane for up to 50 minutes (plus reserve) at a cruise speed of 90 KCAS (104 mph) and an MTOW of 600 kg (1,320 lbs).
A typical charging cycle takes between 1 hour, 20 minutes to 2 hours.
Pipistrel finds itself in distinguished company. Previous winners of the award include technical teams behind the Airbus A380 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
The annual prize honors “individuals or teams for an original concept or career contributions leading to a significant advancement in aircraft design or design technology,” the release said.
When accepting the award, Pipistrel credited Velis Electro’s team of administrative personnel, engineers, managers, and technicians.