Electric flight is coming, but the batteries aren’t ready

The idea of electric-powered flight has been around for decades, but only recently has it begun to take off. There are over a dozen startups and companies today that are pursuing battery-electric and hybrid prototypes, and some are even suggesting that we could all be nibbling on pretzels and scrolling through in-flight entertainment from within zero-emission, battery-powered aircraft sometime in the next decade.

The concepts under development today look nothing like the retro-futuristic models from the pages of old issues of Popular Science, nor do they resemble the gravity-defying vehicles seen in Blade Runner and Back to the Future. Rather, they mostly appear to be slim, futuristic, plane-helicopter hybrids made of lightweight carbon fiber. But the idea of a personal-sized aircraft that could take off and land vertically, be operated safely, and make money is one that’s almost entirely dependent on advances in battery technology.

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