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MIT Research News

November 21, 2018

MIT engineers fly first-ever plane with no moving parts

The silent, lightweight aircraft doesn’t depend on fossil fuels.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

Since the first airplane took flight over 100 years ago, virtually every aircraft in the sky has flown with the help of moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades, or fans that produce a persistent, whining buzz.

Now MIT engineers have built and flown the first-ever plane with no moving parts. Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by an “ionic wind” — a silent but mighty flow of ions that is produced aboard the plane, and that generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight.

Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller-driven drones, the new design is completely silent.