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Electrically-Assisted Gliding
March 27, 2013   
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The AOS-71 motor glider is the first glider in Poland and one of the first in the world to be equipped with an electric motor. The design is the product of collaboration between two Polish universities, the Rzeszów University of Technology and the Warsaw University of Technology.

Gliders sail through the sky using uplift from thermals to gain altitude. Flying them does not require the use of complex electronic devices, but helps rookie pilots understand aerodynamics. This explains why many pilots say that gliders offer the purest form of piloting experience. Gliders are often the starting point for many pilots before they get to fly other aircraft. However, these machines usually need some help to take to the skies and are sensitive to weather changes.

The AOS-71 is different. Its name comes from the Polish acronym of the Academic Gliding Center where it was designed—Akademicki Ośrodek Szybowcowy. The numeral 7 stands for the seventh glider design developed by the Warsaw University of Technology as part of the ULS Ultra-Light Gliders and Motor Gliders Program, and the numeral 1—for the first design of this kind by the Rzeszów University of Technology. The two universities have collaborated on the electric motor glider. The team of designers was headed by Wojciech Frączek from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology.

“Our motor glider is equipped with an electric motor, the power of which is enough for the machine to take off on its own with two people on board. In the air, it is possible to retract the motor into the fuselage so that the machine has a smooth profile. And then you can navigate it like a normal glider,” says Krzysztof Drabarek from the Warsaw University of Technology, a member of the design team.

Motor gliders have been in use for a long time. So far, however, combustion engines have usually been used in them. Such an engine is loud and emits pollution. That is why, with the development of high-capacity batteries, work began on developing electrically powered gliders. The AOS-71’s lithium polymer batteries placed in the wings allow the motor to work at full capacity for about half an hour. They generate sufficient power for the glider to fly horizontally for an hour. The motor can be used not only during takeoff, but also during the flight if needed.

“In the event of a sudden deterioration in the weather, for example, instead of landing in a random field, you can return to the airport at a speed of about 120 kph—and land there safely with the help of the motor or without it,” says Drabarek. In the future, the glider’s batteries may become even more efficient, he adds.

The motor glider can be used not only for sports and leisure activities, but also for patrolling areas where its quiet and clean motor will come in particularly handy, such as national parks.

The AOS-71 has two seats next to each other. That distinguishes it from traditional gliders, in which the seats are placed one behind the other. Such a configuration helps during training flights, which is why the machine can also be used for flying lessons.

More test flights are due to take place in the spring. The navigability of the motor glider with the motor running and its performance will be tested. The pilots will be expected to perform both basic maneuvers and acrobatics. Before the Civil Aviation Authority clears the motor glider for use, a full program of test flights must take place. After that the machine will get the go-ahead for use. Potential production of this type of motor glider may start in two years.
Tomasz Rybicki
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