A group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed an aircraft that is powered by an ion wind propulsion system.

The system uses ionic wind, also known as electro-aerodynamic thrust, which generates adequate power to propel the aircraft to fly for longer durations.

First identified in the 1920s, electro-aerodynamic thrust is a force that can be produced when a current is passed between a thin and a thick electrode.

The aircraft has no moving parts such as propellers, fans and turbine blades in its propulsion system.

The tests conducted across the gymnasium in MIT’s duPont Athletic Center, during which the researchers flew the aircraft ten times from a 60m distance.

“This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft, which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

MIT aeronautics and astronautics associate professor Steven Barrett said: “This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system.

“This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft, which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

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According to Barrett, ion wind propulsion systems could be used to operate quieter drones in the future.

When combined with traditional combustion systems, ion propulsion is also expected to create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger jets and other large aircraft.

The newly developed aircraft weighs around five pounds and looks similar to a large, lightweight glider.

It has a 5m wingspan and is equipped with a set of thin wires, which are positioned along and beneath the front end of the plane’s wing.

The wires are designed to act as positively charged electrodes while similarly arranged thicker wires runing along the back end of the aircraft’s wing are used to serve as negative electrodes.

The plane’s fuselage features a stack of lithium-polymer batteries that can supply electricity at 40,000V to positively charge the wires through a power converter.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Autonomous Systems Line, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and Professor Amar G. Bose Research Grant have supported the research that developed the aircraft.