US based IIT alumnus developing hybrid plane for regional flights

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Ashish Kumar, an IIT Delhi alumnus based in the US is all set to develop hybrid planes, with hopes to sell the same in India. The planes would be suited for about 1,100-
km-long regional flights by early 2020s, while this range will go up to 1,600 km by 2030.

Also read: India to launch regional flights at Rs 2,500 to boost air travel

Kumar is the CEO and founder of Kirkland (Washington)-based Zunum Aero, founded in 2013.

" Boeing and JetBlue (via JetBlue Technology Ventures subsidiary) are backing us. We will first come out with a sub-20 seater hybrid aircraft. We hope to have the first prototype flying in two years and begin commercial production in early 2020s," Kumar told TOI. After IIT-D, Kumar secured a PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Cornell University.

"Our planes will be way cheaper for airlines to operate. They will not go as high as commercial aircraft due to the distances they will be covering. While they will be slower than other planes, their ability to land at airstrips closer to final destination will significantly reduce door-to-door time for flyers," Kumar added.

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His company, Zunum Aero, is building a family of commercial hybrid-to-electric aircraft especially for regional flights , which would be powered by quiet range-optimized powertrain and propulsion technologies.

These hybrid planes will have 80% lower emissions, and their low operating cost will allow airlines to offer cheap fares.

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"The shift of the industry to large aircraft and long ranges driven by gas turbines has concentrated almost all air traffic to just one percent of our airports, creating a massive transport gap over regional distances where there is no high-speed alternative. Hybrid propulsion is an industry-changing solution, enabling mid-sized aircraft on regional routes to have better cost efficiencies than airliners," he said.

(Image source The Verge)
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