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  • Alex Onea

Join Helios Horizon on Their Journey to Electric Aviation Heights

Imagine flying high above the clouds in a sleek, silent aircraft powered entirely by electricity. That's the ambitious vision driving Helios Horizon, a pioneering U.S.-based start-up. They’re on an exciting journey to revolutionize aviation, pushing the limits of what electric planes can achieve. With their sights set on altitudes as high as 44,000 feet, Helios Horizon is proving that the future of flight is not just green but also incredibly high-flying. Join us as we explore how this innovative team is taking electric aviation to new heights and setting the stage for a zero-emission future in the skies.

As we all know, the future is moving towards the creation of more and more electric vehicles. From cars, bicycles, and boats to airplanes, this evolution is expanding. In the case of airplanes, progress has been significantly slowed by the short range and the challenge of controlling battery heating. This time, the team at Helios Horizon has made improvements in this technology, successfully conducting test flights with a truly positive impact.

Recent test flights near Bishop, California, saw the aircraft achieve altitudes from 17,500 to 24,000 feet, using just 60% of its battery capacity. The Helios Horizon team, featuring veterans from projects like Airbus’s Perlan, Solar Stratos, and Solar Impulse, aims to reach 44,000 feet by early 2026.

The primary technical challenge is thermal control of the propulsion system, which is crucial at high altitudes due to reduced oxygen levels. Founder and chief test pilot Miguel Iturmendi highlights that managing temperature is a significant issue for electric aircraft, especially for eVTOL vehicles during critical flight transitions.

Funded so far by private donors and foundations, Helios Horizon is seeking corporate sponsorship for further flight tests but does not plan to commercialize the technology. Iturmendi views this project as a technology demonstration to showcase the possibilities in range and endurance for electric airplanes.

The converted Taurus aircraft, weighing 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), has already demonstrated the ability to fly four times higher than the standard model. Future flights could achieve speeds of 90 to 100 knots, rivaling combustion engines but with zero emissions and fewer maintenance needs. With advancements in battery technology, the aircraft could potentially fly for six to seven hours, covering a range of up to 700 nautical miles.

The company’s custom-made batteries use materials from suppliers in China, South Korea, Germany, and the U.S. The current setup includes three sets of lithium-ion polymer pouches, with plans to increase their capacity. For high-altitude flights, Iturmendi has developed a partial pressure suit, tested by the University of North Dakota, to ensure safety in the unpressurized aircraft. Iturmendi hopes Helios Horizon’s achievements will inspire the aerospace industry to pursue zero-emission flight solutions. If a small team can achieve such feats with electric aircraft, it raises the question of what larger manufacturers could accomplish.

In conclusion, flying quietly and cleanly is part of a sustainable movement. Helios Horizon is turning this vision into reality, one flight at a time. As they reach new heights, let's cheer them on and anticipate a future where electric airplanes propels us to greater heights than ever before.

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