Florida Tech has announced that it has become the first U.S. university to own and fly an electric aircraft with the acquisition of a Pipistrel Velis Electro. While the model is not yet FAA-certified, the university intends to use the aircraft to “give students the opportunity for experiential research with cutting edge technology.” According to Florida Tech, it is also in the process of setting up a contract to provide the FAA with data from the Velis Electro’s first 50 flight hours.
“We expect to see some drawbacks and limitations, but more importantly we expect to also see potential opportunities,” said Brian Kish, Florida Tech flight test engineering program chair. “As the first U.S. customer, Florida Tech will report our research findings to Pipistrel and the FAA. This initial feedback is crucial in the engineering process to evolve the design as well as assist federal regulators on developing certification and training guidelines.”
As previously reported by AVweb, the Velis Electro became the first fully electric aircraft to receive a type certificate from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in June 2020. Primarily designed as a trainer and powered by Pipistrel’s liquid-cooled E-811 electric motor, the two-seat aircraft has a cruise speed of 90 knots, 600-kg (1320-lb.) maximum takeoff weight, 172-kg (378-lb.) payload and endurance of up to 50 minutes plus VFR reserve. The Velis Electro is priced at around $190,000.