The inaugural flight was made possible by a process known as electroaerodynamic propulsion, an idea that has been around since the 1960s. The concept itself is a lot harder to visualize than a typical spinning propeller. It takes advantage of what’s known as ionic wind. Using very high voltages—in the plane’s case, 40,000 volts—the thruster generates ions in the air around two electrodes. The electric field created between these throws the ions from a smaller electrode over to a larger one. These ions collide with normal air molecules while traveling, creating the ionic wind and pushing the plane forward. Since the ions are moving between two stationary electrodes, no moving parts are required to power the plane.
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