Florida-based aerospace initiative Helios Horizon has set a new altitude record for a multi-seat piloted electric aircraft, having completed its Spring flight test campaign, as the company nears its vision of developing a stratospheric electric aircraft.

The modified Pipistrel Taurus Electro glider conducted several flights between 17,500ft and 24,000ft over the course of its recently concluded campaign, “all flight tests using battery power only and less than 60% of the total pack”. the company is set to “install several improvements including new batteries [offering] 11-12% better density” before testing is scheduled to return later this year.

“Basically every altitude we test is a new altitude record,” explained Helios Horizon. “With a calculated ceiling of 44,000 feet, our prediction models and flight test results are (so far) almost identical.” Ahead of the next test flights, the aircraft will also undergo additional modifications in the form of wing extensions; joining previous modifications including unique systems for power delivery, battery management, propulsion and thermodynamic control.

The project’s goal is to be the first electric aircraft to reach the stratosphere, a milestone it hopes to achieve in late 2025 or early 2026, with its designer and chief test pilot Miguel Iturmendi to utilise a partial pressure suit of his own design during high-altitude flights.

Although the venture has been thus far funded by private donors and foundations, Helios Horizon says it is in talks with potential sponsors. “This is an opportunity not only for companies to learn more about developing practical electric transportation solutions, but to demonstrate their commitment to decarbonisation in a very practical way,” concluded Iturmendi.

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