Elon Musk is a man with many interests. He’s been the driving force behind Tesla automobiles and the SpaceX spaceflight program, and now it seems like he might be taking his talents to the air.
Musk was queried about his next big idea at a recent Q&A session, and he responded with a brief quote about an electric-powered jet that could take off vertically.
“Well I have been thinking about the vertical takeoff and landing electric jet a bit more,” Musk said. “I mean, I think I have something that might [be] close. I’m quite tempted to do something about it.”
Of course, electric-powered jets aren’t necessarily new, and it’s the same story with jets that can take off vertically. One American company – XTI Aircraft – is already working on a prototype jet that can take off vertically, and an electric-powered plane flew across the English Channel last year, while a solar-powered aircraft has crossed the Pacific Ocean.
Musk has contemplated the idea before, as recently as October 2015.
“I do like the idea of an electric-aircraft company. I think one could do a pretty cool supersonic, vertical takeoff and landing electric jet. That would be really fun… I have a design in mind for that,” he told Marketplace.
Speaking to students, Musk expanded on the idea. “I think, ultimately, seeing is believing. Seeing physical hardware moving and doing useful things, that’s what convinces people.”
What this means for overall aviation is unclear – for example, it’s not clear if he’s discussing private jets or commercial passenger jets.
The idea may make sense for Musk – SpaceX and Tesla have likely taught Musk lessons that could apply to aviation, and an electric jet will go a long way to reducing the carbon footprints of current jets, while aircraft that could takeoff vertically would obviously need a lot less space for takeoffs and landings.
Video of Musk’s Q&A with students is below.