Chip Yates has set 16 world records — and counting — for pushing back boundaries of risk.
Yates is the test pilot of the world’s fastest electric motorcycle and electric plane.
His message is that “failure fuels innovation” and we all need to embrace risk to achieve our dreams.
“There is no innovation without risk,” he told the TEDx conference.
“The reason I take these risks is because I have a dream where everyone… will one day fly in an electric airplane.”
After setting 10 world records on his motorcycle, he removed the electric motor and batteries and put them in a plane. After setting another six world records and exceeding 200mph in electric flight, he now plans to retrace Charles Lindbergh’s route across the Atlantic, and match his speed.
The plane will fly from New York to Paris, and attempt to recharge mid-air.
By successfully recharging his electric battery packs mid-flight, he said, “it’s the first step towards realizing we don’t have to rely on gas for everything”.
“This is a mechanical work-around towards a chemical problem.”
Yates quoted US aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, who designed the energy-efficient aircraft Voyager and SpaceShipOne, as saying: “A true creative researcher has to have confidence in nonsense.”
His team took one of Rutan’s aircraft — a Rutan Long-EZ — and modified it.
“It’s the most powerful electric airplane in the world… We took it and starting setting a few records.”
Yates — who only got his pilot’s licence last summer — is attempting to smash another two records next month.
“We are pushing technology, but every time we take risks, we are learning,” he said.
Lindbergh was the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, in 1927. In 21st century electric aviation, the biggest challenge is the limited range.
The longest flight to date is less than 1,000 miles and Yates wants to cover 3,500. He estimates it will take him about 28 hours.
So how is he going to do it?
His 45ft-winged plane will operate on UAV battery packs docked into the aircraft mid-flight by unmanned aerial vehicles. The five packs will be dispatched from various locations.
“Hoping the five dockings will go perfectly is risky,” he said.
He told us: “Think about your potential and dreams, and ask yourself, ‘Is risk the only thing stopping me?’.
It could be physical, financial or reputational risk, such as the fear of going into business and losing money.
But the key was to “embrace it and bring it in”.
“Understand it (the risk), put it in a box… and move forward and love your life,” said Yates. “We need you people to make the world a better place.”