The maiden flight of the four-seater plane (which will consist of 75% hemp or more, and will run on hemp-based fuel) should take place this fall or sometime next spring in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers had their historic first flight. The designer, Derek Kesek, is using this as part of his broader vision to get the industrial use of hemp back into the big picture. He believes that by using something like a plane, rather than a motorcycle, it will get noticed, and therefore have a bigger impact.
Kesek is a former organic restaurant owner, who founded the company known as Hempearth. Hempearth focuses on developing products made from or consisting of hemp, for mass use. Kesek says, “There are many advantages to using hemp. This plane project is just our first experiment with industrial hemp, and we plan to explore many uses. Once we establish structural testing and information from the hemp project, we will take that and work on the next best implication. The sky may not be the limit.”
Kesek believes that hemp can replace the material currently being used to build aircraft, fiberglass. Fiberglass generates air pollution and releases styrene into the atmosphere. Hemp, on the other hand, is carbon neutral and leaves almost no footprint on the earth.
Hemp is a centuries-old resource that has been used to make all sorts of things like fabric, rope, and even the Chinese used hemp to make paper thousands of years ago. Nowadays, you can buy a variety of hemp products including clothes, soaps, oils, seeds rich in omegas for food supplements and livestock feed, and even building materials. A large portion of hemp products purchased in the United States are sourced from Canada, which made industrial hemp production legal in 1992.
The United States ceased the production of hemp with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. They relaxed the regulations in 1942 to allow hemp to be grown to assist the war effort, but production was again halted in 1957. Only last year, President Obama signed a farm bill that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances act, if it is grown for research purposes. This will allow states to choose how to manage their production. There are 19 states currently allowed to regulate the production of industrial hemp.
The progressive movement towards hemp production is wonderful news for entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and hemp advocates, like Kesek. Hemp is gaining the attention of some mainstream companies as well. The Eco Elise from Lotus and some Mercedes models utilize door panels with hemp fiber, and BMW has the i3 with hemp-reinforced plastics in its interior. Using plant-based composites, like hemp, make vehicles lighter, and therefore more fuel efficient. The adaptability and versatility of hemp make its commercial and industrial applications potentially limitless.
Kesek signed a contract last year with an aircraft manufacturer to build his hemp plane, using their designs, but constructing the components from hemp panels rather than fiberglass. A crowd-funding campaign has been launched on the Hempearth website, and Kesek says they are well on their way to reaching the $500,000 goal. With a donation, you can even get your name on the plane!
To encourage growth in the industrial hemp industry, Kesek says he intends to “keep the patents open”, similarly to how Elon Musk did with the Tesla.
We’re a company that, once we have the money, we’ll do good things with it. We want to truly give back.”
Featured image source
All other images via Hempearth
Written by Raven Fon