Electrified Minions of Mignet

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 0 Comments

In the 1930’s, Henri Mignet energized the flying world with his Pou-de-Ciel (literally, Louse of the Sky), which bore the more common and somewhat cuter appelation, “Flying Flea.” Adherents to Mignet’s “formula” of tandem wings and simplified flying controls continue to produce variants on the formula. One of the most interesting is the Pouchel, an ultralight model popular in France with over 120 plans sets sold to members of APEV (Association pour la Promotion des Echelles Volantes – Association for the Promotion of Flying Ladders), which used a commonly available aluminum ladder as its basic fuselage structure. Because of the plane’s popularity and a fear of liability suits that might ensue, the ladder manufacturer asked the organization to forego using …

Ultra in the Key of E

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Protoplane, the French manufacturer of the Ultra ultralight two-seater, has big plans for increasing the efficiency of an already efficient aircraft. Their petrol-powered, 450 kilogram (990 pound) all-up weight monoplane can cruise, according to the company, at 220 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) on only 12 liters (a little more than 3 U. S. gallons) per hour, achieving 43 miles per gallon.  At slower speeds, the plane can stay aloft for nine hours on its 90 liters of fuel. Protoplane hopes to market the first electric two-seater in 2010, basing the design on improvements in “weight, aerodynamic efficiency, batteries, motors and propellers.” Their web site sets forth Protoplane’s objective. “Making an electric aircraft is very difficult, because one pound …

Eco-Marathon an Echo of the Green Flight Challenge

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Think of the Green Flight Challenge flown on a much smaller course, but allowing hydrogen fuel cell powered balloons to compete against liquified natural gas powered ultralight aircraft, or solar-powered autogyros.  You might get a small idea of the creativity and innovation that sponsors hope to unleash in an upcoming event. In the town of Vichy, France, at the Vichy-Charmiel airfield, on July 9-11, the Eco Marathon ULM (Ultra Light Machines) will be held to test the limits of how little energy can be used to fly an aerial craft around a closed-circuit course three times. The rules are simple. The craft using the least energy wins – like the CAFE Foundation’s 2011 Green Flight Challenge, and inspired by the …

An Understandable Passion

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 1 Comment

IPSA, the Institut Polytechnique des Sciences Advancees, headquartered in Paris and Toulouse, France, has a “Green” program associated with its aeronautical engineering program. Its students have designed Buselec 2, a 14.6 meter (47 feet) span, two-seater, electric-powered airplane, which will be constructed with assistance from Daniel Dalby, the originator of the Pouchelec, an electric-powered outgrowth of the Mignet tandem-wing ultralight, and Bela Nogrady, director of the Protoplane company. (More about both of these gentlemen and their creations in near-future posts.) Motor choices have not been made at this point, but Michael Dalby, head of the Mecadalby company, explains that, “One of our partners is working on a [brushless motor] especially planned for aviation.” This motor will produce at least 20 …

The Poop on the Puffin

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 0 Comments

Under normal circumstances, this editor would never resort to scatological titles, but Mark Moore, the NASA aerospace engineer behind this fantastic flying creation calls his electric craft, “Puffin” because, according to Moore, the bird after which it is named, “Hides its poop, and we’re environmentally friendly because we essentially have no emissions.” Like the Puffin, this craft looks a bit chubby and incapable of flight on the ground, but folds its legs on liftoff, and becomes a streamlined bullet. Moore, who spoke at last year’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium, and will return for this year’s CAFE Foundation gathering at NASA Ames Research Center in April, unveiled this concept at this year’s American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco. Moore …

Hybrid Hopes or Hype?

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Batteries are achieving increasingly high capacities and outputs, though at a frustratingly slow pace, especially for those of us who want that much hoped-for lightweight power pack that will make the electric backpack helicopter of our dreams a practical reality.  For cars, a viable and attractive alternative to pure battery use in hybrid propulsion is described in an Earth2Tech entry supplied by Dr. Seeley.  That entry describes a three-step approach to making ultracapacitors and batteries into friendly allies in propusion. First, ultracaps should not compete with batteries, but enhance them. “Second, get creative to bring costs down quickly. Third, embrace the niche.” The big problem with batteries is being able to take in or put out large amounts of power …

A Dream Nearing Realization

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Certain objects stir deep feelings upon first viewing.  DESiE is one such object. Its name alphabetizes its description, as translated and explained by one of its creators, Wolfgang Liehmann.   D = doppelsitziges = double-seated E = Enten = duck/canard = tail first S = Segelflugzeug = sailplane i = mit integriertem = with integrated E = Elektroantrieb = electrically-powered engine This two-seater, electrically-powered, canard sailplane has been a labor of love, taking 13 years to reach its current stage, and projected to take another three before its first real flight.  In the meantime, diligent toil and breaks for X-Plane simulated flying are leading toward an aircraft that Wolfgang says, “Shows very satisfying behavior with respect to stall and glide properties.” …

Big Nano

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

A solar cell manufacturer that boasts of 100 times thinner panels than current silicon solar cells, and production rates 100 times faster than with the methods usually employed in the industry will definitely catch our attention.   Nanosolar, of San Jose, California, makes a CIGS-based solar film claimed to be thinner and much less expenive (ultra-low cost, according to Nanosolar) than silicon-based panels.  CIGS stands for copper/indium/gallium/selenium, the primary components of the new film.  Coated onto a thin aluminum substrate, the CIGS ink is literally printed on, the nanoparticles providing a demonstrated efficiency of up to 16.4-percent, verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  Initial production runs are producing panels of at least 11-percent efficiency.  While currently only half as efficient as the best production silicon solar cells, the high-speed manufacturing …

And Now For Something Completely Different

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Tolstoy, in War and Peace, wrote that, “Among the innumerable subdivisions that can be made in the phenomena of life, one can subdivide them all into those in which content predominates and those in which form predominates.” One group attempting to meld form and function is the Land Art Generator Initiative, a group attempting to “bring together artists, architects, scientists, and engineers in a first of its kind collaboration. The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative is to design and construct a series of land art installations across the UAE that uniquely combine aesthetic intrigue with clean energy generation. The LAGI viewing platforms will be tourist destinations that draw people from around the world to experience the beauty of …

Half a World Apart, United in Their Research

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Dr. Yi Cui, a winner of the 2004 MIT Technology Review World Top 100 Young Innovator Award (among other notable awards), and Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, was a distinguished presenter at the CAFE Foundation’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium last April. He talked about the structure and manufacturing of lithium-ion cells, and the material limitations placed on the performance of those cells. His breakthrough in using nanowires in the cathode promises an 80-percent gain in the cell’s charge-holding ability, equivalent to ten years of the normal cell improvement of eight percent per year. The good news was somewhat of a letdown for many, who were hoping to hear of a total …