Bell Nexus Debuts at CES 2019

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) had over 4,500 exhibitors, and one major aircraft company showing off its Bell Nexus sky taxi and its Autonomous Pod Transport (APT).  Fast Company reported that three major trends emerged: the thousands of devices that link to “virtual assistants” such as Alexa (28,000 apps), the introduction of a slew of Apple products, and the changes in transportation new technology will bring. Fast Company noted, “This long-term–and wildly futuristic–strategizing was on full display at CES. For starters, the Uber partner Bell showed off a second-stage concept of its flying car that both companies swear they will begin testing in 2020. (This has been on the docket for a while.) A full-scale model on the CES floor promised to …

Derek Piggott MBE: 1922 – 2019

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Fred To, who crafted the first solar-powered aircraft to carry a pilot, alerted your editor to the passing of Derek Piggott MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).  Derek was a master sailplane flight instructor, movie stunt pilot, the first human to successfully take off and fly an aircraft on muscle power alone, and a pioneer in electric aviation. Your editor met Derek at a Soaring Society of America convention in Seattle, Washington in 1980, and has an autographed copy of his autobiography, Delta Papa: A Life of Flying, as a cherished memento of that event.  It covers his years in the Royal Air Force starting as a cadet, rising to pilot officer, and flying in Canada and India …

N Is For Noise, D is for Deliveries*

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A July, 2017 article in New Scientist reported that a small test group found “the noise of drones more annoying than that of ground vehicles.”  This has implications for enterprises such as Amazon and Google that hope to perform home deliveries of various goods, including food.  Almost as a refrain, the Wall Street Journal reported in December, 2018 that, “Wing – the  drone delivery company that spun out from Google — was annoying residents in the Australian town where it tests its services.”  Folks in Bonython, the down-under township where the company had set up shop, “Likened the sounds of the original delivery drones to a “chain saw gone ballistic.”  This caused some to spend less time outdoors, and dogs evidenced signs …

Rolls-Royce ACCEL Program Goes For the Gold

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Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL program and a consortium of partners want to create the world’s fastest electric airplane.  The concept has a recent series of predecessors, and a fascinating tie to an American speed champion. About five years ago, something called the TEACO (The Electric Aircraft Company) Bat, a formula 1-type raceplane powered by an electric motor, generated a great deal of interest.  It initially housed a single 80-horsepower electric motor, but once affiliated with Williams Engineering; the project added a twin-motor unit on a set of sleeved parallel shafts swinging contra-rotating propellers. Now, a partnership led by Rolls-Royce seems to have added a third motor, with all three singing in unison to drive a three-bladed propeller.  The airframe is new, too, …

Norway and the Netherlands Electrifying Aviation

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Two European states that will benefit from the electrification of short-range airline flights are becoming strong proponents of new technology.  Norwegian Would The Guardian headlined its article on greener airlines this way: “Norway aims for all short-haul flights to be 100% electric by 2040.”   A subheadline explained, “It already has more electric cars than any other country in the world and also has shipping projects underway.”  That’s in terms of market share, with electric and hybrid vehicles representing more than half of new car registrations in 2017.  Avinor, the public operation of Norway’s airports, says short-haul airliners should be entirely electric by 2040, cementing the Nordic nation’s role as a pioneer in the field of electric transport.  Chief executive Dag …

One on the Ramp, One on the Computer, and one Bent Tube Propulsor

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With over 125 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft in various stages of design and even flight test, we thought we would check in on three interesting prospects. The Lift Hexa Lift Aircraft of Austin, Texas promotes its 18-rotor single seater as, “THE WORLDS FIRST PERSONAL FLYING EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE.”  Looking a great deal like a skinny Volocopter, the Hexa shares many of its design attributes.  It’s “… triply redundant autopilot computer with a single, 3-axis joystick is all that is needed to fly. Or tap on the seven inch touchscreen in “Look mom, no hands!” mode.”  According to the firm’s web site, one can learn to fly Hexa with a few hours on a flight simulator and a brief session of personal instruction. …

Things are Looking up in Dubai

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Clean Technica recently examined whether the United Arab Emirates, and especially Dubai could become a world leader in clean mobility. It lists factors such as one of the heaviest concentrations of concentration of EV charging facilities in the world, and the sizable discounts the state gives on EV ownership. The state’s relationship with electric car suppliers and readiness to test sky taxis from eHang and Volocopter add to the mix.  Dubai has its homegrown flight vehicles that will add to the aerial circus in its desert skies. DGWorld, a major source of robotics in the country, has two such craft on the horizon. DG World’s Contribution The smaller of the two, the “flagship drone of DGWorld,” the UAD M20 has …

Look What Fred To Started!

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Materials, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

forty years ago today, Fred To’s Solar One flew the length of the runway at Lasham Airfield in Hampshire, England, solely on the energy derived from the weak winter illumination and stored in a small set of ni-cad batteries.. With his partner David Williams, he had built the wooden, model-aircraft-like structure in a farm building, visited by the farm’s horses and pigs. The airplane went on to be displayed at various airshows, and Fred went on to build an inflatable 100-foot-span flying wing that was the first to use “fly-by-wire” technology.  His inventiveness and design skills have informed many projects, as we reported in our November 2018 report on the award ceremony Fred recently attended. In short form, much has …

Simulations May Stimulate Better Hybrids

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Phillip Ansell, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois explains the benefits and downsides of fossil fuels. “Jet fuel and aviation gasoline are easy to store on an airplane. They are compact and lightweight when compared to the amount of energy they provide. Unfortunately, the actual combustion process is very inefficient. We’re harnessing only a small fraction of that energy but we currently don’t have electrical storage systems that can compete with that.” Ansell and colleagues are striving to use simulations to increase the range of hybrid aircraft.     Batteries provide their own set of problems. He explains that adding more batteries to go farther may have a certain logic, for …

Amprius’ Silicon Nanowire Batteries Fly – For 25 Days

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Sunnyvale, California-based Amprius kept a low profile for several years, despite its founder, Yi Cui, being a leading light in battery development.  Their December 4th press release, though, finds the company to be in a more open mood, their advanced lithium-ion cells with 100-percent silicon anodes having flown Airbus’ Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) for over 25 days, “setting a new endurance and altitude record for stratospheric flight.” This milestone represents a great leap forward since Alan Cocconi flew his So Long solar-powered model for 48 hours, the first of many projects of which he would be an integral part, and the first solar airplane to fly overnight.  He worked on the General Motors EV1 and Eric Raymond’s Sunseeker …