Biggest, Fastest 3D Printed Airplane So Far

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Aircraft Materials 1 Comment

Unveiled at the Dubai Air Show this week, the collaborative effort between Stratasys and Aurora Flight Sciences is the largest and fastest 3D-printed aircraft so far.  With a 9-foot wingspan and weighing 30 pounds, the unmanned aerial vehicle is also the first jet aircraft to be made through additive manufacturing. 80 percent by weight was made through the advanced process, the rest consisting of the engine, electronics and tires.  Because the airplane was designed in a collaborative computer aided design process, the parts could be printed in Stratasys’ facilities even though they were designed primarily in Aurora’s Virginia headquarters. Besides saving weight, the process saves time, the complete aircraft going from initial idea to first flight in under nine months. …

Diamond’s Hybrid-Electric Tiltrotor

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Diamond Aircraft of Austria gave Flying magazine news of its hybrid-electric tiltrotor project – something not announced on Diamond’s own web site.  According to Flying, Diamond will partner with an unnamed “major industrial partner.”  The airplane could become certified within seven years, enabling customers to own a six-passenger vertical takeoff and landing vehicle with ostensibly high speed and the ability to set down virtually anywhere. Diamond founder and CEO Christian Dries says the craft will be powered by two high-output Siemens electric motors with power to recharge the batteries in flight supplied by a pair of Austro diesel engines.  Since there are four propellers, the motors’ outputs would probably be split fore and aft to a pair of rotors. The …

Farm and Municipal Waste to Bio Jet Fuel

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

United Airlines has united with two partners, AltAir Fuels and Fulcrum BioEnergy, to fly on sustainable alternative fuels.  Think of each flight being cleaner, using what formerly were unusable, land-fill-bound waste products, and certain to make United more sustainable, and flights less costly. Earlier efforts at producing biofuels relied on converting food, such as corn, into fuel, an uneconomical process that raised food prices and often used more energy than it produced in ethanol, for instance.  This was not sustainable and didn’t allow economic benefits for its users, so fell into disrepute quickly. Organizations like the United Nations spoke out against taking grains from the poorest among us to make fuels for jetsetters.  In their 2009 report, UNEP, the United …

EAS IX: Aurora Flight Science Set Records without Pilots

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John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, has been demonstrating autonomous aircraft for years – a fact he has shared with Electric Aircraft Symposium audiences several times.  This year he gave a brief history of Aurora, starting with the Sunlight Eagle, an adaptation of the Michelob Light Eagle, a human-powered aircraft that preceded the most successful long-distance flight by an HPA – the Daedalus with a 76-mile trip over the Mediterranean. The 2009 craft was originally powered with bicycle-like pedals and still holds four world records for human-powered flight. For its two test flights at Las Cruces International Airport, the pedals were replaced with solar panels, an electric motor, a high-performance battery, and a flight control system.  Even with all …

Carbon Fiber, Batteries and Clean Air from CO2

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Creators of a one-step process called STEP (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo) claim a world of benefits, including pulling carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into useful things, such as fuels, cement, and cheap carbon fiber.  The process can also purify and desalinate water, according to many of the 300 peer-reviewed papers by Dr. Stuart Licht of George Washington University and his graduate students. The elevator speech regarding their research can be found on the home page for the group.   “A new fundamental solar process has been introduced.  STEP efficiently removes carbon from the atmosphere and generates the staples needed by society, ranging from fuels, to metals, bleach and construction materials, at high solar efficiency and without carbon dioxide generation. …

Three Races Going Electric – or at Least Hybrid

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Three major automobile and motorcycle races are adapting electric or hybrid power, and seeing winners in all categories.   The three take place in the month of June every year, making the month a showtime for innovation and a demonstration of incredible driving skills. Isle of Man Perhaps the most dangerous of all events, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race covers 37 miles on public roads running through countryside and villages.  Over 200 riders have been killed on the course since the first race in 1910.  This doesn’t discourage over 100 riders from qualifying every year and hitting top speeds near 200 mph.  The winning gasoline-powered superbike this year averaged 128.749 during its six laps around the island. By …

Diamond Hybrid Drive – One Engine, Two Motors

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Diamond aircraft seem to have been the go-to choice for electrification, with Boeing and Airbus fielding different versions powered by an array of powerplants.    In 2008,Boeing’s fuel cell-powered craft, a DA-36 Dimona motorglider, “was modified by [Boeing Research and Technology Europe] (BR&TE) to include a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid system to power an electric motor coupled to a conventional propeller.”  Airbus’ 2011 DA-36 “E-Star’s” propeller was powered by a 70kW electric motor from Siemens, with electricity supplied by a small Wankel engine from Austro Engine with a generator functioning solely as a power source.  In 2014, Airbus showed an improved version of this craft at the Paris Air Show.  Erik Lindbergh chose the Diamond HK-36 for …

EAS IX: Additive Manufacturing Parts Flying on Airbuses

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Scott Sevcik, Aerospace and Defense Business Development Manager for Stratasys, gave EAS IX participants a look into the most advanced aircraft manufacturing techniques currently available, and what might be possible in the near future. Traditional manufacturing techniques have relied on subtractive techniques, starting with an aluminum billet, for instance, and sawing, filing and sanding away anything that doesn’t belong on the finished part.  Anyone who’s worked in a shop knows the barrels and buckets of metal shavings that fill up quickly.  What if there were no materials to be recycled at the end of a production run? Additive manufacturing (AM) is a way to produce parts that grow during the process, and that don’t leave much, or any, debris afterward.  …

HOMER and PEACE Offer Quieter, Smoother Flight: Part One

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A European-based consortium of academic and industrial groups take a very old idea, add a plasma system that seems to be nearly science fiction, whip them together and create quiet, efficient, vector-controlled flight.  That’s the promise, although it seems a bit much to take in all at once.  But the folks at the ACHEON (Aerial Coanda High Efficiency Orienting-jet Nozzle) project seem to think they have a potential winner here.  ACHEON represents two other acronyms, so let’s define those first. The original idea for the project was part of H. O. M. E. R., not of the Simpsons, or even of epic Greek poetry, but of the “High-speed Orienting Momentum with Enhanced Reversibility” variety.  Combine that with P. E. A. …

EAS IX: Mike Ricci Explains PWB, Safety

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Dreamliner battery nightmares have troubled the dreams of electric flight for the past two years.  Michael Ricci, Vice President of Engineering with LaunchPoint Technologies, gave attendees at this year’s Electric Aircraft Symposium a crash course (pun intended) in the many types of failure modes electric aircraft face.  Luckily, he also provided ways to mitigate and eliminate those failure modes. He introduced a concept called “Propulsion by Wire” (PBW), the main thrust for electric aircraft and roughly akin to the commonly discussed “Fly by Wire” concept.  Asking what product specifications for electric propulsion will look like, he answered his own rhetorical question with the technical requirements for reasonable interaction, a useful user interface, airworthiness, and safety. Starting with the last issue …