Controversial at CES 2016

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Making a lot of column inches of traditional newsprint and reigning as clickbait on the Internet, the Ehang 184 is an eye-catching Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) causing a bit of controversy in the media.  Unveiled at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2016), it drew concentric circles of photographers who normally save their enthusiasm for the lovely models showing off the newest iPhone or PlayStation. Coming from a firm that already makes hobby drones, the 184 (one passenger, eight motors, four arms) can carry its trusting passenger up to 20 miles, depending on who’s reporting.  Its 14.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack allows a maximum of 23 minutes of flight, and at 60 mph, a quick hop to a nearby destination, which …

Smarter Battery Controls Itself

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart is part of a consortium dedicated to simplifying and integrating components to enhance electric car efficiency.  3Ccar, a European collaborative project, gets its funding from the ECSEL, the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership Joint Undertaking. 3Ccar’s goal is to develop “Integrated Components for ComplexityControl in affordable electrified cars,” giving them a noble purpose and convoluted abbreviation. Fraunhofer’s mission in the consortium, to provide smart battery cells, looks to be well in hand with the recent announcement of battery cells that contain a “built-in microcontroller that records relevant physical parameters, such as the temperature and the state of charge of the cell—i.e., each cell knows its own condition. The cells communicate …

The Proof is in the Piloting

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Helicopter flying has been compared to patting your stomach while rubbing your head, something few manage well, if at all.  Imagine trying to not only keep  the rudder pedals, cyclic and collective under control but also fiddling with 18 throttles.  Even a conventional helicopter is a handful with one engine or motor.  Maintaining level flight with multiple lifting points at different points around the central fuselage would add to that level of difficulty beyond most people’s mental processing levels. Luckily, someone at Volocopter has worked out a very clever and quick-witted set of algorithms to take the stress out of that high-risk conundrum, as proven by company CEO Alex Zosel’s recent flight – single-handed and even briefly hands-off.  Heike Blödorn, …

Hybrid Quadrotor Can Stay Aloft 2.5 Hours

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Richard Glassock did his graduate work on small hybrid gas-electric systems, and keeps your editor current on that part of the aeronautical power spectrum.  He recently shared one promising example of such technology in the drone market.  Where current quadrotors are limited in size, power, and flight duration, the Quaternium Hybrix 20 is larger, heavier, and can fly for up to 2.5 hours, according to its makers.  The, according to its Spanish maker Quaternium is six times the endurance of current camera-bearing drones. The 20 weighs 11.3 kilograms (25 pounds) empty and can carry a 7 kilogram (15.4 pounds) payload.  It approaches the current limit on the Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) of 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and does not …

Britain Puts an Electric Nose on a New Zealand Carbon Fiber Falco

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Richard Glassock, an Australian now working in Hungary, has been a presenter at an Electric Aircraft Symposium and received worldwide interest for his eight-passenger, open cockpit sailplane design a few years ago. He writes today to share news about a twin electric motor conversion for a Falco, the great, high-speed craft by Italian Stelio Frati. Originally designed for four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engines of up to 300 horsepower, the wood airframe was incredibly complex and required thousands of hours to construct. Signor Aldini reported taking 80 hours just to make the main spar’s jig – with four people needed to complete clamping before the glue set. With the increasing difficulty of finding aircraft-grade sitka spruce or aircraft-grade wood craftsmen, those who can replace …

EAS IX: Short Circuiting Batteries on Purpose

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Recent news from the world of insurance claims adjustors brings us back to ways inspired battery designers might reduce or eliminate certain types of claims, and make electric flight safer. Even when international agreements don’t make progress along those lines. Insurance Claims and international Agreements With recent news of Federal Aviation Administration interest in lithium-ion batteries arising from fires caused by thermal runaways, shipments of large numbers of batteries may be banned.  Claims Journal, an insurance industry news line, quotes Angela Stubblefied, an FAA hazardous materials safety official, as saying, “’We believe the risk is immediate and urgent.’ She cited research showing the batteries can cause explosions and fires capable of destroying a plane. “FAA tests show that even a …

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. …

Traversing Australia on Sunshine

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, GFC, Solar Power Leave a Comment

Australia supplies 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of smooth road and abundant sunshine every year for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge that bisects the country north to south.  Growing in numbers annually, this year’s five-day race drew 47 teams from 25 countries, with two teams from the Netherlands,  one from the University of Michigan in the United States and one from Tokai University in Japan trading the lead almost daily and battling it out for the first four places in the Challenger Class with daily consistency. University of Delft students had their second win in two years, while rivals from the University of Twente (the Netherlands) achieved a very strong second place overall.  The University of Michigan’s team was a consistent third-place …

Turbocharged Fuel Cells

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The Engineer, a British publication, reports on a turbocharger for fuel cells.  Because a fuel cell is a cross between a combustion engine and an electric motor, the concept of pushing extra air through the fuel cell to increase power is similar to that of turbocharging a regular two- or four-stroke engine.  The publication says this could double the output of a hydrogen fuel cell. Like other combustion engines, a fuel cell can be limited by the airflow entering, that supply limiting their ability to release positively-charged hydrogen ions. Bryn Richards, CEO of Aeristech, explains, “Our proprietary high speed motor and control technology allows us to deliver air at a much higher pressure [than existing systems].  No other motor control …

EAS IX: Neil Johnson of Navitas on Battery Safety

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Neil Johnson of the Navitas Systems Advanced Solutions Group gave the gathering at the ninth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium an overview on battery reserve limits and gauging, and the methods necessary to address the different failure modes for lithium batteries, all of which could be problematic for electric aircraft. Navitas includes some legacy technology adapted from 123 Systems, typically 18650 format batteries, an 18-millimeter by 65-millimeter cylinder with active materials separated by a dialectric separator material in a “Tootsie Roll” configuration.  Some of the chemistries involved were developed for Formula 1 racers, and according to a talk given by Bill Dube’ and Eva Håkansson, are considerably more powerful than “conventional” lithium cells. According to Neil, the five billion cells out there now …