Gamera: First Solar-Powered Helicopter

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Solar Gamera, an extension of the human-powered helicopter that achieved the longest HPH duration flight in 2013, just made the first solar-powered helicopter flight.  In 2014, a group of undergraduate students at the University of Maryland turned Team Gamera into Solar Gamera, “to test the feasibility of applying solar power in achieving human helicopter flight.” Ph.D. student William Staruk, a member of the original HPH team, reflected, “Today you are seeing the first successful flights of the Gamera Solar-Powered Helicopter. You are seeing aviation history being made in the history of green aviation and rotary blade aviation.” Gamera’s lattice-work framework, 100-foot square with extremely large rotors at the ends of four beams, carried materials science major Michelle Mahon on two short …

What Would You Give the Pope?

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and head of Facebook, met with Pope Francis yesterday.  The Pope, a known follower of high-technology innovations, has declared the Internet a “gift from God,” and emphasized the importance of building a connected society that is “healthy and open to sharing.” As Digital Trends.com reports, Zuckerberg is the latest representative from Silicon Valley to be granted a Papal audience.  He follows Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, but unlike them, brought a gift, a scale model of Facebook’s Aquila solar-powered drone soon to be carrying the Net to remote areas of the world. Digital Trends reports that Zuckerberg took to Facebook (of course) to report on the meeting, explaining there are “parallels …

Solar Impulse 2 Batteries – Better than We Thought

Dean Sigler Batteries, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

What happened to Solar Impulse 2’s batteries on those long five days and nights over the Pacific?  It took months of enforced downtime in Hawaii to have new batteries made, sent from Korea, installed, tested, and flown again.  Could the plane have completed the flight on the original batteries? Kokam, manufacturer of the airplane’s cells, has released new information that provides details of the drive system and relieves a few lingering anxieties.  An over-riding concern was that batteries overheated on the Japan to Hawaii part of the mission, topping out at 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) – above their design temperature.  Your editor has thought deeply about what Andre’ Borschberg must have gone through every day of the five …

Photosynthesis Directly Makes Fuel

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

That’s what photosynthesis does in leaves – creates fuel in the form of plant sugars that flow into the plant to which the leaf is attached.  One of the main quibbles about trying to convert solar energy to usable fuel is the usual multi-step process involved.  Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have made a major advance in creating a solar cell that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) and uses sunlight to make a synthetic gas that can be burned as fuel. Scientists rarely use hyperbolic terms such as “extraordinary” in their findings.  According to Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC, “What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties.”  They …

Solar Impulse Makes a Final Landing

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Bertrand Piccard closed out the over-year-long endurance test of man and machine, landing in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, where the 17-leg journey began over a year ago. Landing at night in the glow of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, the largest mosque in the UAE, and greeted by fellow pilot Andre’ Borschberg, the project’s sponsor HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, and a large throng in western and Middle Eastern garb, the flight climaxed not only an aerial adventure, but an opportunity to share multiple cultures and teach thousands of children and youth about alternative energy and the way to a green future for all. Whether the promises made at the United Nations and at COP21 in Paris …

A Quiet Air Force Spreading Commerce and Knowledge

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

Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, promised a far-reaching goal for his firm. ”Today, we’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone. ”Our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.” We reported on this activity almost a year ago, and provided technical details that are coming to fruition with the first flight of the Aquila drone, a large flying wing that looks a great deal like the Prandtl-D research vehicle designed by Al Bowers and a group of graduate students.  A primary difference – Facebook’s machine has winglets or tip rudders …

Kreisel Brothers – Austrian Entrepreneurs

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 4 Comments

We keep hoping for the long-awaited 10X, or even 5X battery that would make electric aviation “pop” in a significant way.  The Kreisel brothers in Austria are not developing new batteries or chemistries, but through careful design and manufacturing techniques, manage to reduce weight in their battery packages – one example being the two “ultra-lightweight battery units” they supply for PC-Aero’s Elektra One.  With a total weight of “just 64 kilograms,” (140.8 pounds), the packs “provide [an] efficient and reliable energy supply for a range of 400 kilometers (248 miles)… a flight duration of three hours [and a] speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99.2 mph).” Each pack stores 5.8 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy, or 5.52 kw-hr./kg.  That’s roughly an …

Eric Raymond: Skyping from the Sky

Dean Sigler Hybrid Aircraft, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Eric Raymond and his wife Irena fly their Sunseeker Duo from the Aeroporto Voghera Rivanazzano near their home in Voghera, Italy.  The Provincia di Pavia provides wonderful architectural and scenic backdrops for their flights, something captured briefly in a video they filmed last year for Skype and Microsoft.  To Eric’s surprise, the commercial was finally released this month. The Raymonds and their collaborators are part of a larger advertising campaign for Skype and Microsoft, with their high-tech offerings complementing the wireless communications tools and the ad’s graphics. Eric and Irena, John Lynch, and Jason Rohr perform well for the cameras, but Eric had an extra challenge in the aerial filming.  “I was flying in formation with a Phantom drone!” Microsoft …

Solar Impulse Word of the Day – Penultimate

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Headlines all over the world are sharing the word of the day – penultimate, meaning the next to the last* – in this case the next to last flight for Solar Impulse 2. The Guardian newspaper explained, “After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at around 7.10am (5.10am GMT). Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles.” Which brings up a question – why are the guys on foot outrunning the guys on the expensive electric bicycles? Certainly, …

Alta Devices – From UAVs to Hanergy Solar Powered Cars

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Alta Devices has been trading places with the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) in holding world record efficiencies for single- and dual-junction solar cells at one sun (not concentrated).  Their gallium-arsenide technology includes a layer of indium gallium phosphide (InGaPh), which the firm says utilizes photons more efficiently. According to Alta Devices, “Alta has achieved this breakthrough by modifying its basic ‘single-junction’ gallium arsenide (GaAs) material. The company’s dual junction technology builds on the basic GaAs approach, but implements a second junction (or layer) with Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP). Because InGaP uses high-energy photons more efficiently, the new dual-junction cell generates more electricity from the same amount of light than a single-junction device. With this breakthrough, Alta currently holds both …