It Only Looks Fat

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Aviation Week reports on the inner workings of Boeing’s Phantom Eye HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) unmanned aerial vehicle.  The craft, now being tested at NASA Dryden Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, has a rotund character that shows form does follow function. Wrapping two eight-foot diameter hydrogen tanks in a low-drag pod and boom style fuselage, the “bulbous” but aerodynamic shape seems at variance with its sailplane-like 150-foot wings.  Overall, the design’s unlikely look conceals its purpose as well as its enormous fuel tanks. According to Aviation Week, “Boeing’s objective is a production HALE UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] with an endurance of 10 days, which would enable it to remain on station for four days at 10,000nm [nautical miles] …

Another Cure for Range Anxiety

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Or at least an approach to provide angst-free cross-country flying, as Michael Friend explained in his Electric Aircraft Symposium presentation last April at Rohnert Park, California.  Friend, a Boeing engineer closely tied to the company’s early fuel cell work, is the owner and pilot of N787M, one of the earliest production kit Silence Twisters.  The Twister is a Spitfire-like, retractable-gear light aircraft capable of cruising 146 on its Jabiru 80-horsepower engine.  It’s capable of full aerobatic flight, and was converted to electric power in Germany for possible airshow demonstrations.  The Twister’s designers also plan a lengthened wing that would make motor gliding possible. Friend noted the difference in energy density between available batteries and gasoline, explaining that 10 kilograms of …

The Happiest Materials Scientist

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

According to his NASA biography, “Dr. Ajay Misra, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is Chief of the Structures and Materials Division in the Research & Technology Directorate at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  In this position, Dr. Misra has the responsibility for planning, advocating, coordinating, organizing, directing and supervising all phases of Division research and business activities.”  At the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium in Rohnert Park, California in April 2010, Dr. Misra was among the most charming and happiest of presenters – probably because he had so many happy things to talk about.  Much of the joy comes from the continuing revelations about the characteristics of carbon and boron nanotubes.  They turn out to …

Thin, Light, Strong, and Energy Dense

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

 2010’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who extracted graphene from a piece of graphite when they stuck a piece of adhesive tape to it and peeled away a single atom-thick layer of the thinnest, strongest material in the world. The Nobel Prize web site explains other remarkable properties of this new material.  “As a conductor of electricity it performs as well as copper. As a conductor of heat it outperforms all other known materials. It is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.” With studies in quantum physics and …

CAFE News: Comparing Apples, Bananas, Oranges and Doughnuts

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

One of the problems facing judges in the July Green Flight Challenge the CAFE Foundation is managing for NASA is that of determining fairly who gets the best fuel mileage.  Since “fuel” in this case can be traditional aviation gasoline, bio-diesel, electricity from batteries or solar panels, or some other energy storage medium, wildly different energy densities have to be taken into account. If TSA “freedom feels” seem intrusive, the scrutiny applied to GFC entrants and their craft will be even more onerous.  Aircraft will be impounded once inspected and registered, and the only contact pilots may have with their planes before taking off will be to “top off” their fuel tanks or batteries just before the start of their …

A Record Book for the Filling

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), standards setter and record keeper for the aviation world, recently added new classes of records, including those for solar-powered airplanes (CS).  Such classes can be broken down by sub-class and category as necessary. Qinetiq’s Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) achieved several records in the UAV category in July, and these were made official December 23 by the FAI – a neat Christmas gift to the team.  As noted in Qinetiq’s press release: “The FAI has ratified three records which the QinetiQ HALE Team claimed following Zephyr’s long duration flight in July 2010: • Absolute duration record Unmanned – The longest flying UAV in the world (beating Global Hawk’s record by a factor of 11) at 336 hours …

Sunseeker III Becomes the Duo

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dropping a digit and its Latinate numeration, the recently renamed Sunseeker, a joint collaboration between Eric Raymond and a group of German, Swiss, Polish and Slovenian contributors, is showing progress towards its 2011 test flights. The 23-meter (75.46 feet) span solar-powered sailplane takes its wing from the Stuttgart Akaflieg Icare II, its fuselage from the Stemme basic profiles, is being built at least partially in Poland, and uses an electric motor designed by Slovenian native Roman Susnik, as noted in an earlier entry. The craft’s specifications provide evidence of the care employed in the design and construction of this lightweight marvel.  A 75-foot wing aircraft weighing 270 kilograms (594 pounds) empty and 470 kilograms ( 1,034 pounds) when carrying two in its …

Drs. Seeley and Moore Hit One Out of the Airpark

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The January 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics resurrects the perennial hope for a flying automobile.  The cover taunts, “(Go Ahead, Laugh) But NASA, DARPA & the FAA Are Serious.”  Sharon Weinberger taunts some makers a bit in her article, “Driving on Air,” as she looks at a variety of Transformer-style vehicles that can travel by land or air with the fewest inconveniences.  She notes the differences between propelling cars and planes, and looks at extremely different modes of giving people personal aerial transport, including the Moeller Skycar (“Inventor Paul Moeller has been developing the concept for nearly 50 years.  To date, the M400X has only hovered on a tether.”), the Martin Jetpack, The Cartercopter, and the Terrafugia Transition that’s been …

Pipistrel’s Hybrid Cruiser

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 3 Comments

The Pipistrel folks in Slovenia have been producing some suprising aircraft with surprising names for the last two decades.  Their Virus and Sinus motorgliders are well-traveled and well regarded, having won honors in the 2007 Centennial and 2008  General Aviation Technology Challenges sponsored by NASA and managed by the CAFE Foundation.   The firm recently announced that it won the European Business Awards prize as the Most Innovative Company in Europe – out of 15,000 entrants.  Indeed, their real-time posting of their solar-powered factory’s electrical output is a strong reminder of that drive to create new paths to the future. Another reminder of Pipistrel’s creative juices is the picture of their four-seat hybrid aircraft, which should be flying in the new year, according …

Electric Waiex Makes First Hop

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

On Friday, December 3, Sonex Aircraft, LLC achieved a long-sought goal at Wittman Field, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, successfully flying their electric two-seater Waiex.  Unveiling their craft at the 2007 AirVenture on the same field as part of their E-Flight Initiative, the team quietly and with some back-to-the-drawing-board resolve worked for the next three years to solve the many problems that confront any group reaching for that elusive next best thing.  Evidence of this are the version numbers on the motor and controller as noted in Sonex CEO and General Manager Jeremy Monnet’s comment.  “We have also already started our motor v4.0 design and motor controller v12.0 to be integrated on N270DC. Many more great things to come on this project!” Having seen Peter Buck’s video of early testing …