A Swan among the Ultralights

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Materials, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

At this year’s Aero Friedrichshafen, Modern Wings showed off their Swan Ultralight, a nicely packaged machine that can fly on either fossil fuels or electricity.  Of course, we’ll feature the electric version here. The Swan E115-22 is an electrically-powered airplane of 115 kilograms (253 pounds) empty weight powered by a 22-horsepower motor.  That empty weight puts it solidly into U. S. FAR Part 103 territory and SSDR (single-seat deregulated) requirements in Great Britain, and a 120 kilogram (264 pound) version complies with Regulation 120 in Germany.  Maximum takeoff weight is 300 kilograms (660 pounds), heavier than the 524 pounds Part 103 allows, and possible legal depending on how local FAA inspectors view batteries as part of empty or total weight. …

EnergyOr Ups the Ante for Endurance

Dean Sigler Fuel Cells, Hybrid Aircraft, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Staying airborne for more than an hour or two might seem like a huge leap for battery-powered electric aircraft.  Inspired designers like Eric Raymond have been able to use solar cells to extend their flights to near-perpetual states.  A large craft like Solar Impulse 2 remains in flight for up to five successive days and nights only through careful energy management and flight planning.  Researchers are looking at hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to batteries, with the hopes of achieving greater endurance. One company, EnergyOr, has developed two still small fuel cells to power their rotary- and fixed-wing drones, setting several records in the process.  With payloads and maximum takeoff weights that enable carrying a 4K camera or large …

Solar Sails for Ultralights?

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Materials, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 1 Comment

Ultralights have done many spectacular things, including topping Mt. Everest and crossing the English Channel.  Gerard Thevenot flew the Channel under a La Mouette wing powered by an Eck/Geiger motor driven by three fuel cells in 2009 – six years before the recent flights with faster electric craft.  For that matter, Paul MacCready and his team flew a solar-powered aircraft from near Paris to an RAF runway on the eastern English coast in 1981. Hang gliders, paramotors, and other rigid and non-rigid-wing craft might benefit from new sailcloth that incorporates flexible solar cells into its makeup.  Used on sailboats, the solar fabric helps run auxiliary motors and can help extend the cruising range of a boat when the sails are …

A Second Night on Solar Impulse

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Pixar’s current film, Inside Out, depicts the emotions of an 11-year-old girl having her life disrupted by family circumstances.  Different voice actors depict Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness, emotions struggling for control within Headquarters (get it?).  Imagine your editor’s surprise to find that Solar Impulse’s Headquarters reports on its audience’s emotional state as part of the graphics which inform us about the flight’s progress – now in its second night over the North Pacific. Luckily, Andre’ Borschberg is a man of a well-disciplined character, with training in Yoga and self-hypnosis to help him benefit from the 20-minute rest periods that take the place of a normal night’s sleep.  But depending on events in the flight, those of us checking …

Lighter, More Powerful, Cheaper. Can J-CESR Bring Us Better Batteries?

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

$70,000 is a sizable base price for a car.   That sum for the simplest of Tesla S sedans makes a bigger than average debt load for most of us, probably more than most can responsibly assume.   Even the much anticipated model “E” at half that price is more stunning than the average sticker shock these days.  What if, by some act of art or science, that $70,000 could be slashed to $14,000 for an electric vehicle that could travel 265 miles on a charge?  That tall order is the order of the day for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, started two years ago under Dr. Steven Chu, who was then U. S. Secretary of Energy.  He and his …

Solar Ships – A Different Kind of STOL

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

A good many good ideas for aircraft seem to come from good ideas for serving mankind – with many aircraft and performance-enhancing features coming from the humanitarian or missionary world. A particular need for jungle aviation, or bush flying anywhere, is the capability to make short takeoffs and landing s (STOL).  Jungles and mountain passes often present limited options for setting down, and being able to clear trees and pinnacles can be a life-saving necessity. Solar Ship advertises itself as an ultimate means of penetrating the wilderness.  “No roads.  No fuel.  No infrastructure” sounds like a pipe dream, but seems to be heading toward practical reality, with test flights continuing on at least two prototypes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awAAmwpdV70 Jay Godsall, CEO and …

Another Two-Seat Electric Airplane from China

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

China has a second two-seat electric airplane, the Rui Xiang RX1E, a high-wing, side-by-side craft similar to Yuneec’s E430.  Both are cantilever, high-winged configurations, with the Yuneec sporting a V-tail and the RX1E a T-tail.  Besides the difference in alphabetical empennages, perhaps something gets lost in translation, with several news items offering slightly different versions of this story. The English language version of the China News Service calls the RX1E China’s first electric aircraft, although it’s being introduced at least four years after the E430.   Most reports agree that it is designed by the Liaoning General Aviation Institute and that Shenyang Aircraft Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Under the Rui Xiang General name is responsible for manufacturing. Made of carbon fiber composite …

Getting Batteries in Line

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

In another bid to create the much-hoped-for 10X batteries, researchers at North Carolina State University are rolling their own. As noted in many articles, lithium batteries infused with silicon have a bad habit of swelling and contracting as they charge and discharge, pulverizing the silicon eventually.  Depending on the surrounding materials, the destruction can take place fairly quickly, leading to reduced cycle life for the battery. North Carolina scientists are fighting to extend battery life, though, with what they call “A Novel Nano-architecture for Flexible Lithium Ion Battery Electrodes,” part of the title of their paper in the journal Advanced Materials. Many battery electrodes are some form of graphite composite, and the impetus to wrap these anodes or cathodes in …

Dr. Seeley Speaks at AIAA Conference, NASA Dryden

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Dr. Brien Seeley, Founder and President of the CAFE Foundation, has been giving a series of talks at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2013, before a gathering of technical experts at NASA’s Dryden Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force and at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) International Powered Lift Conference in Los Angeles. The International Powered Lift Conference focuses on the latest developments in Vertical or Short Takeoff and Landing (V/STOL) aircraft research, concepts, and programs, something of great interest to CAFE in its development of airplanes capable of using pocket airports. Pocket Airports will require a special type of airplane – electric, according to Dr. Seeley, and capable of taking off with a ground roll of …

A Tea Room in the Sky

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 4 Comments

Richard Glassock is an Australian graduate student and designer working in autonomous aircraft, long-distance sailboats, and a light hybrid power system made from off-the-shelf model aircraft components.  He’s even made a design study of something that would really cause a stir in the world of electric sailplanes. “I just want to send you some pictures of a concept model I’m working on. The idea is for a 6- seat sailplane, I thought about this 10 or 15 years ago when I first started getting to cloudbase in a hang glider. It is a magical world, particularly in an open air type vehicle: wouldn’t it be wonderful to share with friends.  Now it seems to have turned out to be an …