NASA Tests Pipistrel Systems To Aid Electric X-plane Program

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, GFC, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Taja Boscarol of Pipistrel in Slovenia relays the information that NASA has tested Pipistrel’s electric propulsion system as part of its electric flight research for the X-57 program.  It would seem reasonable to start by checking out Pipistrel’s well-tested motor package, one of the few that comes with fully-matched controller, batteries, and ancillary gear. NASA performed its tests on its 13.5-foot Airvolt stand at the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.  Heavily instrumented, the Airvolt stand collects data through “high-fidelity sensors,” and transmits the collected information to a data acquisition unit that processes, records, and filters the measurements.  NASA and Pipistrel should be able to make good use of this data. Normally installed on the Taurus …

EAS IX: JoeBen Pulls off a Hat Trick

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

JoeBen Bevirt, founder and head of Joby Aviation and Joby Motors , is obviously a workaholic, and not only gave a talk at EAS IX, but had an example of his Lotus unpiloted aerial vehicle at the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) conference in Atlanta, Georgia on the same weekend. Two weeks before that, his demonstration wing for the LEAPTech program was speeding across the desert at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC), Edwards Air Force Base in California. JoeBen told Symposium attendees all about his S2 personal aerial commuter and LEAPTech, a joint development with NASA. Part of the LEAPTech program has included building a truck platform for testing the 18-motor wing.  This is a fascinating bit of engineering …

Could This Be the Ford Bi-Motor?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The original Ford Tri-Motor had a body by Ford and three Pratt & Whitney radial engines arrayed across its nose and wings.  The Phantom Eye has a body by Boeing, and two 2.3-liter Ford engines fueled by the hydrogen the airplane carries in its bulbous fuselage. It first flew last June, but hit a snag on landing, or at least dug in and twisted a landing skid, rendering it inoperable until this year. Boeing performed software and hardware upgrades, including strengthening the landing gear.  Its second flight was a big success with a successful landing – a great one even, since the airplane is reuseable.  This is particularly helpful for Boeing, which funded the project out of its own pocket. …

Phantom Eye Flies, Breaks a Leg

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Boeing’s Phantom Eye, hydrogen-powered HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) surveillance aircraft rose from its launch cart at 6:22 a.m. Pacific time on June 1, then climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet on its 28 minute maiden flight. Phantom Eye is meant to be an autonomous craft with four-day mission capabilities.  The bulbous front fuselage houses two spherical hydrogen tanks that feed the Ford 2.3 liter engines on the 150-foot, high-aspect ratio wings.  The engines, triple turbocharged at altitude, emit only water vapor, making spying a little cleaner. Note the web-like spinning of carbon fiber strands making up the fuselage.  This highly-automated manufacturing process probably emulates that used on the company’s 787 Dreamliner and reflects the high-technology methods we can …

Flying High on Hydrogen

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AeroVironment announced that their Global Observer™ reached an altitude of 5,000 feet (mean sea level) over Edwards Air Force Base and stayed up for four hours – all on its hydrogen-powered electric motors.  Having made its first flights last August and September on battery power, the Global Observer on January 11, 2011 successfully demonstrated the system that will allow it to stay airborne for up to a week at a time, staying on station at 65,000 feet. This ability to maintain “persistent” communications and surveillance enables to the Global Observer to be flown in from areas remote from a combat theater or natural disaster location, and to uninterrupted observation of the situation.  AeroVironment claims that, “Two Global Observer aircraft, each …

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] …

Boeing SolarEagle – The Five-Year Flyer

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Whether ferreting out insurgents in Afghanistan or monitoring agricultural trends in America, the ability to stay overhead and continue in a mission is of great importance for an aircraft providing aerial intelligence. Our recent stories about 200-foot span, hybrid electric HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) aircraft being tested at NASA Dryden Test Flight Center at Edwards Air Force Base showed a pair of large aircraft with the ability to stay up for a week, a persistence of overhead vision that is astonishing.  Now Boeing has announced a bigger, wildly more persistent vehicle, the SolarEagle, 435 feet in span, capable of floating around at 60,000 feet on solar/electric power for five years.  The 6,000 pound airframe can carry a payload of …

HALE Another: AeroVironment’s Global Observer

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

We reported last month on Boeing’s High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, the Phantom Eye.  Now AeroVironment’s similar HALE, the Global Observer, is undergoing initial flight testing at NASA Dryden Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Meant to provide “persistent” communications and remote sensing capabiliies for military or civilian applications, the less-than-10,000-pound Global Observer can carry 400-pound payloads to 65,000 feet and stay there for a week on its four electric motors, which resemble larger versions of  the Astro-Flight motors used on Helios, Pathfinder, and other AeroVironment craft. Missions, according to the firm, include “low cost, rapidly deployable telecommunications infrastructure and GPS augmentation; hurricane and storm tracking, weather monitoring, wildfire detection, and sustained support for relief …