Keeping a UAV Aloft for 48 Hours – On Laser Power

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive recently managed to keep a drone, the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), flying for 48 hours on a laser-guided recharging system.  Its on-board batteries can maintain flight for two hours, so the demonstration improves endurance by 2,400 percent. Your editor admits to possibly over-healthy skepticism regarding transmittal of power to aircraft, remembering early NASA demonstrations that were noisy and more lightning-like than focused.  LaserMotive’s technology seems to overcome these objections. Stalker is described by Lockheed-Martin as “a small, silent UAS used by Special Operations Forces since 2006 to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.”  The miniature plane  weighs a little over six kilograms (13.2 pounds) and has a wing span of three meters (9.84 feet).  As shown …

Algae Biofuels Producers, NASA Combine Forces

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

OriginOil and Algasol are two algae–to-oil producers who’ve joined forces to cultivate and harvest micro algae that can perhaps “reach a tipping point and compete with petroleum.” Algasol’s process perhaps most closely resembles that shown by NASA scientist Dr. Johnathan Trent, which he presented at the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium.  His OMEGA, “Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae” relies on water motion and sunlight to churn treated wastewater that otherwise would be literally dumped into the ocean into a refineable algae.  Waste CO2 can also be used to generate algae, another “two-fer” that would clean up the environment while providing a literally green fuel source. In their joint press release, the two firms explain, “Algasol’s floating bags or photobioreactors …

Pipistrel G4 Nominated for Collier Trophy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Taja Boscarol, Public Relations Manager for Pipistrel, sends this news today: “The Pipistrel Taurus G4, world’s first 4-seat electric aircraft, was nominated for the prestigious Collier Trophy. “The Collier Trophy, the ‘Greatest Award in Aviation,’ has been the benchmark of aviation and aerospace achievement for over 100 years.  Awarded annually, ‘…for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America,’ it has been bestowed upon some of the most important projects, programs, individuals, and accomplishments in our nation’s history.” Collier-winning individuals have included the crews of Apollo 11 and 8, Mercury 7, Scott Crossfield, Elmer Sperry and Howard Hughes.  Projects and Programs have included the B-52, Polaris Missile, Surveyor Moon Landing Program, Boeing 747, Cessna Citation, Gulfstream V, the F-22 …

Concentrating Sunlight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The promise of solar energy is that, for all practical purposes, solar energy is unlimited and eternal (if the sun goes away, we go away).  Despite this, only four percent of the world’s energy needs are supplied by solar resources today.  Part of this is the relatively high cost of solar cells, their limited efficiency, and sometimes limited lifespans, which makes expensive replacements a regular necessity. The total amount of solar energy striking the earth is a strikingly high figure, something in the way of terajoules, according to one site.  About 1,000 Watts of energy hit every square meter of the earth’s surface, varying by the angle at which the surface is tilted relative to the parallel rays from the …

How Green was GFC Electricity?

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

The blog received several comments about the relative energy use of electric aircraft, and how NASA and the CAFE Foundation might have overstated the efficiency and low emissions for the electric aircraft in the competition. Reader Robert Swanson thought the conversion between kilowatt hours and gasoline created a discrepancy. “The discrepancy in performance of gasoline and electric powered aircraft is due to an absurd conversion factor between kWh and gallons of gasoline.  The conversion should be calculated from the number of gallons of gasoline consumed by the engine driving the generator used to charge the batteries.” Steven Crow added this objection.  “Even after reading the relevant pdf’s, it is far from clear to me how CAFE computed ‘mileage’ for the …

NASA Adds Some Numbers to Green Flight Challenge

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

NASA’s Mark Moore sends this link to NASA’s press release on the recent NASA Centennial Challenge Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google.  The CAFE Foundation organized and managed the event. “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.” – Chief technologist at NASA Joe Parrish. The lead quote is informative, as are some figures from the release.  “The competition resulted in the world’s most efficient aircraft, beating the state of the art of approximately 100 pmpg (passenger miles per gallon) which is achieved by the newly released Boeing 787 airliner.  Essentially this contest showed the ability of small aircraft to achieve twice the efficiency of the most efficient production automobiles today, …

AVweb Readers Weigh In on Electric Aircraft, Green Flight Challenge

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Mary Grady of AVweb started an expanding dialogue with her recent opinion piece on NASA and the CAFE Foundation’s Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google.   The stimulating and varied points of view reflect what is probably floating around in the general public’s perception of “green aviation,” ranging from total ignorance of what has been done already, to confusion about what it all means, to well-honed, technically aware arguments on both sides of the issue. Her thought that electrification is, “the first step down a long and bumpy road that could take general aviation in new directions,” was reinforced with the following reflections that might be similar to those that readers of this blog often experience. “For people who fly for …

Green Flight Challenge – Day One

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation

  Sunday, September 25 marked the kickoff of the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google, a NASA Centennial Challenge managed by the CAFE Foundation, with a thorough technical inspection for each entrant, followed by a weigh-in.  Held at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, the event is an event of international importance, despite the small turnout. With only four entrants making an appearance out of the original 13 that had announced and made it through the rigorous design review, there might be cause for disappointment. Consider, though, the Berblinger competition held in April at the Aero Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany. 36 teams signed up, 24 made it to the Expo, 13 started the course and eight finished. The GFC has a comparable start-finish …

The G4 Gets Off the Grass

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Pipistrel had a good week at Oshkosh.  Shortly after its G4 placed ninth in the Dead Grass Awards, an indication of the number of spectators who tramped around the perimeter of the displayed aircraft,  the company could announce the first test flight of the four-seat electric motorglider. “We are pleased to announce that after long and demanding work nearly of a nearly 30-member team of developers and constructors from Pipistrel’s R & D Institute the first 4-seat electric aircraft in the world took off this morning [August 12, 2011] at 7 AM local time.” Pipistrel overcame several difficulties in achieving this milestone.  Developing the electric power system, the most powerful currently in an aircraft, and importing the 450 pounds of …

Google to Sponsor Green Flight Challenge

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

Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google to bring historic firsts to aviation Aviation’s largest ever prize to be awarded at Moffett Field October 3 during exposition hosted by NASA SANTA ROSA, CA (July 29, 2011) – The CAFE Foundation announced today that Google will sponsor the NASA Centennial Challenge flight competition known as the Green Flight Challenge (GFC). CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) will conduct the event from September 25 through October 2, 2011 at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.  The NASA-funded prize purse of $1.65M makes this the largest ever prize for aviation.  Competing aircraft must demonstrate at least 100 mph and 200 passenger MPG on a 200 mile flight.  The aircraft in the Green Flight Challenge sponsored …