Facebook Unveils a Very Big, Very Light Electric Flying Wing

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is intent on providing at least basic Internet services to everyone in the world, even if means creating his own air force to accomplish that lofty goal. March 27, 2014, he shared his overall plan, including a large fleet of airplanes that would loiter in the stratosphere, beaming high-speed Internet connections to one and all. Just a few days ago, Zuckerberg announced the completion of the first full-scale aircraft for this grand plan, the Aquila.  Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs in at around 400 kilograms (880 pounds).  Apparently built in England by his recently acquired team of aeronautical experts, Aquila will be able to stay in the air for months at a …

Whistling at High Frequencies in the Dark

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The same millimeter wave-length scanning that sees through your clothes at TSA’s very personal pre-flight inspections in airports could also provide a new type of heads-up display for pilots.  With an ability to distinguish power lines and other finely-resolved images in otherwise total visual blackouts, the technology could find a place in navigation, searches, and even private flying.  A few drawbacks stand in the way, however. Extremely high frequency MMW devices sense objects at a range just below that of the lowest frequency infrared light.  The high frequency allows a high level of discrimination in imaging. Used in automobiles for applications such as radar braking and adaptive cruise control, the potential for adapting such devices to weather flying is promising.  …

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 …

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 …

QinetiQ Lands After 14 Days Aloft

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

QinetiQ, a British aerospace manufacturer, launched its unmanned, solar-powered twin-motored aircaft from the Yuma, Arizona Proving Grounds on July 9, 2010 and landed it today, July 24. According to QinetiQ’s press release, ” Zephyr successfully landed after 14 days (336 hours) and 21 minutes flying over Arizona and is now awaiting official confirmation of its world record status.” “An official from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the world air sports federation, has been monitoring progress at the Yuma Proving Ground and when Zephyr is back on the ground he looks set to be able to confirm a number of new world records. This includes quadrupling its own unofficial world record for longest duration unmanned flight (82 hours, 37 minutes set in 2008) …

QinetiQ Zephyr Breaks Official Record for Solar-Powered Endurance

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

According to BBC News and GlobalFlight.com, QinetiQ’s Zephyr, a 22.5 meter (72 feet) unmanned, solar-powered aircraft has been in the air for more than a week over the Yuma, Arizona Proving Grounds, and program managers intend to keep it there for a total time of at least fourteen days.  Having flown since 6:40 a.m. July 9, its endurance is now four times that of any other unmanned aerial vehicle.   A US Global Hawk holds the current official world endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of 30 hours, 24 minutes.  Zephyr’s record is being certified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world air sports federation. Jon Saltmarsh, Zephyr’s project manager, says the craft, “Is basically the first ‘eternal aircraft,’”  a name once given to …