Sky Taxis, Eviation Featured on TV News

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60 Minutes and The Today Show have recently featured sky taxis and future electric airliners on their broadcasts.  This is big news in that such transport is getting recognition in popular media, and even somewhat of a fair hearing.  Even though references to the Jetsons are common in such reports, both these excursions seemed to be less wide-eyed, biased, and skeptical than most. Lift Hexa Although LIFT’s Hexa is featured prominently in publicity for the show, Wisk’s CEO is featured in this promotional piece.  “We’re excited to share that we’ll be on this weekend’s episode of @60Minutes on @cbstv! Be sure to tune in as our CEO, Gary Gysin, sits down with @AndersonCooper to talk about the future of #mobility!” …

Multicopters Growing Wings

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eHang and Volocopter are growing wings on their eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) craft.  It’s a demonstrable fact that fixed wing aircraft usually have great range and endurance than rotary wing aircraft.  What if we combine the best of multicopter utility and fixed wing range? Electric multicopters are usually short-range vehicles that have a possible future in urban skies (although Joby has demonstrated over 150 mile flights).  The requirement that they lift off from buildings or constrained areas contributes to their short range.  Hauling all those batteries and passengers is a near-full power exercise every time, with reserve power enabling climbs to low-altitude city crossings. Proposed longer-range sky taxis from two makers are sprouting wings.  eHang and Volocopter …

An Italian Hybrid Seagull

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An Italian trimaran light seaplane has many interesting features.  From its hybrid power system to its unique patented folding wings, the Novotech Seagull showcases innovation. Professor Leonardo Lecce has taught aeronautical structures and aerospace construction and maintenance practices at the Federico II University in Naples. Why the choice to limit the craft to marine operations only?  La Republic explains Seagull “allows two people to fly from any coastal location to another, doing without hydroscales and hydroports now non-existent, thanks to a revolutionary technology already patented, of an automated system folding of the wings that allows once moored (landing at sea), to reach and dock in any quay or dock. But also to bring this aircraft ashore in the garages as …

Textron Acquires Pipistrel: A Good Thing?

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Textron acquires Pipistrel – just another merger?  An age-old cartoon shows ever-bigger fish gobbling up smaller fish, a kind of allegory for capitalist, competitive markets, perhaps.  In the electric flight world, this acquisitive spirit is exemplified by the news that Textron, “home to Cessna, Beechcraft, and Bell aviation brands,” is purchasing the smaller Slovenian firm Pipistel.  Pipistrel has grown from humble origins producing powered hang gliders to its current status as a major supplier of small training aircraft,  electric motor gliders and trainers and cargo vehicles. What might be great joy for Ivo Boscarol, founder and CEO of Pipistrel, comes with varying degrees of happiness and concern for others.  Boscarol will remain as Chairman Emeritus and minority stockholder for the …

Gogoro Goes Solid State

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Gogoro, a Taiwan-based scooter and battery system, has added solid state chemistry to its swappable batteries.  This increases the stored energy in each 9 kilogram (19.8 pound) pack from 1.7 kilowatt-hours of the current liquid electrolyte to 2.5 kWhr.  These packs are light enough for a small woman to handle, as shown in Gogoro’s promotional videos. Growing GoStations Swapping batteries on Gogoro’s own scooters is quick and convenient, with over “10,000 battery-swapping GoStations at over 2,300 locations,” by the firm’s own count.  They serve over 450,000 riders with over 340,000 daily swaps.  Powering 95-percent of all electric two-wheel scooters on the island nation, they’ve “hosted” more than 260,000,000 total battery swaps to date.  Gogoro boasts their “Network subscribers have swapped …

Wright Electric’s 8-Year Plan

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Jeffrey Engler has headed up Wright Electric for the last decade, working to provide efficient motors, inverters and overall power systems for airliners.  Now, his firm is working to develop those airliners.  From a startup in 2016, looking for a single-engine light aircraft to convert to hybrid power, Jeffrey has grown Wright to a recognized force in future flight.  Presenting a mission statement and schedule for the next eight years, Wright has ambitious, but reasonable plans. Currently, Wright is testing a two megawatt motor and inverter, “Collaborating with NASA, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of Defense.”  Testing will continue through 2023. The firm predicts it will be flying its Wright Spirit between the busiest “city-pairs” in the world …

Pratt & Whitney HySIITE Hydrogen and Steam Engine

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A (Partially) Steam Engine in the Sky?  Pratt & Whitney announces that it, “Has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to develop novel, high-efficiency hydrogen-fueled propulsion technology for commercial aviation, as part of DoE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).” Their press release continues, “The Hydrogen Steam Injected, Inter‐Cooled Turbine Engine (HySIITE) project will use liquid hydrogen combustion and water vapor recovery to achieve zero in-flight CO2 emissions, while reducing nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 80 percent and reducing fuel consumption by up to 35 percent for next generation single-aisle aircraft.” P&W claims their HySIITE engine’s steam injection will “dramatically reduce” nitrogen oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas.  “The semi-closed system architecture is claimed to have thermal efficiency …

Airbus and CFM: Flying on Hydrogen Power by 2035

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Airbus and engine maker CFM International have signed a partnership agreement on a hydrogen demonstration program that could see commercial flights by 2035.  CFM is a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines. The team announced its intentions in an hour-long introduction on February 22, with members from the companies explaining the goals of the project.  A view of what they intend to do with Airbus 380 serial number one gives a view inside the cavernous craft. As pointed out in a Green Car Congress article, the main objective is to develop and flight test a direct combustion engine fueled by liquid hydrogen. The Biggest Test Bed ZeroAvia seeks to get a 20-passenger liner in flight by 2024 …

Amprius Ships 450 Watt-hour per Kilogram Batteries

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Your editor’s first outing at an electric aircraft symposium was in 2009.  At that meeting, Dr. Yi Cui, Stanford professor and battery expert, talked about silicon and its energy density being so much greater than that for graphite.  He predicted huge advances for battery chemistry – and now he’s delivering.  His firm, Amprius, is shipping 450 Watt-hour per kilogram batteries.  Unlike many such companies, Amprius is not projecting these numbers several years out, but delivering now. According to their February 8 press release, Amprius sent its first batch of the energy-dense cells, “…To an industry leader of a new generation of High-Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS).”  Your editor guesses that leader is Zephyr, acquired by Airbus and setting endurance records on …

Electron’s 2024 Round the World Plans

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Teofilo Leite has been refining a beautiful twin-motor glider for the last decade.  Apparently he’s moving on to a five-seat, four-motor, dual-propeller beauty that is set to take on the world.  The Electron 5 looks a great deal like a larger Electron 2, which has been flying in various configurations for the last decade. Electron Aviation, with representatives in The Netherlands and Australia states, “Our Electron 2, a two-seater battery-electric aircraft (Teofilo’s earlier design), is the flying proof that our energy efficient aircraft designs deliver outstanding performance. Whilst being well within inside the 600-kilogram (1,320 pound) ultralight microlight [regulations], it achieves 3 hours flying time during which it can cover 300 kilometers (186 miles).”  Electron 2 flies its pilot and …