Dr. Seeley Speaks at AIAA Conference, NASA Dryden

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized Leave a Comment

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 90 feet (home plate to first base), able to climb at an angle that would clear the 150-foot Matterhorn at Disneyland by the time it reaches the end of a 420-foot runway, and being nearly inaudible as it crosses the …

Fire Spotting, Fiber Optics and Intelligent Control

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Ikhana, a civilian version of the military’s Predator drone, has been used for years at the NASA Dryden Flight Test Center for a multiplicity of roles.  Beginning in 2006, Ikhana carried onboard sensor systems that spotted and tracked wildfires for ground and air-based firefighters. Ikhana was also used to evaluate advanced sensing technology installed on its wings to improve its efficiency. The sensors incorporated fiber optic sensing technology, and were located side by side with traditional sensors. One NASA researcher noted, “There are 3,000 sensors on Ikhana that are imperceptibly small because they’re located on fibers approximately the diameter of a human hair.” Weight savings on an aircraft with an array of fiber optics would reduce operating costs and improve fuel efficiency, according to NASA.  But these new sensors also “enable adaptive wing shape control.” NASA’s Lance Richards, of Dryden’s Advanced Structures and Measurements Group, says, “’Active wing-shape control represents the gleam in the eye of every aerodynamicist.  If the …

Green Flight Challenge – Days Three and Five

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

As if in answer to the most fervent prayers by CAFE Foundation organizers, Tuesday, September 27 dawned as a bright, windless morning, perfect for the planned 200 -mile aerial trek that each of four teams would undertake in the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google. Each would fly a large, tightly-followed out-and-return loop around the Sonoma Valley, reaching the radio tower array on the peaks north of Geyserville, then returning for one of three passes (the fourth being the descent to land) over the CAFE Foundation hangar at the west end of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.  Each would have to reach at least 4,000 feet at the end of a 17-mile climb and would need to track within one mile on either side of the Challenge course’s centerline.  Pilots would need to stay on the outside edge of turnpoints, but shave their margin to within one-half mile on each pylon-type turn. To help monitor that precise flying, Steve …

Albatross, Dragonflies, and Hummingbirds

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Your editor took a trip to Tehachapi, once home of the infamous California Women’s’ Correctional Institution, mentioned in no less than three 1940’s films noirs.  (It’s now a gray-bar hotel for bad boys, not bad girls.)   Lesser offenses were in mind, though, since Labor Day weekend has been the time for 31 meetings of the Experimental Soaring Association’s Western Workshop.  The group, devoted to improving sailplanes and testing the limits of soaring technology, has been in the forefront of many significant developments, and its members include many record holders and aerodynamics experts. This year’s convocation included talks on birds, dragonflies (the Libelle sailplane), and even a demonstration of Aerovironment’s spy hummingbird, a camera-toting drone no larger than a 90-percentile member of the Trochilidae family. Phil Barnes kicked off the Saturday talks, showing his incredible computer simulations of the dynamic soaring flight of the Albatross, which included an impassioned plea to help preserve this magnificent bird.  He noted that “gyres” of plastic slurry distributed …

Boeing’s PhantomEye Powers Up

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

While AeroVironment’s Global Observer High Altitude Long Endurance aircraft has flown at the NASA Dryden Flight Test Center, Boeing’s PhantomEye HALE is in pieces but undergoing testing prior to being shipped to Dryden.  PhantomEye’s hydrogen-fueled engines are being tested at Santa Clarita, California and airframe parts are being prepared for flight at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri plant.   AeroVironment’s craft has now flown with fuel cells providing electricity to run the four wing-mounted motors.  PhantomEye uses hydrogen stored in eight-foot diameter tanks in its fuselage to directly fuel the twin Ford 2.3-liter modified engines.  At altitude, a three-stage turbocharger will be required to provide air for an efficient fuel burn. Both unmanned aerial vehicles have similar missions, to fly at 65,000 feet for up to a week at a time while providing surveillance, monitoring, and communication for military and civilian applications.

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 flying for up to a week at a time, will alternate coverage over any area on the earth, providing a seamless, persistent platform for high value missions such as communications relay, remote sensing, long-term surveillance and border patrol. Offering greater …

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] range, or six days at 6,000nm. Three such air vehicles would be able to maintain continuous surveillance anywhere on Earth, [Boeing Phantom Works’ Keith] Monteith says, for a dramatic reduction in cost compared with today’s 24- to 36h-endurance UAVs.” With …

Boeing SolarEagle – The Five-Year Flyer

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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 1,000 pounds, two-and-a-half times that of the Boeing PhantomEye or Aerovironment Global Observer currently being tested.  With increasing miniaturization of electronics, such a craft could carry out multiple military and/or civilian missions simultaneously. According to Defense Update, an online resource, …

HALE Another: AeroVironment’s Global Observer

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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 operations; and aerial imaging and mapping for commercial and environmental monitoring, agriculture crop management and harvesting optimization.” The airplane’s cruising altitude and “field of view” place it between smaller, tactical reconnaissance craft and satellites. It’s 175-foot wingspan, large cargo pod …