Ampaire’s Second Electric Eel Sets Record

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

There are now two Ampaire electric EELs* flying, courtesy of Ampaire Aviation.  The second test vehicle recently set a world record, staying in the air for two hours and 32 minutes, covering 341 miles at an average speed of “around 135 mph.” A six-seat Cessna 337 “Skymaster,” the “push-pull” twin has been modified by Ampaire “with an electric motor in the nose and traditional [internal] combustion engine in the rear.  The paired powerplants act as a parallel hybrid, both electric and ICE units providing thrust simultaneously. Ampaire flew an electric-and-gas-powered Cessna 337 this year. With assistance from Ikhana, a modification and conversion specialist,  Ampaire replaced the 337’s rear engine (which drives a pusher prop) with an electric propulsion system, leaving …

Greeting the New Year with Hope

Dean Sigler Announcements, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Two Videos to Ponder We’re not there yet, in the land of flying cars and even motorcycles.  But we do have some pretty good images of where we are and where we might be headed.   CNBC produced some pretty thoughtful and well-researched pieces on a major problem plaguing all of us who live within bumper distance of one another – and some plausible solutions.  Both videos touch on urban air mobility. How Much Do Traffic Jams Cost the U. S. Economy? Gridlock, traffic jams and delay – they all frustrate us daily if we live in a big city.  They take away from family time, pollute the air, and drive us to distraction.  This video ends with an optimistic take …

Dante AeroNautical Distributes Power

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

In a dramatic rendering, Dante AeroNautical shows its DAX-19, a regional airliner that will distribute power along its wings, much like NASA’s X-57 Maxwell.  Dante describes the craft as representing, “The regional electric air travel of the future.” (In Dante’s web site, the triangle in place of the conventional “a” is the alchemical symbol for fire, or a clever marketing type’s attempt to draw our attention.) Helmut Penner, writing in Cockpit magazine, gives us the following: “Typically, small airlines make their aircraft purchases from major manufacturers, including the still-young Spanish low-cost airline Voltea, which operates 14 A319s and 17 Boeing 717s. But now [the company] is aiming for an ambitious project with the Dante AeroNautical, which is also based in …

A L.E.A.P. Forward for Electro.Aero

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

Heady Ambitions Joshua Portlock, Co-founder, Director and Chief Technology Officer for Electro.Aero in Perth, Australia, has a heady set of ambitions.  He and Rob Belaga presented a simple electric vertical takeoff and landing machine, FlyKart, at two different symposia in northern California two years ago, and presented a refined version for the Boeing GoFly competition shortly thereafter.  They’ve made it to the finals of the $2,000,000 contest and will be in the February, 2020 flyoff. In the meantime, he’s started a flight training program using Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro trainer, and is partnering with an almost bewildering  set of industry, government and academic leaders, including Ampaire, Bye Aerospace, E/S/Aero, NASA, Pipistrel, University of Western Australia, and Zero Emissions Vehicles Australia.  Joshua …

Alaka’i Skai Levitates on Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Hydrogen Fuel, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Alaka’I is Hawaiian for “the value of leadership” according to an island management consulting firm.  The word and the company have found a home in Boston, Massachusetts, where they look over the Alaka’i Skai, a hydrogen-powered sky taxi that will offer “point-to-any-point transportation that [is] safe, simple, zero-emissions, affordable and comfortable.” Alala’i, founded by Brian Morrison, adds a hydrogen fuel cell hybrid-electric craft to the eVTOL market with a design by BMW-owned Designworks.    From above, it looks a bit like a water-skipper, probably an apt look considering its fuel.  Alaka’i emphasizes three points in its sales literature: simplicity, safety and the cleanness of its fuel and operation. With several patents supporting the aircraft the machine supports its creators’ backgrounds, including …

Sailplane-Like Boeing Cruises on SUGAR

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Boeing has sustained a decade-long program to develop aircraft that reduce the use of fossil fuels or eliminate it altogether.  SUGAR (Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research) program designers have resorted to configurations that were a part of early high-performance sailplanes, those craft that soar on the energy of the very air around them. Sailplane designers know that longer wings give a lower span loading: the weight of the airplane and its payload is spread over a greater span.  On powered craft, low span loadings give greater rate of climb for the same power and enable throttling back to get the same cruise speeds.  Longer spans usually lead to heavier structures, though.  Spars end up weighing more and wings are subject …

NASA Freely Shares X57 Lessons

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

NASA and several partner firms have been working on the X-57 Maxwell electric propulsion demonstrator for the past several years.  It hasn’t been as easy as it looked at first.  Encouragingly, NASA is sharing some of the hard lessons it has learned in the process, much like Elon Musk sharing many of his patents with the world. One of the hardest lessons involved the multiple battery packs, originally planned to be off-the-shelf units.  A December 2016 test resulted in a thermal runaway, a situation in which one cell that overheats can self-destruct and cause adjacent cells to follow suit.  This, as we’ve seen in Dreamliner incidents, can be dangerous and potentially deadly.  Such fires are exceedingly well reported, with any Tesla …

Doing More with Less – BLI on a Big Scale

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Hybrid and electric cars sell because they lower operating costs for the owner.  Designers and manufacturers sort out ways to increase efficiency, including streamlining, using low-rolling-resistance tires, and making structures lighter.  An added technology, boundary layer ingestion (BLI) may add to aircraft efficiency. NASA and industry leaders are working on equivalent solutions for aircraft, and airplanes will end up as different from today’s designs as Toyota Priuses and BMW i3s are from Ford Falcons or Chevrolet Corvettes.  NASA proclaims, “An aviation renaissance, one focused on energy efficiency and economic impact, is on the horizon, and it’s changing how engineers look at aircraft power and design.” Jim Heidmann, a manager of NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology Project (AATT), says, “I feel we …

An Image of the Future at the 2017 Sustainable Aviation Symposium

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

The Seeleys and SA board members did themselves proud for this year’s Sustainable Aviation Symposium.  Your editor visited the grand ballroom in the San Francisco Bay Pullman Hotel the night before the meeting was to take place.  All the tables, chairs and stage were in place, but the room was otherwise bare.  Early next morning, your editor trudged downstairs again, to be met with an astonishing sight.  At the back of the ballroom, a pair of exotic geometric shapes glowed in blue and green lighting.  Somehow, a 50-foot wing and substantial streamlined shape had materialized overnight.  Already, attendees were peering up at the extremely twisted tips of the wings and trying to analyze what they saw before them. Aspirational Geometries …

CubeSats, Airplanes Made of Batteries?

Dean Sigler Batteries, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dr. Luke Roberson, Dr. Ryan Karkkainen, and Dr. Xiangyang Zhou are now collaborating on “Creating a structural battery material [that] could revolutionize the way NASA operates small payloads.”  Batteries now take up 20 to 35 percent of the volume in some CubeSats, 10 centimeters (3.97 inches) ×10 cm. × 11.35 cm (4.47 inches) cubes, as the name implies.  Each CubeSat can weight up to 1.33 kilograms (2.93 pounds). Normally made of aluminum, CubeSats carry batteries for communication, storing energy collected from solar cells on their host vehicles, or powering sensors, cameras, and providing environmental norms for science experiments they carry.  Obviously, their small size dictates using every square centimeter wisely.  Replacing their inert walls with a structural battery could free …