RETURN OF X-PLANES

April 22, 2017


In the April 2017 issue of “Machine Design” a fascinating article entitled “NASA’S Green Thumb for Green Aviation” was presented. This article was written by Carlos M. Gonzales and encouraged me to explore, at least through NASA’s web site, the status of their “X-Plane” program.  Aviation is definitely a growth industry. Millions upon millions of individuals travel each year for business, recreation, and tourism.  There is no doubt that aviation is the “Greyhound Bus” for the twenty-first century.

The aviation system is the high-speed transportation backbone of the United States and global economies. Global aviation is forecast to grow from today’s three point five (3.5) billion passenger trips per year to seven (7) billion passenger trips by the mid- 2030s, and to eleven (11) billion passenger trips by mid-century. Such growth brings with it the direct economic potential of trillions of dollars in the fields of manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the high-quality jobs they support.

At the same time, international competition for leadership of this critical industry is growing, as more nations invest in developing their own aviation technology and industrial capabilities. Such massive growth also creates substantial operational and environmental challenges. For example, by mid-century the aviation industry will need to build and fly enough new aircraft to accommodate more than three times as many passenger trips while at the same time reducing total emissions by half from that new hardware. Moreover, large reductions in emissions and aircraft noise levels will be needed, if not mandated. To meet those demands, revolutionary levels of aircraft performance improvements – well beyond today’s technology – must be achieved. In terms of air traffic control and the National Airspace System, maintaining safe and efficient operations is a continuing and growing challenge as the system expands, and especially as new business and operational models – such as unmanned aerial systems – are introduced. Enabling aircraft (with pilots aboard or not) to fly optimized trajectories through high density airspace with real-time, systemwide safety assurance are among the most critical operational improvements that must be achieved.

In looking at global growth, we see the following:

These numbers would be very frightening without the aviation industry deciding to be pro-active relative to the sheer numbers of passenger miles anticipated over the next two decades.  That’s where NASA comes in.

NEW AVIATION HORIZONS:

In FY 2017, NASA plans to begin a major ten-year research effort to accelerate aviation energy efficiency, transform propulsion systems, and enable major improvements in air traffic mobility. The centerpiece of NASA’s ten-year acceleration for advanced technologies testing is called New Aviation Horizons, or NAH. It is an ambitious plan to build a series of five mostly large-scale experimental aircraft – X-planes – that will flight test new technologies, systems and novel aircraft and engine configurations. X-planes are a key piece of the “three-legged stool” that characterizes aviation research.

  • One leg represents computational capabilities – the high-speed super computers that can model the physics of air flowing over an object – be it a wing, a rudder or a full airplane.
  • A second leg represents experimental methods. This is where scientists put what is most often a scale model of an object or part of an object – be it a wing, a rudder or an airplane – in a wind tunnel to take measurements of air flowing over the object. These measurements help improve the computer model, and the computer model helps inform improvements to the airplane design, which can then be tested again in the wind tunnel.
  • The third leg of the stool is to actually fly the design. Whether it’s flying an X-plane or a full-scale prototype of a new aircraft, the data recorded in actual flight can be used to validate and improve the computational and experimental methods used to develop the design in the first place. This third leg makes it possible to lower the risk enough to completely trust what the numbers are saying.

With NAH, NASA will:

  • Demonstrate revolutionary advancements in aircraft and engine configurations that break the mold of traditional tube and wing designs.
  • Support accelerated delivery to the U.S. aviation community of advanced verified design and analysis tools that support new flight-validated concepts, systems and technologies.
  • Provide to appropriate organizations and agencies research results that inform their work to update domestic and international aviation standards and regulations.
  • Enable U.S. industry to put into service flight-proven transformative technology that will solve tomorrow’s global aviation challenges.
  • Inspire a new generation of aeronautical innovators and equip them to engineer future aviation systems. Of the five X-planes, NASA has determined that three subsonic aircraft will be enough to span the range of possible configurations necessary to demonstrate in flight the major enabling fuel, emissions and noise reducing technologies.

The graphic below indicates possible designs for aircraft of the future.  All of these craft are now on the drawing board with computational prototyping underway.

INDUSTRY:

U.S. industry plays an integral role in the NAH initiative, leading the design, development and building of all X-planes under contract to NASA. Industry will be a research partner in the ground test and analysis, as well as the flight tests of the X-planes. Industry also partners in the advancement of the physics-based design and analysis capabilities. Through the lead and partnering roles, U.S. industry will be fully capable of confidently taking the next steps in commercializing the transformational configurations and technologies. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has already been awarded a preliminary design contract for the Quiet Supersonic Technology demonstrator. As indicated in a white paper published by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The U.S. government must support robust, long-term Federal civil aeronautics research and technology initiatives funded at a level that will ensure U.S. leadership in aeronautics. Congress should support NASA’s ten-year Strategic Implementation Plan at least at the levels recommended in the fiscal year 2017 NASA Budget request to sustain a strong economy, maintain a skilled workforce, support national security, and drive a world-class educational system.”

UNIVERSITIES:

NASA has already launched the University Leadership Initiative, which provides U.S.-based universities the opportunity to take full independent leadership in defining and solving key technical challenges aligned with the NASA Aeronautics strategy. Solicitations and proposals are managed through the NASA Research Announcement process; the first round of awards will be made in Fall 2016. These awards could lead to new experiments that would fly onboard one or more X-planes. In addition, NASA is formulating new mechanisms for direct university and student participation in the X-plane design, development and flight test process. The objective is to ensure U.S. universities remain the leading global institutions for aviation research and education, and to ensure the next generation workforce has the vision and skills needed to lead aviation system transformation.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS:

As mentioned above, NASA, industry and universities have already begun looking at possible configurations.  The most promising on-going programs are given below.

As you can see, the designs are absolutely striking and “doable” relative to existing technology.  The key goals are to:

  • Produce environmentally sound or “GREEN” designs lessening air pollution.
  • Create better fuel usage and conservation.
  • Extend flight range
  • Structure designs so minimal airport alternations will be necessary
  • Improve passenger experience

Tall orders but keep in mind NASA got us to the moon and back.  Why do we feel they will not be able to meet the goals indicated?  As always, I welcome your comments.

THE BONE YARD

January 24, 2017


I entered the Air Force in 1966 and served until 1970.  I had the great fortune of working for the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) headquartered out of Write Patterson Air Force Base in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our biggest “customer” was the Strategic Air Force Commend or SAC.  SAC was responsible for all  ICBMs our country had in its inventory.  My job was project engineer in a section that supported the Titan II Missile, specifically the thrust chamber and turbopumps.  I interfaced with Martian, Aerojet General, Raytheon, and many other great vendors supporting the weapons system.   Weapons were located at the following sites:

  • 308 Missile Wing—Little Rock Air Force Base
  • 381 Missile Wing—McConnel Air Force Base
  • 390 Missile Wing—Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
  • 395 Strategic Missile Squadron—Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Little Rock, McConnel, and Davis-Monthan each had two squadrons or eighteen (18) per site.  There were fifty-five (55) operational Titan II missiles in the SAC inventory, each having atomic war heads.  This, by the way, was also the missile that launched the Gemini astronauts.

During my four years in AFLC, I had an opportunity to visit Little Rock AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB for brief TDY (temporary duty assignments). Each time the “mission” was to oversee re-assembly of turbopumps that had been repaired or updated. The seals between the turbopumps and the thrust chamber were absolutely critical and had to be perfectly flat to avoid leakage during liftoff.  Metrology equipment was employed to insure the flatness needed prior to installation.  It was a real process with page after page of instruction.

An underground missile silo is a remarkable piece of engineering.  A city underground—living quarters, kitchen, adequate medical facilities, communication section, elevators, etc.  You get the picture.   All of the Titan II sites were decommissioned as a result of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) during the mid 1980s.

OK, with that being said, one remarkable area located at Davis-Monthan AFB is the “resting place” for many, if not most aircraft that are no longer in the operational inventory.  This is where they go to retire.  While at Davis-Monthan, I had an opportunity to visit the boneyard and it was a real “trip”.

THE BONEYARD:

Davis-Monthan AFB’s role in the storage of military aircraft began after World War II, and continues today. It has evolved into “the largest aircraft boneyard in the world”.

With the area’s low humidity– ten to twenty percent (10%-20%) range, meager rainfall of eleven inches (11″) annually, hard alkaline soil, and high altitude of 2,550 feet, Davis-Monthan is the logical choice for a major storage facility.  Aircraft are there for cannibalization of parts or storage for further use.

In 1965, the Department of Defense decided to close its Litchfield Park storage facility in Phoenix, and consolidate the Navy’s surplus air fleet into Davis-Monthan. Along with this move, the name of the 2704th Air Force Storage and Disposition Group was changed to Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) to better reflect its joint services mission.

In early 1965, aircraft from Litchfield Park began the move from Phoenix to Tucson, mostly moved by truck, a cheaper alternative than removing planes from their protective coverings, flying them, and protecting them again.

The last Air Force B-47 jet bomber was retired at the end of 1969 and the entire fleet was dismantled at D-M except for thirty (30) Stratojets, which were saved for display in air museums.  In 1085, the facilities’ name was changed again, from MASDC to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) as outdated ICBM missiles also entered storage at Davis-Monthan.  In the 1990s, 365 surplus B-52 bombers were dismantled at the facility.

AMARG:

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), or Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, MASDC, and was established after World War II as the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group.

AMARG takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. An Air Force Materiel Command unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Air Force BaseUtah. (NOTE:  My time in AFLC was spent at Hill Air Force Base.  I was specifically assigned to the Ogden Air Material Area or OAMA.)  AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.

In the 1980s, the center began processing ICBMs for dismantling or reuse in satellite launches, and was renamed the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) to reflect the expanded focus on all aerospace assets.  A map of the boneyard may be seen below.  The surface area is acres in size.

map

As you can see from the following digital pictures, aircraft of all types are stored in the desert at Davis-Monthan AFB.

bone-yard

The aircraft below are F-4 Phantom fighters that served in Vietnam.

f-4-phantom

The view below shows you just how many acres the boneyard requires.

bone-yard-2

 

AIRCRAFT INVENTORY USED BY AMARG:

AMARG uses the following official “Type” categories for aircraft in storage:

  • Type 1000 – aircraft at AMARG for long-term storage, to be maintained until recalled to active service. These aircraft are “inviolate” – have a high potential to return to flying status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are “represerved” every four years.
  • Type 2000 – aircraft available for parts reclamation, as “aircraft storage bins” for parts, to keep other aircraft flying.
  • Type 3000 – “flying hold” aircraft kept in near flyable condition in short-term, temporary storage; waiting for transfer to another unit, sale to another country, or reclassification to the other three types.
  • Type 4000 – aircraft in excess of DoD needs – these have been gutted and every useable part has been reclaimed. They will be sold, broken down into scrap, smelted into ingots, and recycled.

STORAGE PROCEDURES:

There are four categories of storage for aircraft at AMARG:

  • Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
  • Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apartand used for spare parts
  • Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
  • Excess of DoDneeds – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts

AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600 acres (11 km2) facility is adjacent to the base. For every one dollar ($1) the federal government spends operating the facility, it saves or produces eleven dollars ($11) from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment may be sold to which customer.

An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:

  • All guns, ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed.
  • All Navy aircraft are carefully washed with fresh water, to remove salty water environment residue, and then completely dried.
  • The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
  • The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, including a high-tech vinyl plastic compound that is sprayed on the aircraft. This compound is called spraylatafter its producer the Spraylat Corporation, and is applied in two coats, a black coat that seals the aircraft and a white coat that reflects the sun and helps to keep internal temperatures low.  The plane is then towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.

The Group annually in-processes an undisclosed number of aircraft for storage and out-processes a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to friendly foreign governments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as civilian cargo, transport, and/or utility aircraft.  There is much scrutiny over who (civilians, companies, foreign governments) can buy what kinds of parts. At times, these sales are canceled. The Air Force for example reclaimed several F-16s from AMARG for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Courses which were originally meant to be sold to Pakistan, but never delivered due to an early-90’s embargo.

CONCLUSIONS:

I have absolutely no idea as to how much money in inventory is located at D-M but as you might expect, it’s in the billions of USD. As always, I welcome your comments.

COMPLEXITY

October 8, 2016


It is a very good thing technology is incremental.  If that were NOT, the case we would go out of our ever-loving-minds.  Have you ever stopped to consider how complex our society is?  Really—have you ever considered the complexity of every-day life and how complicated the products we use on a daily basis are?  I personally think nothing about the cellular phone I use or the automobile I drive or the blender (Internet provided) I crank up some days.  After a fairly straightforward learning curve and a few missteps while getting familiar with the new products, I’m off and running. Most are completely user-friendly with instructions written with the end-user in mind. (Some are not and that’s a subject for another day.)

I’ve decided I will start a new stream of posts in which I mention from time to time how complicated we have become and possibly where we just might be going. Of course, I still will lean heavily towards the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas I have covered through WordPress over the years.   Here we go.

boings-huge-supply-chain

 

The Boeing Company is a magnificent example of a company providing products of immense complexity. Can you imagine overseeing the design, selection of vendors, assembly and test of a product that has 2.3 million individual parts?  Only in the computer age could this happen. Imagine the paper that would be necessary, not to mention the manpower, required if there were no computers to manage this task.  Even with this being the case, 500,000 employees of the Boeing Company are required to “pull this off”.  Of course, this number of employees is not only for the Dreamliner but all the Boeing aircraft.

ge-fuel-nozzel-supply

 

3-D printing has lessened the number of components for the GE LEAP fuel nozzle but only because the General Electric company has chosen to complicate in order to simplify.  Great strategy and it works.

north-american-automobiles

Even during this recessionary period of time, people are buying automobiles. Eighteen (18) percent increase in the number of automobile models from 2015.  We are almost to the point where you can customize your individual automobile, have it assembles and eventually shipped to you.

lines-of-code

OK, this one blows my mind. One hundred fifty million (150) lines of code for a Ford F-150.  The chart above speaks for itself.  Who repairs all of this equipment?  Actually, the most complex assemblies are replaced rather than being repaired.

technology-vs-loyalty

The chart above will certainly indicate that we are no longer a group of men and women who have brand loyalty.  Not only for automobiles but for all other consumer products.  If one brand does not give us what we desire—we switch.

car-vs-computer

The chart above speaks for itself.  We have integrated into every product electronics that provide value-added to user experience.

i-phone-camera

The next two slides reference the Apple i-phone.  Two hundred (200) components in the i-phone camera.  Not the entire product, just the camera.   What a marvelous packaging job Apple has done to make the i-phone usable and mobile. Imagine. 24,000,000 (yes that’s twenty-four billion with a “B”) operations to capture one (1) image.

ge-fuel-nozzel-supply

CONCLUSION:  I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for our global technology.  We are now down to “hide and watch”. As always, I welcome your comments.


I do not know if you have a “bucket list” but as you get older you probably will.  At the tender age of seventy-four my list seems to grow and grow as the years go by.  One thing on that list is a visit to the bi-annual Farnborough International Airshow held in the United Kingdom. As you probably know, I’m a card-carrying aviation enthusiast.  I took my check ride when I was fifteen and had to wait one year to receive my pilot’s license.  I LOVE heavier-than-air-devices and make every effort to keep up with the technology both commercial and military.

This marvelous event is a week-long extravaganza that combines major trade exhibitions for the aerospace and defense industries with a public airshow. The event is held in mid-July in even-numbered years at Farnborough Airport in HampshireEngland. The first four days (Monday to Thursday) are dedicated exclusively to trade, with the final three days open to the public.

The airshow is an important event in the international aerospace and defense industry calendar, providing an opportunity to demonstrate civilian and military aircraft to potential customers and investors. The show is also used for the announcement of new developments and orders, and to attract media coverage.  It’s a great show that details potential mergers and acquisitions as well as rumors relative to pending developments in the aircraft industry, both commercial and military.  The UK show is organized by Farnborough International Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADS Group Limited (ADS).

HISTORY:

The Farnborough Airshow has its origins in the annual RAF Airshow at Hendon from 1920 to 1937. On 27 June 1932, the Society of British Aircraft Constructors held an exhibition of thirty-five (35) aircraft by sixteen (16) companies as a showpiece for the British aircraft industry. After World War II, the show recommenced at Radlett (the site of Handley Page‘s airfield) in 1946 and was held there until 1948, when the show moved to its present location of Farnborough, Hampshire, home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, about thirty (30) miles south-west of central London.

In 1952, thirty-one (31) people were killed (twenty nine spectators, one pilot and one navigator) when a DH.110 jet fighter disintegrated in flight and crashed into the crowd.

At the 1958 show, the Black Arrows executed a 22-plane formation loop which was a world record for the greatest number of aircraft looped in formation, and remains unbroken to this day.

Initially an annual event, the show has been biennial since 1962. It has become an international event that attracts exhibitors from all over the world — with the exception, during the Cold War, of countries behind the Iron Curtain.

From 1996 the show has had its own official radio station operated by the staff and students of nearby Farnborough College of Technology, although it did not operate in 2012.

2016 STATISTICS:

Let’s now take a very quick look at the “stats” for the air show this past July.

Airshow(1)

As you can see, there were a tremendous number of exhibitions for the air show representing fifty-two countries. Seventy-one (71%) of the exhibitors are international. $124 billion US dollars in aircraft ordered by various countries and companies.  This show was deemed a remarkable success just by the sheer numbers of orders taken.

Airshow(2)

Once again, the interest shown demonstrates how successful Farnborough was this past July.

Now, the great success was the number of individuals in attendance at the show.  These are people just like you and me, in other words, non-military or commercial.  Let’s now take a look at the fly-bys and the static demonstrations.

THE SITE

Farnborough Site

This is an aerial view of the Farnborough site itself.  You can see the demonstration aircraft parked by the airstrip.

Aircraft--Closer Look

This is a closer look at the aircraft and how they are aligned along the taxi ways of the airport.

THE AIRCRAFT ON DISPLAY—STATIC AND AIRBORNE:

F-22 RAPTOR

Everyone by now must recognize the F-22 Raptor.  One of the most remarkable air planes our country has ever designed and produced.

British Red Arrows Team

This is the British Red Arrows aerobatic team—equivalent to our Blue Angles or Air Force Thunderbird teams.

AIRBUS A 380

Airbus and the new A 380.  One of the largest commercial passenger planes ever built.  On display and looking good.

FRENCH

The country of France demonstrated their fighter aircraft as well.

GULFSTREAM

You might expect Gulfstream to have a major exhibit at Farnborough.

Chopper

There were several helicopters demonstrated at Farnborough also.

FUN

The entire event was about having fun and looking at the latest in aviation hardware.

CONCLUSIONS:

Hope you enjoyed this one.  I certainly hope to be at Farnborough two years from now to witness the latest in aviation.  As always, I love hearing from you.

QUADCOPTERS

June 5, 2016


Several days ago I was walking my oldest grandson’s dog Atka. (I have no idea as to where the name came from.)  As we rounded the corner at the end of our street, I heard a buzzing sound; a very loud buzzing sound.   The sound was elevated and after looking upward I saw a quadcopter about one hundred feet in the air going through a series of maneuvers in a “Z” fashion.  It was being operated by a young man in our “hood”, a young man of nine years.  His name is Dillon; very inquisitive and always with the newest toys.  The control he was using was a joy-stick apparatus with two thumb wheels on either side.  Simple but effective for the flight paths he put the copter through.  The JPEG below will give you some idea as to the design.(NOTE:Dillon’s copter did not have a camera in the body.  He was not recording the subject matter the device flew over.)


QUAD COPTER(2)

A quadcopter, also called a quadrotor helicopter or quadrotor, is a multi-rotor helicopter, as you can see from above, lifted and propelled by four rotors. Rotor-craft  lift is generated by a set of rotors  or vertically oriented propellers.

Quadcopters generally use two pairs of identical fixed pitched propellers; two clockwise (CW) and two counter-clockwise (CCW). These use independent variation of the speed allowing each rotor to achieve the necessary control. By changing the speed of each rotor it is possible to specifically generate a desired total thrust and create a desired total torque, or turning force.

Quadcopters differ from conventional helicopters which use rotors capable of verifying their blades dynamically as they move around the rotor hub. In the early days of flight, quadcopters (then referred to as ‘quadrotors’) were seen as possible solutions to some of the persistent problems in vertical flight such as torque-induced control as well as efficiency issues originating from the tail rotor.  The tail rotor generates no useful lift and can possibly be eliminated by counter-rotation of other blades.  Also quadcopters are designed with relatively short blades  which are much easier to construct. A number of manned designs appeared in the 1920s and 1930s. These vehicles were among the first successful heavier-than-air vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)vehicles.  Early prototypes suffered from poor performance  and later prototypes required too much pilot work load, due to poor stability and limited control.

In the late 2000s, advances in electronics allowed the production of cheap lightweight flight controllers, accelerometers (IMU), global positioning system and cameras. This resulted in a rapid proliferation of small, cheap consumer quadcopters along with other multi rotor designs. Quadcopter designs also became popular in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) research. With their small size and maneuverability, these quadcopters can be flown indoors as well as outdoors. Low-cost motors and mass-produced propellers provide the power to keep them in the air while light weight and structural integrity from engineered plastics provides durability. Chip-based controllers, gyros, navigation, and cameras give them high-end capabilities and features at a low cost.  These aircraft are extremely useful for aerial photography.   Professional photographers, videographers and journalist are using them for  difficult, if not impossible, shots relative to standard means.  A complete set of hardware may be seen below.

QUADCOPTER & CONTROLS

One of the most pleasing versions of a camera-equipped quadcopter is given as follows:

QUAD COPTER

SAFETY:

As with any new technology, there can be issues of safety.  Here are just a few of the incidents causing a great deal of heartburn for the FAA.

  • At 8:51 a.m., a white drone startled the pilot of a JetBlue flight, appearing off the aircraft’s left wing moments before the jet landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Five hours later, a quadcopter drone whizzed beneath an Allegiant Air flight as it approached the same runway. Elsewhere in California, pilots of light aircraft reported narrowly dodging drones in San Jose and La Verne.
  • In Washington, a Cessna pilot reported a drone cruising at 1,500 feet in highly restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, forcing the U.S. military to scramble fighter jets as a precaution.
  • In Louisville, a silver and white drone almost collided with a training aircraft.
  • In Chicago, United Airlines Flight 970 reported seeing a drone pass by at an altitude of 3,500 feet.
  • All told, 12 episodes — including other incidents in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Florida and North Carolina — were recorded  one Sunday of small drones interfering with airplanes or coming too close to airports, according to previously undisclosed reports filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014. The agency has acknowledged growing concern about the problem and its inability to do much to tame it.
  • So far, the FAA has kept basic details of most of this year’s incidents under wraps, declining to release reports that are ordinarily public records and that would spotlight where and when the close calls occurred.
  • On March 29, the Secret Service reported that a rogue drone was hovering near a West Palm Beach, Fla., golf course where President Obama was hitting the links. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary confirmed the incident. He declined to provide further details but said the Secret Service “has procedures and protocols in place to address these situations when they occur.”
  • Two weeks later, just after noon on April 13, authorities received a report of a white drone flying in the vicinity of the White House. Military aircraft scrambled to intercept the drone, which was last seen soaring over the Tidal Basin and heading toward Arlington, Va., according to the FAA reports.
  • On July 10, the pilot of an Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle said a small drone came within 50 feet of the fighter jet. Two weeks later, the pilot of a Navy T-45 Goshawk flying near Yuma, Ariz., reported that a drone buzzed 100 feet underneath.

REGULATIONS:

For public safety, the FAA has promulgated regulations that MUST be adhered to by those owning drones such as quadcopters.   Anyone owning a quadcopter or drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration if they intend to fly outdoors.   It will cost those owners $5.00.  If the copter tips the scales at over fifty-five (55) pounds, including any extra equipment or cameras attached, the FAA no longer considers it a model aircraft or a recreational Unmanned Aircraft System and a very long list of additional regulations apply.  Model aircraft also cannot be used for commercial purposes or for payment.    They can only be used for hobby and recreational uses.   A few FAA guidelines are given as follows:

  • Quadcopters or any unmanned recreational aircraft cannot be flown above four hundred (400 ) feet.
  • They must remain in site of the operator.
  • Quadcopters cannot fly within five (5) miles of any airport without written approval of the FAA.
  • Quadcopters cannot fly over military bases, national parks, or the Washington D.C. area and other sensitive government buildings; i.e. CIA, NSA, Pentagon, etc.
  • The FAA has extended the ban on planes flying over open-air stadiums with 30,000 or more people in attendance.

PRIVACY:

Privacy concerns can lead to hot tempers. Last year, a Kentucky man used a shotgun to blast a drone out of the air above his home. A New Jersey man did the same thing in 2014, and a woman in Seattle called the police when she feared a drone was peeping into her apartment. (The drone belonged to a company conducting an architectural survey.) And in November, repeated night-time over-flights by a drone prompted calls to Albuquerque police complaining of trespassing—the police concluded that the flyer wasn’t breaking any laws.

State laws already on the books offer some privacy protections, especially if a drone is shooting photos or video. Erin E. Rhinehart, an attorney in Dayton, Ohio, who studies the issue, says that existing nuisance and invasion-of-privacy statutes would apply to drone owners. If you could prove you were being harassed by a drone flying over your house, or even that one was spying on you from afar, you might have a case against the drone operator. But proof is difficult to obtain, she says, and not everyone agrees on how to define harassment.

Some states are trying to strengthen their protections. In California, nervous celebrities may benefit from a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown this past fall. The meat of the legislation reads, “A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission…in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff.” And a similar privacy law in Wisconsin makes it illegal to photograph a “nude or partially nude person” using a drone. (Dozens of states have passed or are considering drone-related laws.) The point being, people do NOT like being the subject of peeping-toms.  We can’t, for the most part, stand it and that includes nosey neighbors.  The laws, both local, state and Federal are coming and drone users just as well need to get over it.

R & D SPINOFFS

March 12, 2016


Last week I posted an article on WordPress entitled “Global Funding”.  The post was a prognostication relative to total global funding in 2016 through 2020 for research and development in all disciplines.  I certainly hope there are no arguments as to benefits of R & D.  R & D is the backbone of technology.  The manner in which science pushes the technological envelope is research and development.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has provided a great number of spinoffs that greatly affect everyday lives remove drudgery from activities that otherwise would consume a great deal of time and just plain sweat.  The magazine “NASA Tech Briefs”, March 2016, presented forty such spinoffs demonstrating the great benefits of NASA programs over the years.  I’m not going to resent all forty but let’s take a look at a few to get a flavor of how NASA R & D has influenced consumers the world over.  Here we go.

  • DIGITAL IMAGE SENSORS—The CMOS active pixel sensor in most digital image-capturing devices was invented when NASA needed to miniaturize cameras for interplanety missions.  It is also widely used in medical imaging and dental X-ray devices.
  • Aeronautical Winglets—Key aerodynamic advances made by NASA researchers led to the up-turned tips of wings known as “winglets.”  Winglets are used by nearly all modern aircraft and have saved literally billions of dollars in fuel costs.
  • Precision GPS—Beginning in the early 1990s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) developed software capable of correcting for GPS errors.  NASA monitors the integrity of global GPS data in real time for the U.S. Air Force, which administers the positioning service world-wide.
  • Memory Foam—Memory foam was invented by NASA-funded researchers looking for ways to keep test pilots cushioned during flights.  Today, memory foam makes for more comfortable beds, couches, and chairs, as well as better shoes, movie theater seats, and even football helmets.
  • Truck Aerodynamics—Nearly all trucks on the road have been shaped by NASA.  Agency research in aerodynamic design led to the curves and contours that help modern big rigs cut through the air with less drag. Perhaps, as much as 6,800 gallons of diesel per year per truck has been saved.
  • Invisible Braces for Teeth—A company working with NASA invented the translucent ceramic that became the critical component for the first “invisible” dental braces, which went on to become one of the best-selling orthodontic products of all time.
  • Tensile Fabric for Architecture—A material originally developed for spacesuits can be seen all over the world in stadiums, arenas, airports, pavilions, malls, and museums. BirdAir Inc. developed the fabric from fiberglass and Teflon composite that once protected Apollo astronauhts as they roamed the lunar surface.  Today, that same fabric shades and protects people in public places.
  • Supercritical Wing—NASA engineers at Langley Research Center improved wing designs resulting in remarkable performance of an aircraft approaching the speed of sound.
  • Phase-change Materials—Research on next-generation spacesuits included the development of phase-change materials, which can absorb, hold, and release heat to keep people comfortable.  This technology is now found in blankets, bed sheets, dress shirts, T-shirts, undergarments, and other products.
  • Cardiac Pump—Hundreds of people in need of a heart transplant have been kept alive thanks to a cardiac pump designed with the help of NASA expertise in simulating fluid-flow through rocket engines.  This technology served as a “bridge” to the transplant methodology.
  • Flexible Aeorgel—Aeorgel is a porous material in which the liquid component of the gel has been carefully dried out and replaced by gas, leaving a solid almost entirely of air.  It long held the record as the world’s lightest solid, and is one of the most effective insulator in existence.
  • Digital Fly-By-Wire—For the first seventy (70) years of human flight, pilots used controls that connected directly to aircraft components through cables and pushrods. A partnership between NASA and Draper Laboratory in the 1970 resulted in the first plane flown digitally, where a computer collected all of the input from the pilot’s controls and used that information to command aerodynamic surfaces.
  • Cochlear Implants—One of the pioneers in early cochlear implant technology was Adam Kissiah, an engineer at Kennedy Space Center.  Mr. Kissiah was hearing-impaired and used NASA technology to greatly improve hearing devices by developing implants that worked by electric impulses rather than sound amplification.
  • Radiant Barrier—To keep people and spacecraft safe from harmful radiation, NASA developed a method for depositing a thin metal coating on a material to make it highly reflective. On Earth, it has become known as radiant barrier technology.
  • Gigapan Photography—Since 2004, new generations of Mars rovers have been stunning the world with high-resolution imagery.  Though equipped with only one megapixel cameras, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have a robotic platform and software that allows them to combine dozens of shots into a single photograph.
  • Anti-icing Technology—NASA has spent many years solving problems related to ice accumulation in flight surfaces.  These breakthroughs have been applied to commercial aircraft flight.
  • Emergency Blanket—So-called space blankets, also known as emergency blankets, were first developed by NASA in 1964.  The highly reflective insulators are often included in emergency kits, and are used by long-distance runners and fire-team personnel.
  • Firefighter Protection—NASA helped develop a line of polymer textiles for use in spacesuits and vehicles.  Dubbed, PBI, the heat and flame-resistant fiber is now used in numerous firefighting, military, motor sports, and other applications.

These are just a few of the many NASA spinoffs that have solved down-to-earth problems for people over the world.  Let’s continue funding NASA to ensure future wonderful and usable technology.

AERION

February 27, 2016


Aerospace Defense and Technology, February 2016 publication, presented a fascinating article on joint engineering efforts provided by Aerion and the Airbus Group relative to a new supersonic business jet. This team has dedicated design and production planning since 2014, which has definitely been productive with a mid-November announcement from Flexjet ordering twenty (20) aircraft.  Aviation Week made the announcement as follows:

“Flexjet has placed a firm order valued at $2.4 billion for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic jets, with delivery to begin in 2023. First flight is expected in 2021.

Flexjet CEO Kenn Ricci said the company will use the supersonic jet for overseas flights and also in China, which does not have restrictions on sonic booms.

Customers are already excited about the jet, he said. They immediately began citing city pairs where they would like to fly. But no one wants to fly it sub-sonically, Ricci said. The AS2 can fly sub-sonically over land in the U.S., Europe and areas where the boom is restricted. But it won’t be cost-effective to do so.

The three-engine jet will burn a high amount of fuel, roughly 1,000 gal. Per hr., and its long length will restrict its use at some airports, Ricci said. “It’s still going to be an expensive plane to operate,” he said. Still, with the aircraft traveling at Mach 1.2, its boom will not touch the ground, Ricci said. Because of that, regulators may be able to be convinced to allow the jet to fly supersonically across the country, he said. Even so, the aircraft can be placed at points on the Atlantic and Pacific for international travel.”

The digital photograph below indicates the basic airframe and shows the three engines designed into the fuselage.

Aeron AS2

Kelly Johnson, leader of the famous Lockheed “Skunk Works” stated years ago; “If it looks like it will fly, it will fly.  Well, this one looks like it will fly.

This biz jet will hold eight to twelve passengers and will have an intercontinental-capable range of 4,750 nautical miles at supersonic speeds.  At these speeds, three hours will be cut from traveling across the Atlantic and more than six hours on longer trans-Pacific routes.  It could get you from London to New York in 4 hours and 24 minutes. It takes a normal jet about seven hours to make that trip. The typical flight time from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia is about 15 hours and 30 minutes. On the Aerion AS2, the flight time would be just ten hours.

The AS2 will fly at a speed of Mach 1.5, using supersonic laminar flow technology.  The wing design will allow for lighter fuel consumption and increased travel ranges by reducing aerodynamic drag by twenty percent (20%).  NASA has issued a contract to model supersonic boom at ground level to ensure no issues result from supersonic flight.   New noise regulations coming in 2020 caused Aerion to change design from two to three engines to meet upcoming noise specifications.

The three-engine jet will make its first flight in 2021 and enter service in 2023.

As you can see from the digital below, the design is definitely cutting edge.  Other specifics are as follows:

 General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 8–12 passengers
  • Length: 170 feet (51.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 61 feet (18.6 m)
  • Height: 22 feet (6.7 m)
  • Wing area: 1,350 ft² (125 m²)
  • Empty weight: 49,800 lb (22,588 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 121,000 lb (54,884 kg)
  • Powerplant: 3 × turbofans (low bypass ratio), 16,000 lb s.t.
  • Cabin size: 30 feet long, 6’2″ high, 7’3″ wide (9.1 * 1.9 * 2.2 m)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.5 (1140 mph) 1837 km/h
  • Cruise speed: Mach 1.4
    • Mach 0.95 at lower altitudes to minimize noise
    • Mach 1.1–1.2
  • Range: 4750 nautical miles  to 5300 nautical miles (8797 km to 9816 km)
  • Controls: Fly-by-wire flight controls
  • Structure: Ten (10) spar carbon fiber wing structure, fuselage and empennage structures.
  • Landing Gear: Articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements when stowed.
  • Fuel System: A fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire control system for control of center of gravity

Aerion and Airbus are presently working to specify the engines for the AS2 while keeping in mind the upcoming noise requirements.  Their goal is to provide acceptable fuel usage just below MACH 1.

Specifics

The interior is an absolute dream, as you can see from the next two JPEGs.  Talk about first class.

Interior

Interior (2)

This aircraft “ain’t “cheap but will serve a very specific function and is targeting a very small clientele.  Of course, there are no figures on how much this mean ride will cost relative to operating expense or maintenance but payback will have to result or there will be issues with cash flow and continued operation.  This one will be fun to watch.

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