Tag Archives: aviation

NASA Wants To Design The Planes Of The Future

If the federal budget is approved in full, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, don’t forget)will try to revolutionize aeronautics in the next 10 years by developing an aircraftthat produceslessemissions,noise, anduses less fuel than current models on the market.

The ambitious project is called New Aviation Horizons and aims to design, build, and fly a variety of flight demonstration vehicles dubbed “X-planes.” The work on theseexperimental aircraftwill assess the feasibility of brand-new technologies,designs, and materials, and NASA thinks this will helpmove new technology more quickly into the commercial sector.

“We’re at the right place, at the right time, with the right technologies,” Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASAs Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate,said in astatement.The full potential of these technologies cant be realized in the tube-and-wing shape of todays aircraft.We need the X-planes to prove, in an undeniable way, how that tech can make aviation more Earth friendly, reduce delays and maintain safety for the flying public, and support an industry thats critical to our nations economic vitality.”

The X-planes will include several experimental innovations:Lightweight composite materials might be used for the craft and the engines, new fan designs can improve propulsion and reduce noise, and different wing shapes can make the planes fasters. NASAs researchers estimate that once this tech is put into service, it will save $10 billion a year for the airline industry.

A version ofa hybrid wing body planewith engines on top of the back end, flanked by two vertical tails to shield people on the ground from engine noise.NASA / Boeing

Design-wise, NASA is thinking of a hybrid wing-bodycraft. By having wings that blend into the fuselage (instead of the traditional tube plus wings structure), the team engineers believe they can reduce fuel use and emissions, as well as reducenoise during take-off, approach, and landing.

NASA has even designed a business-jet-sized supersonic vehicle that haslow bio-fuelconsumptionand is shaped in a way that the sonic boom it emits cannot be heard by people on the ground. If the budget is approved and work starts immediately, the first test flight could start as early as 2020.

This is an exciting time for the entire NASA Aeronautics team and for those who benefit from aviation, which, frankly, is everyone, Shin said.With this 10-year plan to accelerate the transformation of aviation, the United States can maintain its status as the worlds leader in aviation for many years to come.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/nasa-wants-shape-future-commercial-aviation

What Commercial Aircraft Will Look Like In 2050

The aircraft industry is expecting a seven-fold increase in air traffic by 2050, and a four-fold increase in greenhouse gas emissions unless fundamental changes are made. But just how “fundamental” will those changes need to be and what will be their effect on the aircraft we use?

The crucial next step towards ensuring the aircraft industry becomes greener is the full electrification of commercial aircraft. That’s zero CO2 and NOx emissions, with energy sourced from power stations that are themselves sustainably fuelled. The main technological barrier that must be overcome is the energy density of batteries, a measure of how much power can be generated from a battery of a certain weight.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that once batteries are capable of producing 400 Watt-hours per kilogram, with a ratio of power cell to overall mass of between 0.7-0.8, an electrical transcontinental aircraft becomes “compelling”.

Elon Musk on electric aircraft

Given that practical lithium-ion batteries were capable of achieving energy-densities of 113Wh/kg in 1994, 202Wh/kg in 2004, and are now capable of approximately 300Wh/kg, it’s reasonable to assume that they will hit 400Wh/kg in the coming decade.

Another aspect is the exponential fall in the cost of solar panels, which have already become the cheapest form of power in most US states. The expected 70% reduction in cost of lithium-ion batteries by 2025, and the rapid rise seen in the cost of kerosene-based jet fuel means that there will be a large and growing disparity in the costs of running aircraft that will greatly favour electrification. As is often the case, the reasons that will slow transition are not technological, but are rooted in the economic and political inertia against overturning the status-quo.

VoltAir, all-electric aircraft concept. EADS

Biofuels while we wait

Considering the average service-life of passenger and freight aircraft are around 21 and 33 years respectively, even if all new aircraft manufactured from tomorrow were fully electric, the transition away from fossil-fuelled aircraft would take two to three decades.

In the meantime, biofuel offers carbon emissions reductions of between 36-85%, with the variability depending on the type of land used to grow the fuel crops. As switching from one fuel to another is relatively straightforward, this is a low-hanging fruit worth pursuing before completely phasing out combustion engines.

Even though a biofuel-kerosene jet fuel blend was certified in 2009, the aircraft industry is in no hurry to implement change. There are minor technological hurdles and issues around scaling up biofuel production to industrial levels, but the main constraint is price – parity with fossil fuels is still ten years away.

The adoption of any new aircraft technology – from research, to design sketches, to testing and full integration – is typically a decade-long process. Given that the combustion engine will be phased out by mid-century, it would seem to make more economic and environmental sense to innovate in other areas: airframe design, materials research, electric propulsion design and air traffic control.

Bringing aircraft to life

Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons. — Popular Mechanics, 1949

Technology evolution of digital storage (2005-2014)

As we can see, we are living in a world of exponential change in technology. We need to step out of our linear day-to-day thinking to fully conceive and make use of what we have to shape the future.

In terms of the cost of computational power, computer technology is advancing more each hour today than it did in its entire first 90 years. With this in mind we can project that the equivalent of a US$1,000 computer today will by 2023 be more powerful than the potential brainpower of a human and, by 2045, will surpass the brainpower equivalent to all human brains combined.

The miniaturisation of digital electronics over the past half-century has followed a similar exponential trend, with the size of transistor gates reducing from approximately 1,000 nanometres in 1970 to 23 nanometres today. With the advent of transistors made of graphene showing great promise, this is expected to fall further to about 7 nanometres by 2025. By comparison, a human red blood cell is approximately 6,200-8,200 nanometres wide.

Comparing a Micro Electronic Mechanism crankshaft and gear with a pollen grain and red blood cells. Sandia National Laboratories, SUMMIT™ Technologies

Putting together this increase in computational power and decrease in circuit size, and adding in the progress made with 3D-printing, at some point in the next decade we will be able to produce integrated computers powerful enough to control an aircraft at the equivalent of the cellular level in near real-time – wireless interlinking of nano-scale digital devices.

Using a biologically-inspired digital “nervous system” with receptors arranged over the aircraft sensing forces, temperatures, and airflow states could drastically improve the energy efficiency of aircraft, when coupled to software and hardware mechanisms to control or even change the shape of the aircraft in response.

Chopping the tail

Once electric aircraft are established, the next step will be to integrate a gimballed propulsion system, one that can provide thrust in any direction. This will remove the need for the elevators, rudders, and tailplane control surfaces that current designs require, but which add significant mass and drag.

Skeleton of trailing edge of wing morphing wind-tunnel demonstrator concept Ash Dove-Jay, University of Bristol

The wings we are already designing are near their peak in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, but they still do no justice to what nature has achieved in birds. Aircraft design templates are a century old – constrained by the limitations of the day then, but technology has since moved on. We no longer need to build wings as rigid structures with discrete control surfaces, but can turn to the natural world for inspiration. As Richard Feynman said:

I think nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s, she’s never going to let us relax.

Bio-inspired aircraft concept, sporting adaptive and morphing skins and structures. NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

Industry’s outlook of the future

The aircraft industry has not been idle, of course. Here are some of their designs on the drawing board:

E-Thrust Project. EADS


Blended Wing Body. Boeing & NASA


Airbus 2050 concept plane. Airbus


Electric aircraft. NASA


Prandtl Plane air freighter. University of Pisa

Ash Dove-Jay receives funding from the EPSRC and AC&E. He is affiliated with the Royal Aeronautical Society and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The Conversation

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/what-commercial-aircraft-will-look-2050

Drone Flies Dangerously Close to Canadian Airport


A pilot practices flying his "quadcopter" drone while wearing goggles connected to the small camera seen at the bottom center of the craft.
Image: Mel Evans/Associated Press

An unidentified drone flew dangerously close the flightpath at Vancouver’s international airport on Monday, prompting a search by police.

The drone was flying over a runway when someone at air traffic control spotted it, according to local reports.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police searched the area, setting up road blocks, but were unable to find the pilot of the drone. The police said they might press charges for mischief and criminal negligence, if they do.

“It puts people in danger and puts them at risk, puts the community at risk,” RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski said, according to CBC. “It’s incredibly dangerous and incredibly stupid, so we will investigate this every way that we possibly can.”

This is the second time in less than a year that a drone has flown close to Vancouver’s airport. Last November, someone posted a video of a landing airplane shot from a drone, which prompted an investigation by Canada’s transportation agency.

Canada has relatively lax rules concerning the use of drones. If the flying robot is under 77 pounds, its pilot can fly it freely as long as he or she keeps it within line of sight and doesn’t fly it too close to populated areas or restricted airspace. In the U.S., on the other hand, drones can’t be flown closer than 5 miles from an airport.

Despite this rule, similar incidents have happened in the United States. Last year, an airline pilot spotted a drone a few miles from New York City’s JFK airport. More recently, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration revealed that a drone and an American Airlines jet came very close to crashing into each other 2,300 feet above the ground near the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida.

For more on Mashable‘s coverage of unmanned aerial vehicles, check out Drone Beat.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/07/02/drone-flies-dangerously-close-to-planes-at-canadian-airport/