Tag: Aircraft

How Can A Drone Cause So Much Chaos In Airports?

In October 2017, a drone collided with a commercial aircraft in Canada, striking one of the plane’s wings. The plane sustained minor damage but was able to land safely.

Research on drone damage to aircraft is still limited but a number of institutions have tested a variety of impact scenarios and each seems to reach a different conclusion.

Other research from the Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned aircraft system through research Excellence (Assure) in conjunction with the US’s Federal Aviation Authority suggested drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision.

The lithium ion batteries that power them may not shatter upon impact, instead becoming lodged in airframes and posing a potential risk of fire.

Ravi Vaidyanathan, a robotics lecturer at Imperial College, London, told the BBC: “The threat posed to larger aircraft by drones is small but not negligible.

“The probability of a collision is small but a drone could be drawn into a turbine. A drone greater than 2kg might break the cockpit windshield as well for certain aircraft.”

Martin Lanni, chief executive of airspace security company Quantum Aviation, said: “A drone looks quite fragile but the battery is hefty and if you compare a drone to a bird, then it could be potentially more dangerous if it goes through the engine or hits the fuselage.




According to the UK Airprox Board, there were 92 instances of aircraft and drones coming close to colliding in 2017.

In the UK, legislation came into force in July, making it illegal to fly a drone within 1km (0.62 miles) of an airport. It is also illegal to fly a drone higher than 400ft (120m).

But experts have pointed out that this could be ineffective, given that a landing aircraft would fly below 400ft. And of course those with malicious intent would have little regard for legislation.

Systems have been tested in some prisons, where drones are often used to smuggle in goods, which aim to block radio signals within a certain area in order to prevent drones from landing.

For airports serious about protecting themselves from drone attacks, there is the option of a more sophisticated, if expensive, system, such as that offered by Quantum Aviation, which employs radar, radio frequency detectors and cameras to detect when drones are nearby and locate where they came from.

In an ideal world, you talk to a person but to do that you need to know where the drones are coming from,” said Mr Lanni.

“What you don’t want is to have them dropping out of the sky.”

The Quantum Aviation system can “jam” a drone – effectively stopping it working – the drone should, in theory, have a default mode that would see it either return to where it came from or land safely.

DJI, the world leader in making civilian drones, introduced geo-fencing systems in its products in 2013.

This technology can prevent drones from flying in some locations and offers warnings to drone operators flying near a restricted zone.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

First Ever Plane With No Moving Parts Takes Flight

The first ever “solid state” plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers.

The flight represents a breakthrough in “ionic wind” technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust.

Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood.

I was a big fan of Star Trek, and at that point I thought that the future looked like it should be planes that fly silently, with no moving parts – and maybe have a blue glow.

But certainly no propellers or turbines or anything like that. So I started looking into what physics might make flight with no moving parts possible, and came across a concept known as the ionic wind, with was first investigated in the 1920s.




“This didn’t make much progress in that time. It was looked at again in the 1950s, and researchers concluded that it couldn’t work for aeroplanes.

“But I started looking into this and went through a period of about five years, working with a series of graduate students to improve fundamental understanding of how you could reduce ionic winds efficiently, and how that could be optimised.”

How the world’s first solid-state aircraft used ‘ionic wind’ to fly

In the prototype plane, wires at the leading edge of the wing have 600 watts of electrical power pumped through them at 40,000 volts.

This is enough to induce “electron cascades”, ultimately charging air molecules near the wire.

Those charged molecules then flow along the electrical field towards a second wire at the back of the wing, bumping into neutral air molecules on the way, and imparting energy to them.

A time lapse image of the craft in flight in an MIT gym.

Those neutral air molecules then stream out of the back of the plane, providing thrust.

The end result is a propulsion system that is entirely electrically powered, almost silent, and with a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that achieved by conventional systems such as jet engines.

The successful flight of the plane – which has no name beyond the uninspiring “Version Two” – owes as much to the engineering prowess required to make it as thin and light as possible as it does to the propulsion method itself.

The plane weighs just 2.45kg, but manages to fit in a five-metre wingspan, battery stack, and a high-voltage power converter.

In the longer term, the ability to power flight purely through electricity opens up the possibility of carbon-neutral flight, which could lower the emissions of the aviation industry globally.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How Sidewinder Missiles Work?

The Sidewinder AIM-9 (air intercept missile 9) is classified as a short-range, air-to-air missile. Simply put, its job is to launch from an airborne aircraft and “kill” an enemy aircraft (damage it to the point that it goes down).

Missiles like the Sidewinder are called smart weapons because they have built-in seeking systems that let them home in on a target.




The technology of smart weapons really got going in the decade following World War II. Most early guided weapon prototypes were built around radar technology, which proved to be expensive and problematic.

These missiles had their own radar sensors, but obviously could not carry their own radar transmitters.

For the guidance system to lock on an enemy plane, some remote radar system had to “illuminate” the target by bouncing radar beams off of it.

In most cases, this meant the pilot had to keep the aircraft in a vulnerable position after firing in order to keep a radar lock on the enemy until the missile could find it.

Additionally, the radar equipment in the missile was large and expensive, which made for a high-cost, bulky weapon. Most of these missiles had something around a 90 percent failure rate (nine shots out of 10 missed their targets).

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Pass it on: Popular Science

World’s Biggest Plane, Stratolaunch, Marks Another Key Milestone

Rockets have been the way to get satellites into orbit since the dawn of the space age. But Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen hopes to shake that up with help from the world’s biggest airplane.

Stratolaunch” is a 500,000-pound beast with twin fuselages and a wingspan of 385 feet. Allen’s Seattle-based company is developing it as a platform for lifting rockets into the stratosphere before launching them into space.

It’s seen as a cheaper, more reliable route to low-Earth orbit (LEO) — the sweet spot for many kinds of satellites.

The plane is still in development and has yet to fly, but last December it taxied out onto the runway at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. In another test last Sunday, it hit a new top taxi speed of 46 miles per hour.




If all goes according to plan, the plane will take its first test flight next year. As to when Stratolaunch might begin commercial operations, no date has been given.

Air-launching rockets into space isn’t a new idea. The Pegasus XL rocket built by aerospace contractor Orbital ATK launches from a modified Lockheed TriStar jetliner.

NASA and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group have similar projects under development, as does the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

But none of these other platforms is quite on the scale of Stratolaunch. Powered by six huge Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, the aircraft is intended to carry up to 550,000 pounds to an altitude of 35,000 feet.

It has room between its fuselages to suspend rockets from the central portion of the wing. The company has partnered with Orbital ATK to launch its Pegasus XL rocket and aims eventually to carry three on each mission.

Stratolaunch was designed by Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites, which specializes in concept aircraft.

The company won the Ansari X Prize to launch the first private, reusable, manned spacecraft in 2004 with its SpaceShipOne, which was also launched from a plane.

Despite the ambitious nature of the project, space entrepreneur Gary Hudson thinks it has a good chance of success — in part because of Allen’s deep pockets.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Home-Made Drones Bombed A Russian Airbase, According To The Defense Ministry

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on January 8 that a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have attacked their airbase in Syria on the night of January 5th.

The drone strike is the latest of a recent flurry of mysterious attacks against Russian forces in Syria, and military officials are still clueless as to who’s behind them.

The Defense Ministry said that 13 small drones, what they described as a “massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles,” targeted two separate locations.




Seven of these were neutralized by Russian anti-aircraft defenses, while the rest caused no significant damage after exploding upon touching the ground.

Examining the captured UAVs, the Russian military discovered that they were crudely assembled. They carried locally made bombs fitted in small plastic fins under their wings.

It was the first time when terrorists applied a massed drone aircraft attack launched at a range of more than 50 km using modern GPS guidance system,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s official post said.

It’s hard not to think of that futuristic slaughterbots in that viral video, except that those were autonomous and the drones that attacked the Russians were most likely remotely controlled.

The use of drones for warfare isn’t something new, they have been used in various forms since the 19th century.

But swarms of small drones like the ones seen in Syria have only recently been employed in modern defense programs.

Defense contractor Duke Robotics has one such program in the works, with an ordinary-looking multi-rotor drone called the TIKAD — except it really isn’t your regular hobbyist drone. The TIKAD is armed with a high-powered rifle.

Advocates of drone warfare see it as the future of military operations, and one where the lives of human soldiers need not be put in harm’s way.

Deploying smaller drones could also end up becoming cheaper than using regular UAVs like the Predator.

So, as crude and rudimentary as those drones that bombed Russian forces were, the mysterious attackers are definitely up to something.

The incident was, indeed, the first time a swarm of drones had been weaponized for a military strike — but it most definitely won’t be the last.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Airbus Conquers Physics With A Funky Super-Fast Helicopter

airbus-chopper

Emergency workers and the obscenely rich love helicopters, and for good reason. Unlike airplanes, whirlybirds can take off and land almost anywhere, making them just the thing for tight spots and urban areas.

The drawback, though, is speed. Choppers are slow.

While Gulfstream’s G650 private jet streaks along at north of 600 mph, conventional choppers like the police or your local traffic reporter might use maxes out around 160 mph. Quick, but not that quick when talking about flight.

Airbus thinks it found a way of closing the speed gap without sacrificing a helicopter’s inherent advantages: add wings and props to create an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, hover, and cruise at a heady 250 mph.

Airbus calls it the Racer, for Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft.




The idea is to find a way around the physics that limit the speed of a conventional helo. With any helicopter, the top rotor provides lift as the blades slice the air.

When the helicopter is flying forward, air moves around the the blade spinning in the direction of travel faster than it does around the retreating blade on the opposite side, causing something aerodynamicists call dissymmetry of lift.

The faster you go, the more severe the effect and the less stable the helicopter. Aerodynamicists know how to compensate for most of that, but the challenge mounts as the blades approach the speed of sound. An advancing blade hitting the sound barrier creates aerodynamic instabilities engineers cannot compensate for.

So Airbus engineers added two short wings extending from each side of the fuselage. The wings meet at a point and support a rear-facing prop driven by the engines turning the main rotor.

airbus-chopper

In forward flight, the wings provide additional lift, and those small props provide additional propulsion. All of this allows the helo to achieve higher speeds without pushing the main rotor into an aerodynamic red zone.

“The concept of compound helicopters, using one or two pusher fans and small wings along with the main rotor, is not new,” says Mo Sammy, director of the Aerospace Research Center at Ohio State University. “What could be new is the claim of efficiency and affordability, if materialized.”

Although every futuristic aircraft seems to include electric motors these days, Airbus is sticking to a tried and tested powertrain here. Two Rolls-Royce turboprop engines power the main rotor and auxiliary propellers.

Airbus Helicopter

However, Airbus is exploring a “stop-start” system that will shut down one engine during low speeds or light loads. Think of it as “eco” mode for the sky.

Airbus sees a market for its machine that could rival private planes for city to city transport among jet setters in a hurry. Emergency services could benefit, too a higher top speed could mean a shorter flight to hospital.Airbus hopes to make the first flight in 2020. Commercial service could follow five to 10 years later. Just enough time to start saving up.

Airbus hopes to make the first flight in 2020. Commercial service could follow five to 10 years later. Just enough time to start saving up.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Flying The World’s Most Affordable Single-Engine Private Jet

Cirrus Aircraft

Cirrus Aircraft, based in Duluth, Minn., is marketing the new Vision SF50 as the most affordable personal jet on the market.

The Vision Jet is the kind of plane that could have a big impact on the aviation market. Bringing a jet much closer to the affordability range of many pilots who now opt for turboprop or piston planes.




With seating for five adults and two kids, the Vision Jet is on the small side as far as private jets go, but  still has impressive capability. It has a top speed of 345 miles per hour.

Maximum range is 1,380 miles, putting city pairs like Denver to Atlanta within nonstop reach.

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Pass it on: Popular Science