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Helicopter Leasing Creates Options for Operators

Leasing — it’s not just for automobiles anymore. As proven by the growth of the helicopter leasing industry, rotorcraft operators are increasingly obtaining leases to boost their capabilities, without adding millions in debt to their balance sheets.
Helicopter leasing company Milestone Aviation Group was founded just five years ago in 2010, but now owns 168 helicopters valued at over $2.8 billion and has leases signed with 26 operators in more than 20 countries. Milestone also has $3 billion of new aircraft on order, including AgustaWestland AW139s, AW169s, and AW189s, Airbus EC175s and EC225s, and Sikorsky S-76Ds and S-92s. In the fall of 2014, the company was acquired by GE Capital Aviation Services for $1.78 billion.

After two years in business, Waypoint Leasing now has more than 85 helicopters in its $1.1 billion fleet, including aircraft from AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter, and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. The young company also has firm and option orders for 80-plus more helicopters to be delivered over the next five years.

Lease Corporation International (LCI) has roots in fixed-wing aircraft leasing, with customers such as Air France, British Airways, Iberia, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic. Having witnessed the rapid growth of helicopter leasing, LCI has taken the plunge into this market by making substantial purchases from helicopter OEMs. From AgustaWestland, LCI has ordered 24 AW139s, 12 AW169s, and 16 AW189s. From Airbus Helicopters, the company has ordered six EC175s, up to four EC225s, and 15 EC225es.

“There are a lot of new players coming into the helicopter market, and like the existing ones, they are all strongly financed,” said Brian Foley, aviation analyst and president of Brian Foley Associates. “These companies see that there is a real opportunity for leasing helicopters globally and they’re seizing it.”

Why Lease?

For the average helicopter operator, leasing offers many advantages over buying. The first big advantage of an operating lease is capital cost. Rather than take out a bank loan and pay millions of dollars upfront, an operator gets to pay for their leased helicopter just like they do for their telephone and internet access.

The benefit isn’t just a matter of cash flow. “When you finance a helicopter purchase, it cuts into your overall available credit at the bank,” said Foley. (Note: A financial lease is like a loan, because it shows on the balance sheet.) “In contrast, an operating lease payment is just a monthly expense; it leaves your balance sheet alone, which means it does not cut into your ability to borrow.”

Thus, the leasing company (the “lessor”) finances a leased helicopter, similar to how a landlord finances a rental apartment. This means that the lessor also takes the risk of carrying the multi-million dollar cost of the aircraft, which reduces the financial exposure of the lessee.

Not having to pay outright for helicopters has been a big boon for the oil and gas industry … and for the sector’s helicopter providers who are widely acknowledged as the driving force behind helicopter leasing growth. Their preference for operational leasing makes sense, as oil and gas helicopters are typically expensive medium/heavy twins at the high end of the price scale. The growth of the oil and gas sector, and its demand for worldwide service, is a time-sensitive opportunity. In many instances, it is smarter for a helicopter operator to lease a third party’s available helicopters today rather than order and wait for new ones of their own. Waiting could leave their customers’ unsatisfied demands to the competition.

While helicopter leasing started in the oil and gas industry, newcomers are now tackling other industries. Fabrice Arfi, vice president for business development and sales coordination at Airbus Helicopters, is observing this trend. “Some of the early players are leaving the oil and gas industry with a particular interest in non-military governmental markets, such as training, and search and rescue.” He adds that police and EMS services are also becoming more interested in helicopter leasing because it represents a way to outsource helicopter purchasing to the private sector in an affordable and predictable manner.

Challenges for Lessors, Lessees, and OEMs

The move to helicopter leasing is definitely helping to increase helicopter sales and helicopter usage around the globe, just as fixed-wing aircraft leasing has allowed many smaller airlines to get off the ground by slashing capital costs. Still, leasing is not a magic bullet: it poses challenges for everyone involved in the process.

For lessors, the companies who buy their helicopters directly from OEMs and then lease them to operators, there is big money at risk. It is more than the huge per-helicopter cost. They also have to choose the right makes and models from a wide product selection.

“When you are leasing fixed-wing jetliners to commercial carriers, the choice is quite limited. I mean, do you want an A320 or a B737?” asks Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis with the Teal Group Corporation, an aerospace and defense industry consultancy. “When it comes to helicopters, choosing the right model, or models, is absolutely vital for the leasing company’s profitability. They don’t want to end up with helicopters that are people’s second or third choice,” he explained.

Helicopter lessors also operate in a much riskier environment than those who lease fixed-wing aircraft to the airlines. “If you look back over the years to the end of World War II, the airline industry has enjoyed pretty steady and consistent growth of 4-5 percent annually,” said Aboulafia. “By contrast, the helicopter industry’s growth has been much more unpredictable and unreliable. This makes successful, accurate planning for long-term revenues and acquisitions much harder to achieve.”

Not all helicopter lessors are big corporations. There are also smaller family-run companies, such as Spitzer Helicopter Leasing of Hayward, California. At present, they are leasing 72 Robinson R-22s and R-44s to flying schools across the United States.

“Our business is focused on the national training market,” said Rosemary Rodd Spitzer, who has been running the company since her husband and company founder, Matt Spitzer, passed away in 2013. “The challenge in leasing helicopters is to identify lease candidates who are good business people, who have the resources to recruit adequate numbers of students, who maintain the ships properly, and who pay their bill.”

Furthermore, she explains their leasing standards are high. “We have fairly stiff standards to be approved for a lease. Since we are not charging a monthly dollar minimum, but are only getting paid for hours flown, we are taking more of a risk on each lease than other companies, which require a monthly fee whether the ship is flown or not. That means we are more selective in who we lease to.”

The challenges for helicopter lessees is that the aircraft is not a tangible asset that they can use as collateral, as the aircraft does not belong to them. In addition, not every make and model of helicopter is available for leasing. Lessees have to go with whatever affordable aircraft the lessor is offering.

The trend towards leasing also puts pressure on OEMs, like Airbus Helicopters. “When we sell helicopters, we usually know the end customer and the exact mission that our products will serve,” said Arfi. “Selling to leasing companies, or leasing directly to operators, implies that we have to anticipate the various possibilities of utilization. For us OEMs, this means that we have to offer more and more standard products, with easy add-ons to be able to cope quickly with configuration changes.” The good news for OEMs is that some features seem to be universally popular. According to Arfi, these features include a comfortable cabin size, large windows, low vibration and sound levels, and greater performance and payload capability.

A second risk for OEMs is that leasing companies may artificially boost sales by over-ordering aircraft, and then slash future orders if their usage projections are too high. In the past this was not an issue, since leasing companies essentially had specific customers lined up for the helicopters they purchased. However, Arfi explains that the combination of long manufacturing lead times and competition among lessors is now motivating lessors to buy on speculation, with no end-user yet signed. This means that lessors could end up with aircraft they cannot lease immediately upon delivery, costing them money and discouraging them from buying new helicopters.

Speculative buying by lessors followed by depressed future demand can cause a ‘boom-bust’ cycle that is very hard for OEMs to manage. “OEMs will have to mitigate this risk by coming up with rules to manage the relationship with lessors,” said Arfi. “The key in the future will be the ability of the OEM and lessor to work together.”

Even with the challenges associated with helicopter leasing, there is no doubt that leasing is gaining ground in the global rotorcraft market. The trend is growing and the fundamental reason is simple: with operating leases, operators can get helicopters quickly without making huge capital outlays. With purchasing, they cannot.

 

Posted by jhadmin ROTOCRAFT PRO

2017-06-13T02:14:44-06:00 December 21st, 2015|aviation innovation, Aviation News, Business Aircraft Industry News|

A330-200 with Increased Range Gets EASA Certification

The Airbus A330-200 242t’s maximum takeoff exceeds that of the original model by some four metric tons. (Image: Airbus)

The 242-metric-ton maximum takeoff weight version of the Airbus A330-200 has won EASA certification, some five months after the larger A330-300 earned certification from European authorities, Airbus announced on Tuesday. The company said approval from the U.S. authorities would follow.

Launched in 2012, the increased-takeoff-weight A330-200 and A330-300 incorporate a new aerodynamic package, engine improvements and, in the -300 version, an optional center fuel tank.

The range of the smaller of the two airplanes, designated by Airbus as the A330-200 242t, increases by up to 350 nautical miles compared with today’s standard 238-metric ton model, extending range to 7,250 nautical miles and allowing operators to fly up to 15 hours nonstop. The improvements also fuel consumption by up two percent, said Airbus.

The company bills the new, heavier-takeoff-weight A330 as the basis for the A330neo, launched at last year’s Farnborough Air Show and scheduled for first delivery to Delta Air Lines in the fourth quarter of 2017. In May Delta also took the first 242-metric-ton A330-300, making it the first of 11 customers to receive the option.

Airbus would not identify the first operator of the A330-200 242t, citing its policy to allow the customer to decide when to make the announcement.

Separately, on September 7 Airbus announced it had cut the first metal for the A330neo at its plants in Toulouse and Nantes, France. Machining of the first engine pylon started during the summer at Airbus’s facility in Saint-Eloi (Toulouse), while the company’s factory in Nantes began production of the first A330neo center wing box.

By Gregory Polek, as reported on ainonline.com

2017-06-13T02:14:54-06:00 September 8th, 2015|aviation innovation, Aviation Leaders, Aviation News, Design|

Mitsubishi MRJ Set for Late October First Flight

The first MRJ flight test article performs low-speed taxi tests in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft)

Mitsubishi Aircraft has narrowed its first flight target for the MRJ regional jet to “the latter half of October” as the company aims to complete aircraft-level ground and engineering tests by late this month. During a briefing on Wednesday in Nagoya, Japan, the company’s chief engineer, Nobuo Kishi, told reporters that static strength testing, including trials involving main wing-up bending and fuselage pressurization, has confirmed the MRJ’s structural readiness for first flight.

Plans call for a one-hour maiden test mission dedicated to confirming basic flight characteristics involving descent and left and right circling. Engineers have decided to keep certain moveable parts such as the landing gear and flaps in the fixed position and not engage the thrust reverser system during the first flight. After the flight, said Kishi, the company plans to conduct “test feedback modification” to expand the flight envelope.

Still citing a second-quarter target date for first delivery to All Nippon Airways (ANA), Mitsubishi in July and August conducted test feedback modification and technical data checks on the first two of a planned fleet of five flight-test vehicles. Plans call for the first flying prototype to perform envelope expansion and systems tests; the second to carry out performance and function tests; the third to evaluate detailed flight characteristics and avionics tests; the fourth to perform interior, community noise and icing tests; and the fifth to assess autopilot function.

The company plans to carry out much of its flight-testing at Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, in the U.S., to take advantage of its long runways and lack of regular scheduled airline service. Other testing sites in the U.S. include Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport in Colorado, where the company plans to conduct high-altitude takeoff and landing tests. Meanwhile, it has chosen Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico for special runway tests and McKinley Climatic Laboratory in Florida for extreme environment testing.

It also plans to employ 150 engineers at a new engineering center in Seattle to support all the testing activity in the U.S.

By Gregory Polek, as reported on ainonline.com

Stratajet Set to Launch Online Charter Booking Engine

Online charter booking engine Stratajet is set to roll out its service to private aviation consumers on September 28. The UK-based company, which claims to offer the only real-time online booking engine for charter flights, has established a database of up to 500 available aircraft for which its software will generate live pricing information.

In a project called Operation Long Reach, Stratajet spent April through August visiting 50 charter operators and FBOs in 30 cities across 14 European countries to promote its technology. The main aim was to persuade operators to link their operations software with the Stratajet system and so make aircraft available for direct booking by customers.

Participating operators are eligible to use the company’s Stratafleet software, which uses the Stratajet search engine to generate flight quotes and more efficiently sell their available capacity. Its also offers the StrataFBO software to allow FBOs to interface with the main website.

Stratajet is now setting up meetings with operators in the U.S., Middle East and Russia to expand its database of available aircraft. The company also has just appointed David Lee as its chief financial officer. Lee has more than a decade of experience in developing Internet businesses and was recently named by the Institute of Chartered Accountants as Finance Director of the Year.

Following an exhausting few months, flying around Europe in our Chieftain aircraft, it is very rewarding to be able to confirm that we have hit our targets in relation to the number and range of aircraft available on the Stratajet platform,” commented CEO Jonny Nicol. “The positive response we received throughout the campaign has proven what we knew all along: the industry needs technological development in order to grow. I think one of our greatest achievements is that we gained the understanding from the operators that other companies, claiming to do what Stratajet does, are simply not delivering.”

Stratajet has been in development for the past four years while Nicol and his team refined the algorithm that he says delivers the charter industry’s only 100-percent accurate, real-time charter booking system for consumers. Essentially, the system is intended to calculate the true cost of a so-called “partial empty leg” by working out the net difference in cost of the requested new trip and any empty leg involved.

This means that the consumer pays less and the operator makes a greater profit margin,” Nicol told AIN. Stratajet employs a research team to ensure that the system includes up-to-date information on all relevant costs, such as airport landing and parking fees. Customers pay a 5 percent commission on the price of flights booked either online or by phone.

By Charles Alcock, as reported on ainonline.com

Wright State Spin-Off to Market GoFlyZone

Wright State Research Institute is spinning off a new company around a technology that hopes to create an air traffic control system for drones.

The institute, part of Wright State University, is developing a new system designed to be a traffic management tool for drone users of all kinds — allowing them to plot courses for their craft that stop them from flying in restricted areas, avoid bad weather and risky collisions with other aircraft.

The new startup, FlyTransparent LLC, will have Bruce Preiss, WSRI’s lead research engineer, as its CEO. It will bring to market the GoFlyZone, a Web site and mobile application for drone users to voluntarily upload flight plans and allow them to see other users’ flights before they get off the ground.

“There are just too many users out there right now to send their information to an air traffic control,” Preiss said. “Self regulation is a step in the right direction.”

Preiss developed the Web site along with researchers David Malek and Matt Duquette. This, he said, as there are an estimated 500,000 unmanned aerial systems, or drones, up and flying, with another 12,000 landing in the hands of consumers each month.

Commercial users are often aware of the laws around the emerging industry — but cheaper drone models are landing in the hands of hobbyists with increasing regularity, leading to high profile incidents of drones buzzing too close to aircraft and helicopters, or as was recently the case in Cincinnati, crashing into buildings.

“We view this as the only good near-term approach,” Preiss said, adding that even current proposals to attach some form of transponder to each UAV would take considerable time and cost.

Users of the app will be able to plot a course for their drone and it will be fed through a central flight planning data server, which will allow them to see where other drones are operating and where restricted areas are. It will also show them potential weather hazards and other manned aircraft to avoid.

Hugh Bolton, senior cyber and intelligence fellow for WSRI, said the tech could come with some form of subscription or licensing fees. It’s still to be determined how it could be a benefit to the legal and insurance liabilities for unmanned systems.

The company isn’t ready to take it to market. Preiss said it will work to build a business model to commercialize the tech and then seek angel investors and venture capital to support the startup. He wasn’t sure when a commercial version could come to market, but it will be demonstrated at the Ohio UAS Conference next week.

as reported on uasvision.com

 

2015-08-31T10:00:45-06:00 August 31st, 2015|ATC, aviation innovation, Aviation Leaders, Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, Design, drones, UAS, UAV|

U.S. government, police working on counter-drone system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As concerns rise about a security menace posed by rogue drone flights, U.S. government agencies are working with state and local police forces to develop high-tech systems to protect vulnerable sites, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Although the research aimed at tracking and disabling drones is at an early stage, there has been at least one field test.

Last New Year’s Eve, New York police used a microwave-based system to try to track a commercially available drone at a packed Times Square and send it back to its operator, according to one source involved in the test.

The previously unreported test, which ran into difficulty because of interference from nearby media broadcasts, was part of the nationwide development effort that includes the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department, the source said.

The sources were not authorized to speak about the effort and declined to be identified.

Asked about the development of counter-drone-technology, the Department of Homeland Security said it “works side-by-side with our interagency partners” to develop solutions to address the unlawful use of drones. Officials with the Defense Department, FAA and New York Police Department declined to comment.

But the sources acknowledged that efforts to combat rogue drones have gained new urgency due to the sharp rise in drone use and a series of alarming incidents.

The number of unauthorized drone flights has surged over the past year, raising concerns that one could hit a commercial aircraft during landing or take-off, or be used as a weapon in a deliberate attack, the sources said.

Drones have flown perilously close to airliners, interfered with firefighting operations, been used to transport illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico, and sparked a security scare at the White House, among other incidents.

LIMITED POWERS

But U.S. authorities have limited tools for identifying drone operators, many of them hobbyists, who violate federal rules that drones fly no higher than 400 feet (120 meters) and no closer than 5 miles (8 km) to airports. One reason for the enforcement gap is that Congress in 2012 barred the FAA from regulating recreational drones.

A system capable of disabling a drone and identifying its operator would give law enforcement officials practical powers to block the flights.

At crowded venues such as Times Square or the Super Bowl, police want to be able to take control of a drone, steer it safely away from the public and guide it back to the operators, who can then be identified, the sources said.

A Reuters analysis of FAA data shows that authorities identified operators in only one in 10 unauthorized drone sightings reported in 2014, while only 2 percent of the cases led to enforcement actions.

“We can’t shoot it out of the sky. We have to come up with something that’s kind of basic technology so that if something happens, the drone or device will just go right back to the operators. It won’t crash,” one of the sources said.

To do that, experts say that a drone needs to be tracked and identified with a receiver and then targeted with an electromagnetic signal strong enough to overwhelm its radio controls.

“You need enough power to override the transmitter. If I just jam it so it can’t receive signals, it’s probably going to crash. But if I know the transmission codes the drone is using, I can control that object,” said retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Muddy Watters, an electronic warfare expert.

Laws governing the use of drones have lagged their dramatic rise in areas spanning agriculture, filming and recreational use. Recreational drone operators are not required to register their machines, obtain training or put identifying features on the aircraft, making it extremely difficult for police to track down rogue operators.

FIRE-FIGHTING DISRUPTION, SECURITY SCARES

U.S. pilots have reported more than 650 drone sightings this year, as of Aug. 9, well over double the 238 total for all of 2014, the FAA said last week.

More than 1 million drones of all kinds are expected to be sold in the United States this year, compared to 430,000 in 2014 and 120,000 in 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

 In California, errant drones forced firefighters to suspend air drops of water and fire retardant on wild fires this summer.

In January, a “quadcopter” drone landed on the White House lawn after its operator lost control of the device in downtown Washington. Federal officials decided not to bring criminal charges.

Police say their greatest fear is weaponization, as the advance of drone technology enables the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to travel farther and faster and carry larger payloads.

Guns can be fixed to drones and fired with relative ease, as demonstrated in a popular video posted to YouTube by a Connecticut teenager in July. The 15-second video, entitled “Flying Gun”, shows a quadcopter hovering just above the ground in a wooded area and jerking backward with each of four shots.

The case is under investigation by the FAA to determine whether the drone violated aviation safety rules.

Safety and security concerns have prompted bipartisan discussions in Congress about options that include federal support for jamming drone systems and other potential technology solutions.

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, proposed this week that drone manufacturers be required to install technology capable of preventing the unmanned aircraft from straying near “no fly” areas such as airports.

Drone industry executives say that one possible solution is an industry-wide agreement to include so-called “geo-fencing” software in drones to prevent them from straying above the legal altitude or too close to sensitive sites.

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, whose drone was involved in the January crash on the White House grounds, has since released a software fix that will restrict flights around sensitive areas.

Federal authorities say they are also prepared to bring federal criminal charges against rogue drone operators who violate FAA restrictions.

By David Morgan, as reported on yahoo.com

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Stuart Grudgings)

The HondaJet Makes its Grand Debut in Pebble Beach

The long-awaited HondaJet made its North American public debut at Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center Wednesday night. Honda’s first-ever private jet goes into service this year after a long but trouble-free gestation.

© Provided by MotorTrend HondaJet HA 420

The $4.5 million business jet can be flown by a crew of one or two and carry up to six passengers depending on configuration. In a typical four-passenger configuration, the seats are arranged with two on each side of the plane facing one another with a center aisle. You’ll probably have to duck on the way in or out, as the cabin is less than five feet tall inside. Thankfully, all your stuff can ride in the back, where there’s a 57 cubic-foot cargo hold accessed from behind the left engine.

Powering the jet are two turbofan engines co-developed with GE. Each puts out 2,050 pounds of thrust and gives the jet a maximum cruising speed of 420 knots, or 483 mph. The unique over-wing engine mounting was used to maximize interior volume for people and cargo, giving the jet more space than its competitors. It also reduces drag, increasing fuel efficiency and speed.

With relatively short 4,000-foot take-off and 3,000-foot landing distances, it should be able to operate out of just about any local airport. Its short 40-foot wingspan should make parking a breeze. With four people on board, Honda Aircraft Company estimates the HA-420, as it’s known internally, has a range of 1,180 nautical miles and a maximum ceiling of 43,000 feet.

Honda first began researching jets back in the 1980s, but didn’t finalize a design until the late ’90s. The first prototype debuted in 2003, but Honda didn’t announce it would put the jet into production until 2006. The first flight of the production jet occurred just last year and achieved FAA certification this year. Honda is already taking orders and the first jets are now being delivered.

By Scott Evans, as reported on www.msn.com

Amazon, Google Want Changes To Low-Altitude Airspace For UAS

Amazon and Google are proposing changes to low-altitude airspace to enable widespread use of small unmanned aircraft, including for package delivery. Central to both proposals is allowing private-sector entities, rather than the FAA, to manage airspace operations.

Amazon proposes segregating airspace below 500 ft. to buffer small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations from current manned aviation activity and to buffer lesser-equipped air vehicles from highly equipped vehicles operating beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) and able to avoid collisions.

Google proposes using available technology including cellular networks, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) and automotive vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications to enable UAS to operate as manned aviation does today in Class G uncontrolled airspace.

Developing an air traffic system that enables safe operations of highly automated UAS flying beyond line-of-sight is essential to realizing the “enormous benefits” of the technology, says Amazon, which is developing the Prime Air unmanned delivery system.

The online retail giant proposes segregating airspace below 500 ft. into four zones. Airspace below 200 ft., or the low-speed localized traffic area, would be reserved for operations such as surveying, videography and inspection that do not involve transiting the airspace.

Lesser-equipped vehicles, lacking sense-and-avoid (SAA) systems, would be confined to this area and would not be allowed access to certain airspace within the zone, such as over heavily populated areas.

Between 200-400 ft., the high-speed transit area, would be designated for well-equipped UAS “as determined by the relevant performance standards and rules,” says the Amazon proposal.

Airspace between 400-500 ft. would serve as a permanent no-fly zone where small UAS would be forbidden to fly, except in emergencies, to provide a buffer between unmanned and manned aviation operations.

Finally, predefined low-risk locations with altitude restrictions and equipage requirements would be established by aviation authorities; designated hobbyist airfields fall under this heading.

“We will carefully evaluate Amazon’s suggestions, but a detailed technical review of the proposal will take time,” says the FAA.  “We are working with industry to identify mechanisms for considering proposals such as Amazon’s and Google’s, which may be tied to RTCA’s work on developing industry standards

[for UAS].”

Google’s proposal for Class G airspace below 500 ft. is to have airspace service providers (ASP) perform UAS traffic planning, airspace supervision and separation assurance using existing cellular networks. The UAS would give way to manned aircraft by listening to existing ADS-B channels and maneuvering to avoid a collision.

An “ADS-B-like” system, such as cellular device-to-device or automotive V2V links, would provide short-range UAS-to-UAS collision avoidance. Google is developing a low-cost, low-power ADS-B transceiver for use in unmanned aircraft.

The search giant’s proposal requires the FAA to amend its mandate for ADS-B Out equipage by 2020 to include helicopters flying below 500 ft. over populated areas, which could meet opposition from operators, but Google says its low-cost ADS-B system will be suitable for manned aircraft.

“We appreciate both Amazon’s and Google’s good-faith efforts to begin a dialog with other users of the airspace—especially the helicopter industry, which is the aviation sector most likely to operate in the low-altitude airspace they envision using—and their recognition that these are starting points,” says the Helicopter Association International. “We see nothing in their initial proposal that would restrict access to low-altitude airspace.”

Under Google’s proposal, ASPs would be the interface between UAS operators and FAA air traffic control (ATC). They would provide data to operators on airspace restrictions, weather, obstacles and other unmanned and manned traffic. The data would be used to plan coordinated, conflict-free routes.

Google would be the ASP for its Project Wing UAS delivery fleet and be part of a federated network with other ASPs, such as Amazon for its Prime Air operations and providers serving other low-altitude airspace users such as hobbyists.

“To ensure openness of the airspace and spur competition, anyone should be able to create an ASP,” says Google’s proposal. “However, all ASPs must be networked to share the traffic and flight plan data with each other and with ATC.”

The projected UAS industry growth “requires the delegation of responsibility for many traditional air navigation services,” says Amazon. “There should be a controlling entity that serves a central, offline coordination and auditing function; however many of these services will be handled in a more distributed and federated fashion where multiple operators cover overlapping areas, each managing their own fleet.”

Amazon also proposes a “best-equipped, best-served” model where airspace access is determined by vehicle capabilities, and outlines four classes of equipage: basic, good, better and best.

“Basic” is radio-control flight within line-of-sight (LOS) in low-risk areas. “Good” would allow unrestricted daytime LOS flight below 200 ft. in rural areas and limited suburban operations. This requires the UAS to be able to announce its identify, location and activity via V2V, receive air traffic and weather information, provide proximity alerting via V2V, and connect to the Internet via the ground station.

“Better” adds an autopilot capable of automatic deconfliction via collaborative V2V, on-vehicle Internet connection and ADS-B Out, and would allow LOS flight below 400 ft. in suburban areas and limited urban operations.

“Best-equipped” adds sensor-based noncollaborative SAA, online 4-D trajectory planning and execution, geospatial data on all hazards above 200 ft., ADS-B In/Out, onboard vehicle condition monitoring and the ability to land at an alternate site. This would enable BLOS flight below 400 ft. in all areas, and allow one operator to control more than one vehicle, says Amazon.

“Operators seeking broad airspace access in multiple environments will need to have highly-equipped vehicles,” the proposal says. “They will also need to minimize interaction with lesser-equipped [small UAS] as well as the occasional manned aircraft flying at low altitude.”

“The proposal from Amazon to equip ‘Best’-class UAS with sense-and-avoid equipment is intriguing, but we are concerned that the plan does not account for low-level manned aviation operations, such as agricultural, firefighting, emergency medical and wildlife survey operations,” says Andrew Moore, executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association.

“If Amazon intends for the airspace below 500 ft. to only be available to manned aircraft in transitional airspace circumstances that ‘will not fly’ with manned aerial applicators and the many other pilots that consistently, and not just transitionally, fly in low-level airspace,” he says.

Google proposes an airspace security system based on how pilots and operators today establish a traceable identity. This would use the public key infrastructure to verify the identity of an operator submitting a flight plan request. This would “enable compliance and responsibility through identity,” Google says.

By Graham Warwick, as reported on aviationweek.com

Better Inspections Will Mean Lighter, More Fuel-Efficient Aircraft

Evita uses X-ray grating interferometry to measure pixel-wise refraction angles and scattering of beams through inspection samples. Credit: CSEM Switzerland

Aircraft, systems and major components increasingly are designed with an eye toward how they will be inspected and maintained. In other words, the aftermarket has a lot to say about production techniques.

Usually, this means aircraft systems or parts must be designed to minimize repair frequency and costs. But sometimes improvements in inspection and repair methods can dramatically alter design requirements in positive ways.

Nowhere is this more true and important than in the expanding use of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites in major aircraft structures. Boeing’s 787 andAirbus’s A350 are both at least half CFRP by weight, and regional and business aircraft are following this trend. Reduced weight, less fuel-burn and lower operating costs are the big gains from using composites. But CFRPs have other benefits, such as reduced maintenance and improvements in cabin comfort.

Ceramic matrix composites (CMC) in engine hot sections will reduce weight and tolerate higher temperatures, making engines more fuel-efficient.

But CMCs are very new, and even airframe composites are young in terms of intensive repair experience. Under present conservative design standards, composite airframe structures are about 20% lighter than their metal predecessors. Theoretically, they could be up to 60% lighter, if we understood their production, performance, inspection and repair completely.

But OEMs cannot reach that theoretical nirvana partly because they cannot be absolutely sure very small defects will not occur in the initial manufacture of composites, be missed in periodic inspections or persist after a repair has been made. So for both safety and certification purposes, composite parts must be designed to perform their functions—including very major load-bearing ones—even with such defects.

Europe’s Evita project, conducted by the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), and universities in Manchester, England, and Athens, Greece, as well as GMI Aero and Dassault, aims to change that. Evita would enable affordable and much more sensitive inspection of composite structures, spotting defects in the microscopic range that may now elude common ultrasonic inspections.

Evita uses X-ray grating interferometry to measure pixel-wise refraction angles and scattering of a beam through inspection samples. It can detect much more than simple X-ray absorption-based images.

Evita’s actual inspection is a quick but complex process. The current Evita demonstrator has more than 150 parts, five motorized axes, plus an X-ray detector and source. It can inspect parts up to 1 sq. meter (10.7 sq. ft.), but the basic Evita technology could be used on much larger structures, up to wing size.

The demonstrator produces images measuring 15 sq. cm. (2.3 sq. in.) in under 30. sec., depending on the sensitivity desired. Inspection time increases linearly with the area to be inspected; in the future, images four times as large should be possible. Actual inspection times will vary by area and purpose but are expected to be much faster than the several days now required to inspect a major composite structure by computed tomography (CT).

CSEM is now benchmarking Evita against other inspection techniques, including shearography, CT and ultrasonic inspection. Data will be published at the end of 2015. Senior engineer Vincent Revol expects Evita will be much more sensitive to defects such as porosity and will yield higher resolution of defect regions than low-cost ultrasonics. “It will be good at detecting micro-cracking, porosity and errors in composite-fiber orientation,” he says. The technique also should be efficient at detecting delamination, foreign objects and areas rich or poor in resin.

The approach appears to spot small defects much better than the affordable ultrasonics and much faster than CT. CSEM offers Evita inspections now as a service, but the next step will be industrializing the approach with a manufacturing partner. And CSEM wants to apply the technology to CMCs after its initial research on airframe composites is done.

How much will Evita help OEMs to realize the potential of composites to lighten airframes and improve engine performance? Evita coordinator Anna Madrigal says that is a question for OEMs.

CSEM will present its Evita findings at MRO Europe this October in London.  Revol expects Evita will be in use within 2-3 years, at least on a small scale, and will be more widely deployed in 5-10.

By Henry Canaday, as reported on aviationweek.com

Video Content Driving Changes In Small-UAV Market

Canada’s Draganfly Innovations is one of the longest-established manufacturers of small unmanned aircraft and a leading supplier of multicopters to public safety agencies worldwide. But in a sure sign that small UAVs are not a traditional aviation market, the company has been acquired by “live-action content platform” Trace Live Networks.

Trace’s core technology is software that allows a camera to lock on to and track an object, such as a person or vehicle, and stream the video live to platforms such as Meerkat and Periscope. The software can also auto-edit video for posting on Facebook and Youtube.

The company has acquired Draganfly to put its technology onto UAVs and take it into the commercial and industrial sectors, for applications such as infrastructure inspection and wildlife surveys. “It can live-stream an inspection or auto-edit the monitoring of a herd so you only see when there is activity,” says co-founder and CEO Cameron Chell.

Trace was founded in 2013 and in July raised $7 million in financing to develop its auto-follow SmartCamera devices, including a motorized tripod, automated all-terrian vehicle and the FLYr1 quadcopter. Saskatoon-based Draganfly, meanwhile, was founded in 1998 but came to prominence with its 2008 launch of the X6 multicopter.

Chell says Trace plans to exploit Draganfly’s customer base and “incredible reputation” in the emergency services market to build a commercial and industrial business. Draganfly’s engineering expertise also will be used to develop consumer UAVs using Trace’s technology.

In traditional aviation, aircraft manufacturers have often acquired service providers to expand their markets, but seldom if ever has it happened the other way around. But in the technology market “it’s all about the data,” says Chell. “If you own the data it is a powerful asset that can be monetized over and over. And if you can be integral to the content, you have a stronger chance of holding on to the data.”

Chell says it is hard for small manufacturers to attract investment unless they have something unique. “Innovation and strategic differentiation are the keys to investment for smaller players.” While there are other providers of auto-follow cameras, they use GPS or radio links. “Ours is visual intelligence,” he says.

Camera-maker GoPro is developing its own quadcopter for the consumer market, and smartphone camera supplier Sony Mobile has formed a joint venture with Japanese robotics company ZMP to provide imaging services to commercial customers using UAVs.

“GoPro’s greatest asset is its customer base, similar to Apple,” says Chell. “There is huge value in the data being created and collected. Any time you can touch the end user, you are getting that content. It’s about getting your device into the hands of the user.”

Acquiring Draganfly makes Trace a competitor to leading consumer and “prosumer” UAV makers DJI and 3DRobotics, big users of GoPro cameras. “We are coming at it differently, from a camera and content angle first, versus drone first with DJI,” he says.

DJI, meanwhile, has joined Olympus and Panasonic in the Micro Four Thirds alliance developing a standard that will reduce the size of interchangeable lenses for digital cameras. This will allow DJI’s smaller quadcopters to carry high-performance cameras.

By Graham Warwick, as reported on aviationweek.com

2017-06-13T02:15:00-06:00 August 5th, 2015|aviation innovation, Aviation News, Blog, drones, UAS, UAV|

Global 7000 Faces Two-Year Delay

Bombardier, citing complexities of developing its Global 7000/8000 program, is pushing back entry into service of the first model, the 7000, by two years. At the same time, Bombardier detailed plans for a roughly 30 percent cut in production of the existing Global business jet models.

Bombardier, which unveiled the Global 7000/8000 program in 2010, originally hoped to bring the large-cabin, long-range 7000 to market in 2016.  Now the company expects the 7000 will enter service in second half 2018. In a briefing for financial analysts today, the company did not specifically mention a revised timeline for the Global 8000, which is slightly shorter and has longer range of 7,900 nmi, but this is supposed to enter service a year later than the 7000.

Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare called the 7000 a “game changing aircraft that will define a whole new category of business jet,” but said to develop the technologies involved “is a challenge.”  Bellemare called the advanced wing “the primary reason,” conceding “there has been some redesign.” The company is developing a wing that optimizes both short-field and long-range performance, he said. But the company also pointed to other systems, including a new high efficient engine, new advanced avionics and the four-zone cabin, its largest yet.

The review of the program is “almost complete,” he said, adding the company is “confident in the performance of the aircraft and our ability to meet the new schedule.”  The first flight test vehicle is in final assembly with three more in various stages of production and assembly.  Also, the integration system test and certification rig has been commissioned.

Bombardier first indicated possibility of a schedule slip in earlier in July, saying it was conducing a “full review of all aspects of the program, including its schedule.”  The schedule slowdown comes as the manufacturer has grappled with cash struggles with the two-year delay and $2 billion in cost overruns in the development itsCSeries airliner.

Bellemare detailed the new Global 7000 schedule during the company’s second quarter earnings release. He also reaffirmed plans to scale back production of its Globals to 50-60 a year.  This rolls back production to the 2012 levels.

Bombardier in May had announced plans for curbing production, but did not specify the extent of the cuts, but analysts predicted it would be in the 50-60 range.  The company also had announced it would lay off up to 1,750 workers.

Bellemare told analysts today that the company had significantly ramped up Global production after receiving some large orders.  Production had reached a rate of “80ish” a year, but he said that a rate of 50-60 aircraft a year is more sustainable over time.  “We made the right call” on the production cuts, Bellemare said, noting weakness in Russia, China and Latin America spurred a drop in second quarter orders.

The slowdown in production will affect cash this year and earnings next year, but Bellemare said the company was still quantifying those changes.  The company, however, did lower its margin guidance for business aircraft this year to 5-6 percent.

The extent of the Global 7000 delay and production cut plans did not come as a surprise. Rolland Vincent Associates president and JetNet iQ director Rollie Vincent said the announced plans were “entirely in line with our analyses.” He noted that the original production ramp up “was an internal decision and not reflective of overall market growth, in our view.”  While the market had improved, “demand certainly did not increase at that rate. We think the production output change was influenced by a need to increase cash flow to finance new aircraft development programs.”

He also believes claims of market softness “is a big disconnect: yes, emerging markets have weakened, but we see considerable strength in the U.S. market.” Pointing the strong results reported by rival Gulfstream yesterday, he said, “The contrast…is stark. Corporate buyers are back in the market, and Gulfstream is engaging with them.”

Bellemare did say activity has been good so far in the third quarter for Bombardier business aircraft.  And across the business aircraft portfolio, backlog has reached about $22 billion.

Also, business aircraft revenues in the third quarter climbed 12 percent to $1.8 billion as deliveries jumped from 38 in second quarter 2014 to 47 in the most recent quarter.  But orders slid from 30 in second quarter a year ago to eight last quarter.  Margin in the second quarter was 6.6 percent, down from last year’s 7.5 percent.

The company has cut down on white tail production.  Bellemare said there may have been one aircraft produced but not sold in the quarter.  “We understand what we have to do in second half,” he said. “We believe we will be able to deliver everything that we got.”

By Kerry Lynch, as reported on ainonline.com

 

Agriculture Will Be Big, But Realtors, Others First to Use Drones

The benefits of using drones for “precision agriculture,” expected to be one of the largest markets for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the U.S., are becoming clearer. But real estate and other industries that use aerial photography lead in adopting the technology, based on the first several hundred exemptions the Federal Aviation Administration has granted for commercial drone operations.

The early preponderance of drone use or intended use by realtors in particular belies the anticipated demand from farmers. In 2013, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) released an economic impact study which predicted that drones will contribute $82.1 billion to the U.S. economy from 2015-2025 assuming a favorable regulatory framework, with agriculture representing $75.6 billion of the total.

Precision agriculture includes overflying crops with small fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft equipped with cameras to detect problems or growth patterns, as well as precisely applying pesticides, fertilizer or seeds with an aircraft such as the Yamaha Rmax helicopter. “During the survey interviews, we discovered that there were unlimited uses of UAS,” the study authors noted. “For example, many respondents discussed the potential uses of UAS for real estate purposes or for examining oil pipelines. In the case of oil pipelines, the consensus of experts was that the total annual sale was approximately 1,000 units. For real estate personnel, there was not a consensus.”AUVSI plans to issue an updated economic impact study, according to CEO Brian Wynne.

On July 23, representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the Motion Picture Association of America, the Associated General Contractors of America, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and electrical power company AES participated in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus and moderated by Wynne. Among the highlights, R.J. Karney, AFBF director of congressional relations, revealed early findings of an “ROI Calculator” the farm bureau developed with drone services company Measure and Informa Economics to quantify the return on investment from using drones in precision agriculture.

Described as the first such web-based tool available to farmers, the ROI Calculator identifies the economic benefits of using drones for crop scouting, 3-D terrain mapping and crop damage assessment by insurers. It initially covers corn, wheat and soybeans, three of the largest production crops. In the case of crop scouting—using a drone service to collect visual and near infrared imagery—the calculator finds the average U.S. farmer would realize a return on investment of $12 per acre for corn, $2.60 for soybeans and $2.30 for wheat. Big companies have an interest in those numbers. Principal sponsors of the calculator effort include Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the Indago quadcopter, and food and beverage giant PepsiCo.

But for now at least, the real estate industry appears to be among the fastest industries to adopt drones. Residential and commercial real estate professionals can use the digital video and still imagery collected by relatively inexpensive drones to create web-based property listings. Speaking at the House forum, Florida realtor Andrew Barbar, representing the NAR, cited results of an analysis the association conducted of the first “Section 333” exemptions the FAA granted to applicants seeking to fly drones for commercial purposes—846 as of July 22. Of that number, 377, or 44 percent of the exemptions, were either real estate-focused or general aerial photography operations that could include real estate applications, according to the NAR.

An analysis of the first 711 exemptions the FAA granted through June 30, conducted by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York, determined that 45 percent of exemptions were for multi-industry photo and film operations. By industry, 25 percent were for utilities and energy infrastructure; 24 percent for real estate; 18 percent for agriculture; and 14 percent for construction. Bard and technology website The Verge found that more than half of the first 500 exemptions specified drones supplied by Chinese manufacturer DJI, such as the $3,000 professional-grade Inspire 1 and consumer-grade Phantom series of quadcopters.

AUVSI expects to release its own analysis of the first 500 exemptions on July 29. That will be only half of the story. The FAA informed AIN that it had approved more than 900 exemptions as of July 24. The agency had “closed out” or denied more than 100 applications due to insufficient information.

By Bill Carey, as reported on ainonline.com

Google Wants a Piece of Air-Traffic Control for Drones

July 27, 2015

Google Inc., the company that brought order to the Internet, has set its sights on doing the same for the flocks of commercial drones expected to someday clog the skies.

The search-engine pioneer is joining some of the biggest companies in technology, communications and aviation — including Amazon.com Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Harris Corp. — in trying to create an air-traffic control system to prevent mid-air collisions.

But don’t expect a big federally operated network of control towers. The government hasn’t said who will run the system or how it will operate, and is asking for ideas.

 “We think the airspace side of this picture is really not a place where any one entity or any one organization can think of taking charge,” Dave Vos, who heads Google’s secretive Project Wing, told Bloomberg News in his most expansive comments on Google’s vision to date. “The idea being that it’s not ‘Google is going to go out and build a solution and everyone else has to subscribe to it.’ The idea really is anyone should be free to build a solution.”

At least 14 companies, including Google, Amazon, Verizon and Harris, have signed agreements with NASA to help devise the first air-traffic system to coordinate small, low-altitude drones, which the agency calls the Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management. More than 100 other companies and universities have also expressed interest in the project, which will be needed before commercial drones can fly long distances to deliver goods, inspect power lines and survey crops.

NASA Conference

Many will attend a NASA-sponsored conference next week on how it should work. The goal is to eventually create a fully automated robotic ballet in the sky, with computers instructing drones to move around obstructions and each other.

Whether the system will be privately or publicly run — or even if it will be a single system — hasn’t been decided.

To the winners will go a foothold in an emerging multibillion-dollar economy of unmanned flying machines. That’s helped attract venture capital firms like Accel Partners, Intel Corp.’s investment arm and Millennium Technology Value Partners.

Precision Hawk program director Tyler Collins. Photographer: Jason Arthurs/Bloomberg
Precision Hawk program director Tyler Collins. Photographer: Jason Arthurs/Bloomberg
Photographer: Jason Arthurs/Bloomberg

“They definitely see it as an economic opportunity and as something that they want to participate in,” Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said. “This is real magic.”

Vos said he foresees a day when thousands of drones, all within a few hundred feet of the ground, will routinely ply the skies above cities — reducing pollution by taking traffic off the streets. That could easily dwarf traditional aircraft flights, which max out at 10,000 to 12,000 at a time over the U.S.

Computer Networks

Google called competitors and government agencies to its own conference in June to share its vision of air-traffic control. The foundation of any system must be the ability to trust that all participants will reliably identify themselves and their locations, Vos said. The airspace must be open to any drones willing to follow the rules.

Networks of computers on the ground and in the air will set routes that avoid mid-air collisions. Humans will still be in charge, but unlike the current air-traffic system, controllers must rely on computers to make the split-second decisions necessary to keep drone traffic flowing and safe, he said.

Vos envisions a decentralized system with multiple private operators, most likely overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Amazon has been tight-lipped about what it wants in a drone air-traffic system. Gur Kimchi, vice president of the company’s drone delivery division, Amazon Prime Air, issued a statement saying everyone in the industry “must work together.” Kimchi, who will deliver a key-note speech on July 28 at NASA’s conference, said he would discuss more details then.

Recent Demonstration

PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh, North Carolina, drone company with about 100 employees, began developing its own drone traffic control system because the large agriculture and oil companies it flies for wanted something to keep tabs on unmanned flights. “Our clients need it,” Tyler Collins, the program’s director, said.

In a recent demonstration over a North Carolina cattle farm, Collins and his team intentionally steered a quad-copter drone toward an imagined crop duster at work on an adjacent farm, the kind of hazardous scenario PrecisionHawk employees have seen in the real world.

A no-fly zone alert appears on an operator's smartwatch
A no-fly zone alert appears on an operator’s smartwatch
Photographer: Jason Arthurs/Bloomberg

Within seconds an alert popped up on the operator’s smartwatch: “WARNING, nearing no-fly zone.” When the operator ignored the warning, an autopilot took over and flew the whirring machine back to safety.

PrecisionHawk’s system can automatically block its drones from flying into danger, such as around airports and other aircraft. And it makes a drone’s real-time flight track available so others can stay away.

Skydio, Airware

Skydio Inc., a Menlo Park, California, company founded a year ago, is developing arrays of tiny cameras mounted on drones and linked to computer chips that automatically guide them around trees, power lines and other obstructions, Chief Executive Officer Adam Bry said. San Francisco-based Airware and DroneDeploy are creating computer networks capable of showing where drones are operating.

After putting out word last year that NASA wanted help on its small-drone control system, 126 companies expressed interest, said NASA’s Parimal Kopardekar, the project manager.

“We think through collaboration we can collectively decide on the right requirements faster,” he said.

Kopardekar envisions a tiered system of tighter and tighter controls as drone traffic ramps up. If a drone pilot wants to fly over a remote farm, all he or she might need to do is file a notice to a centralized computer system. As unmanned flights become denser, the cloud-based system would need to track drones to ensure they wouldn’t collide, just as radar follows traditional aircraft now, he said.

Drone Detection

He’s also contemplating drone-detection systems to ensure that stealth unmanned aircraft (such as the one that landed on the White House lawn Jan. 26) can be tracked. Kopardekar envisions turning over the design to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Just how all this will happen isn’t yet known, let alone who will pay for it or operate it. That has left a lot of room for jockeying among the players, according to Gary Church, president of Aviation Management Associates Inc., who has consulted on drone-related projects for a decade.

Will drones be tracked by the same equipment the FAA has ordered traditional aircraft to install by 2020, known as ADS-B? If so, Harris, which built FAA’s ADS-B tracking system and is also working with NASA, stands to benefit.

Or will the nation’s cellular network be adapted for drone monitoring? That may be a boon for Verizon and other mobile phone companies.

Will fiercely independent recreational fliers, who are now exempt from most drone regulations, be required to adhere to new rules? How will the system handle rogue operators who don’t cooperate?

“It’s kind of a big problem statement, but we think it’s quite tractable,” Vos said of the challenge. As long as “we force ourselves to think collaboratively, we’re pretty convinced that the answers come out pretty clearly.”

by

July 24, 2015

 

2017-06-13T02:15:01-06:00 July 27th, 2015|ATC, aviation innovation, drones, FAA, UAS, UAV|

First Electric-Powered Channel Flight Was 34 Years Ago

As the public relations-spawned dissection of two flights over the English Channel by electric aircraft late last week got into finer and finer details, a big-picture perspective surfaced in theAVweb inbox. The first flight of an electric aircraft over the English Channel happened more than 30 years ago but it was overshadowed by perhaps an even greater earlier accomplishment by its creator. Two years after Paul MacCready’s Gossamer Albatross crossed the channel under pedal power delivered by cyclist and pilot Bryan Allen, a solar-electric version of the aircraft made the crossing and then some. In fact, the Solar Challenger stayed in the air for five hours and 23 minutes and covered 163 miles on a flight from Pontois-Cormeilles Aerodrome, north of Paris, to RAF Manston in the U.K. That flight happened almost 34 years to the day (July 7, 1981) before the dust-up over bragging rights for the conquering of the Channel erupted between Airbus and two other cross-channel efforts.

As we reported last week, Slovenia-based Pipistrel intended to fly the Channel from France to England and back nonstop in its Alpha Electro on July 7, three days before Airbus was planning a carefully orchestrated public relations effort to fly its e-Fan across the 22-mile strip of ocean. The Pipistrel flight was cancelled when motor supplier Siemens told Pipistrel it didn’t want is motor used for the flight. Pipistrel made some PR hay of its own out of the Siemens decision but decided to stay on the ground. Then, on the night before Airbus’s well-publicized and thoroughly organized effort, French pilot Hugues Duval did the flight in an electric-powered Cri-Cri. Airbus officials later said they didn’t consider it on the same level of achievement because the Cri-Cri was air launched. And if we’re nitpicking, the MacCready flight from 1981 wasn’t the same, either. Airbus, the Cri-Cri and the Alpha Electro all use batteries to power the electric motors. The Solar Challenger didn’t have any batteries at all. More than 16,000 solar cells provided the power. History will judge who “won” this competition.

By Russ Niles, as reported on AVweb.com.

 

2015-07-13T10:26:21-06:00 July 13th, 2015|aviation innovation, Aviation Leaders, Design, General Aviation, Solar powered flight|