NASA Developing Supersonic Flight

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to develop a new supersonic aircraft for use as a passenger plane. The project is put in place to test new supersonic technologies in an attempt to reduce the noise levels of sonic booms from these large aircraft. Supersonic aircraft development is nothing new. In fact, early X prototype aircraft were developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s and these aircraft were capable of traveling above the speed of sound. However, using supersonic flight for passenger planes has had a much more troubled history. Concord airplanes, used in the 1970’s for over thirty years in all areas across the world, were capable of reducing trans-continental flight times significantly. The problem with Concord planes was not the speed at which they traveled, but the significant sonic boom that the aircraft created when traveling at or above the speed of sound. In fact, the sonic boom from aircraft has been known to break windows and cause minor structural damage to buildings. Despite the drawbacks to supersonic flight, the appeal of short flights from continent to continent is very appealing. This is why NASA has awarded a new contract to Lockheed Martin in an attempt to reduce the effect of sonic boom caused by aircraft flying at the speed of sound. The new concept aircraft, dubbed the “Low Boom Flight Demonstration”, will be used to test new technologies that are aimed at reducing the effects of sonic booms. New aircraft hull designs are theoretically supposed to reduce the sound of a sonic boom to acceptable levels. In fact the aircraft being designed by Lockheed Martin will theoretically only produce a sonic boom that is as loud as a car door slamming, or repeated doors slamming over a period of time. Supersonic flight technologies are gaining rapid attention in many sectors across the world and NASA is not the only group to be focused on improving this mode of flight. In fact, DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also looking into supersonic flight technologies to counter the recent efforts that have been made by China in supersonic flight. -Taken From www.sae.org

BMW Developing Carbon Fiber Components

The use of carbon fiber in vehicle applications is not a new concept, however the cost of manufacturing components made from carbon fiber is typically the limiting factor in its usage. Carbon fiber is a very strong, stiff, carbon based material that can be molded into complex shapes. Once carbon fiber is formed into its end shape, it is very lightweight and can surpass the strength to weight ratio of many competing metals, such as many grades of aluminum and steel. BMW has used carbon fiber in their vehicles and motorcycles throughout the years because it provides obvious engineering advantages for strength and weight, and it is also considered a premium material with a history of usage in motorsports racing. BMW recently ceased production of carbon fiber components for undisclosed reasons. This decision was met by the automotive industry as indicating that BMW’s carbon fiber production was not profitable. However, BMW insisted that carbon-based component production would continue through other avenues. One such avenue that was recently unveiled was the development of a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) motorcycle swing arm. The swing arm was developed with seven joint partners as a demonstration of a new manufacturing process termed “resin transfer molding”. The swing arm is incredibly light and strong, and has won 2018 JEC Innovation Award for its production method and end result. BMW stated that they chose to model a swing arm using resin transfer molding to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology on a part that sees continuous stress during normal usage. The motorcycle swing arm utilizes short carbon fibers in locations on the swing arm that require localized strength. For location of the swing arm that requires elongated stiffness, long fibers were incorporated into the mold.  According to BMW, the cost saving techniques that they learned from development of the swing arm will be directly attributable to other motorcycle components. In the future, BMW will also begin incorporating the same carbon fiber reinforcement for automotive applications.

European Union Developing Drone Airspace

The European Union is working to develop a new type of airspace that is focused on operation of drones. Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV for short) are becoming more and more popular throughout the world and the European Union is proactively developing a system to accommodate these new aircrafts. Drone traffic management poses a unique number of challenges. Mostly, because of the sheer number of drones that are flown in the sky, monitoring and managing positioning of drones and keeping drones away from manned aircraft is a significant challenge. Also, because drones are very small, many drones are not effectively tracked by current technology. The European Union is developing a system to accomplish effective drone flight management by next year. The Geneva based drone body that handles air navigation, Skyguide, recently joined forces with AirMap, a traffic management system, to collectively develop an infrastructure to manage drone flight across all of Europe in an airspace for low-level flight dubbed U-Space. U-Space will be defined as a flight altitude from ground level up to about 150 meters in height for which drone flight will be managed. New surveillance technologies developed for U-Space will be able to effectively track drone flights in U-Space. In the past five years, Skyguide flight requests have increased over ten times, indicating that drone operation is increasing dramatically. While collectively managing drones that fly in U-space and follow protocols set forth by Skyguide pose little threat to manned aircraft, those UAV drones that are flying unauthorized in U-Space may pose significant threat by flying too high, flying without proper tracking devices, or other illegal operations. Because of this Skyguide and AirMap are working to develop a Universal Traffic Management system that will not only track drones that have proper on-board tracking devices, but also track those drones that do not have the tracking devices installed, or the tracking devices were disabled. U-space regulations are currently being developed to cover a variety of flight conditions. -taken from www.sae.org

New Aircraft Will Utilize Composite Materials

Aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus are working on developing new components to aid in developing new aircraft structures. Forecasts of aircraft sales show that the worldwide demand of large passenger airplanes will increase and an overall production number of up to 40,000 new aircraft may be realized in the next 20 years. To meet this new demand, Boeing and Airbus are working on developing new honeycomb panels that are designed to be structurally stiff, strong, and importantly, easy to assemble and produce. For the increase in aircraft demand, new aircraft structures must be easy to assemble and sub-components must be manufactured rapidly. The new structure composites or sandwiches are being developed for Boeing and Airbus by Belgium Company EconCore, along with Diehl Aircabin. The sandwich structures consist of a lightweight inner honeycomb lattice that is sandwiched between two thin layers of either aluminum or other lightweight material, to create a structure that is lightweight, strong, and has excellent thermal insulating qualities. Insulating against the cold external atmosphere while aircraft are in flight is crucial for passenger comfort and safety. In addition to the insulating properties, the inner honeycomb lattice can be made out of lightweight polycarbonate to create an excellent fire barrier within the sandwich structure. Polycarbonate is strong and resists flammability, making it a good choice for many aircraft structures. The process developed by EconCore can be formed into many different shapes; however joining the layers of the sandwich material together may pose another problem. To remedy this issue, new formulae of bonding adhesives are being developed to properly secure the components together. The benefit of using bonding adhesives instead of traditional rivets, screws, or other hardware, is the weight savings, however ensuring that the bonds between composite components remains solid for the life of the aircraft is being tested before it is put into production. -taken from www.sae.org

Military Develops Unmanned Aircraft

The United States Marine Corps is working on a few autonomous aircraft projects to enhance their performance in the battlefield. These aircraft are being designed to drop off supplies and ordinance to troops while located in remote areas that are otherwise difficult to reach without the use of specialized piloting techniques. In recent demonstration flights, autonomous helicopters were able to successfully drop off supplies while located within a test area. The company that is working on the autonomous development, Aurora Flight Science, retrofitted a UH-1H helicopter with autonomous sensors and cameras as well as LIDAR radar in order to be able to fly autonomously. The UH-1H helicopter was first developed in the 1950’s and 1970’s as a general-use helicopter. The UH-1H was made famous during the Vietnam War and is still in use today for many purposes. The Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program is developing a flight apparatus that can be retrofitted to more than just UH-1H helicopters. The goal is to make an aircraft-agnostic system that can be used on multiple flight platforms and can be controlled by a simple tablet-based system on the ground by troop deployments. The ground-based control will be simple enough to use that it will not require any advanced training in order to call in for re-supply missions or other support. Aurora Flight Science’s system allows for vertical flight aircraft to detect and identify multiple hazards in the flight path of the aircraft. After detection, the hazards can be safely avoided using the built-in computers that control the aircraft at all times. The Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System has transitioned to the final stages before being used in the field. The United States Marine Corps is now performing experimentation and potential acquisition on the system. Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System is also developing a high-performance vertical flight system, named Orion that is capable of flying for approximately 100 hours with a payload of about 1000 lbs. This unmanned aerial vehicle will is being developed under a new contract with the military and will be suitable for deployment anywhere in the world. -taken from www.sae.org

European Union Develops Strict Emissions Standards

The European Union is developing new emissions standards that are aimed at decreasing pollution caused by motor vehicles. New emissions standards are rather widespread, however those being developed in Europe are some of the more stringent standards and many local municipalities are aiming at restricting pollution causing emissions even further. The typical effort behind these standards is to decrease the amount of diesel emissions caused by large long-haul trucks, vans, and buses. In fact, the European Union’s Mobility Package proposal calls for a 15 percent reduction of all CO2 emissions by 2025. Levels of emissions will be 30 percent lower than current 2021 goals by the year 2030. Specific targets for large vehicles, such as trucks and semis, are being developed currently and will be set in place sometime in 2018. Currently, emissions goals cover small passenger vehicles as well as larger vehicles such as delivery vans. The problem with this approach is that the emissions produced by smaller vehicles can be limited by current technology very easily, however emissions produced by larger vehicles is more difficult to control. Large vehicles that travel short trips, such as delivery vans in municipal areas, may be good candidates for electric drivetrains because the range traveled during normal deliveries is on the order of several miles or less. Electric drivetrains produce no emissions, however the range of electric vehicles is limited to the capacity of the batteries, which can be expensive to produce. For long-haul trucking, diesel will still be necessary for some time. Unfortunately, the cost of developing proper infrastructure, as well as unit development costs of batteries and electric drivetrains, will keep diesel as the front-runner for fueling long-range deliveries and cross-country shipping. Other transitional options away from diesel, such as natural gas or hydrogen power, are options that may be worth investigating to reduce emissions from long-range heavy equipment. -taken from www.sae.org

Caterpillar’s UTV Now Available

Caterpillar Heavy Equipment has recently entered the Utility Vehicle (UTV) market with two brand new vehicles. The Caterpillar UTV’s are similar in size and capability to existing UTV’s such as the Polaris Ranger, Kawasaki Mule, or John Deere Gator. This is the first ever attempt by Caterpillar to make a vehicle that fits within this market. The Caterpillar CUV82 is a gasoline-powered utility vehicle with bench seating, a tubular cage surrounding the occupant compartment, and a small pickup bed over the rear wheels. The CUV82 will have a top speed of around 45 mph and can carry 1000 lbs of cargo with a 2000 lb towing capacity. The CUV102D is the bigger brother to the CUV82 and will be powered by a small displacement diesel engine. The CUV102D has similar load rating capacities and can travel approximately 25 mph. The Caterpillar UTV’s are designed to be used by work force as support for operations or as a farm utility vehicle, similar to offerings from other heavy equipment manufacturers, such as Bobcat and John Deere. Both Caterpillar utility vehicles will share similar drivetrains including continuously variable transmissions (CVT). Options include either two or four-wheel-drive and the option to add lockers to the four-wheel-drive version for use in rough off-road terrain. Ground clearance for both models is 10.5 inches. Caterpillar has contracted Textron Specialized Vehicles in Thief River Falls, Minnesota to manufacture their utility vehicles. Textron manufactures their own line of utility vehicles, as well as vehicles under other name brands such as Arctic Cat. Caterpillar and Textron developed the utility vehicles collaboratively and Caterpillar while taking into consideration recommendations from customers and dealerships on included functionality, features, and capability. The Cat ‘Utes were tested extensively and thoroughly as part of their development and a new version with seating for an entire crew will be released in Fall 2018. The Caterpillar UTV’s are on sale now. taken from www.sae.org

Polestar is Making Performance Vehicles

Volvo is working on developing a new performance brand of vehicles. The brand, Polestar, has big plans to create a series of electric hybrid luxury and performance vehicles that will be completely stand-alone from Volvo. The first vehicle, the Polestar 1, will be revealed in the next couple of years as a performance two-door sedan that seats four. The Polestar 1 will be primarily an electric powered vehicle, however will also have a small internal combustion engine for extended range. The Polestar 1 will have about 600 horsepower, about 740 ft-lb of torque, and will be designed as a true driver’s car with many high-performance features and sports car styling.  The 600 horsepower rating will come from a fully electric drivetrain that delivers power to the wheels with specialized torque vectoring technology that will allow the car to distribute wheel torque to individual wheels and reduce the likelihood of tire slippage during heavy acceleration. According to Polestar, the Polestar 1 will be the first car to incorporate specialized Ohlins electronically controlled suspension and the chassis will be super lightweight because it will be formed from sheets of carbon fiber. Polestar and Volvo are taking aim at a new generation of mid-sized electric or hybrid vehicles that provide high-performance and low emissions. Other vehicles in this category are being developed by major brands, however Tesla may be the only true competitor to Polestar when the Polestar 1 comes out until other manufacturers join in the competition. Polestar is developing the Polestar 1 on scalable architecture which will allow their engineers to share similar chassis and design concepts between several different models of vehicle. Polestar has plans to eventually offer other electric hybrid vehicles in their lineup, including a sport utility vehicle dubbed the Polestar 3. Production of the Polestar 1 will commence in China in time for a mid-2019 release date. -taken from www.sae.org