Category Archives: Science and Technology

SciTech: Airlander 10 takes to the air again

UK based Hybrid Air Vehicles has once again flown the Airlander 10, a hybrid balloon and fixed winged aircraft. The vehicle made its first flight in August 2016 (see posting here).  During a subsequent test later that month, the vehicle had a slow-motion crash landing when a mooring line got snagged on power cables. No one was injured but the cockpit had to be rebuilt.

The goal for the vehicle is to combine the short takeoff and landing capabilities of a balloon with the control, stability, speed, and range of an aircraft. Unlike  a conventional Zeppelin type of airship, only about 60% of the lift of the Airlander comes from the helium filled volume. The rest of the lift arises from the aerodynamic shape when driven forward by the propellers. The Airlander can remain aloft for up to 5 days.

The company sees cargo delivery as a primary business for Airlander type vehicles:

Airlander aims to revolutionise transport and travel by:

  • Being one of the lowest carbon emissions aircraft in the world, like for like.
  • Having game-changing endurance (it can stay airborne for weeks rather than hours).
  • Providing significantly lower delivery cost for airborne freight.
  • Being able to land anywhere (water, land, desert, ice) thus opening up new point-to-point routes to previously inaccessible areas.

We will focus initially on Airlander 10, which has a 10 tonne payload, and ultimately could produce a range of hybrid aircraft capable of carrying up to 1000 tonnes.

Sci-Tech: A new video from Elon Musk’s “The Boring Company”

Elon Musk believes that greater use of tunnels would provide a major reduction in urban traffic congestion. He has formed “The Boring Company” to investigate improvements in the design of giant tunnel drilling machines that would allow them to drill several times faster than current systems. At SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California they have been experimenting with a boring machine they bought and are using it to dig a tunnel under a road between the company facility and a parking area.

The Boring Company** today posted a video of a simulation showing how an extensive tunnel network might work in a future urban setting:

* * Don’t know if this is a real company or just a fun name for a temporary working group.


Sci-Tech: Uber unveils electric VTOL flying taxi service to start in 2020

And now Uber unveils its prototype electric vertical takoff and and landing (eVTOL) vehicle for a flying taxi service that it will begin testing in Dallas and Dubai in 2020. The vehicle is being developed in partnership with Aurora Flight Sciences, Bell Helicopter, and Embraer.

Announcements from the companies:

First flight of Aurora’s eVTOL aircraft on April 20, 2017.
(PRNewsfoto/Aurora Flight Sciences)

From the Aurora release:

Aurora’s eVTOL concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane program currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense and other autonomous aircraft the company has developed over the years.  Aurora has adapted and combined the autonomous flight guidance system from its Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft, the perception and collision avoidance system from the AACUS program, and the battery electric propulsion system from the XV-24A demonstrator to create the innovative eVTOL design.

“The Uber Elevate mission is all about low noise, high reliability, and low cost,” said Aurora CEO John Langford. “By drawing on our nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs, Aurora is well positioned to deliver on this urban solution. We have already built and flown the first proof-of-concept aircraft and we’re excited to partner with Uber in accelerating the eVTOL initiative.”

The partnership agreement provides the basis for a system of urban transportation solutions that will enable users of the Uber Elevate Network to request an Aurora eVTOL aircraft via Uber’s computer or mobile software applications. With the successful first test flight of the aircraft on April 20, 2017, the goal of delivering 50 aircraft for testing by 2020 is well within reach.

Bell Helicopter background overview:

Uber will be working with Bell Helicopter as a collaborator to accelerate the eventual large-scale deployment of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs) in order to fulfill its mission ofproviding a safe, reliable transportation service to everyone, everywhere.

Additional details include

 ● Uber plans to operate a network through which electric VTOL vehicles in numerous cities worldwide will provide transportation and delivery logistics services.

● Bell Helicopter plans to develop technologies that will lead to aircraft that satisfy short distance urban operations. Bell’s initial propulsion technology focus is expected to be hybrid electric with an eventual goal of fully electric.

● Uber will participate in the development of airspace control software and hardware for themanagement of Pilot VTOLs on the Elevate Network, and provide interface connectivity with airspace controllers/regulators.

● Bell Helicopter is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Among otherprojects, Bell is exploring new opportunities in the future of air transportation with electric and hybrid VTOL aircraft.

A sample of articles:

Update: Here is a video of the Uber Elevate Summit conference presentations and panel discussions:

Sci-Tech: Lilium Jet electric VTOL vehicle makes first demo flights

The German startup company Lilium has now flown the first full-scale prototype of their electric-powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft called the Lilium Jet:

They explain what they mean by electric jet as follows:

The electric jet engines work like turbofan jet engines in a regular passenger jet. They suck in air, compress it and push it out the back. However, the compressor fan in the front is not turned by a gas turbine, but by a high performance electric motor. Therefore, they run much quieter and completely emission-free.

The vehicle will have a range of 300 km (186 miles) at 300km/hour. The goal is to fly in 2019 “the first fully functional jet”, which can carry up to five passengers. The key target market is dial-up taxi service by early 2020s.

The current design of the production vehicle looks like this:

Announcement about the prototype test flights:

Lilium celebrates successful flight tests and introduces 5-seater VTOL jet

We have incredibly exciting news to share. The Lilium Jet successfully completed its maiden test flight series in the skies above Bavaria. The 2-seater Eagle prototype executed a range of complex maneuvers, including its signature mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight.

Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated maneuvers with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team. We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing a 5-seater production aircraft.

We are now developing a larger, 5-seater version of our Lilium Jet, designed for on-demand air taxi and ridesharing services. A typical journey with the Lilium Jet will be at least 5x faster than by car, with even greater efficiencies in busy cities. So a flight from Manhattan to New York’s JFK Airport will take around 5 minutes, compared to the 55 minutes it would take you by car.

Please make sure you read more about Lilium’s mission and technology.

As well as making great progress in the air, we’ve also updated our Lilium brand. Enjoy our new website, we hope you like it!


A couple of articles about Lilium: