Growing UAVs and aircraft from a molecular level upwards

via BAE Systems

via BAE Systems

Ahead of this years’ Farnborough International Airshow, engineers and scientists at BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow have outlined their current thinking about military aircraft and how they might be designed and manufactured in the future.

The concepts have been developed collaboratively as part of BAE Systems’ ‘open innovation’ approach to sharing technology and scientific ideas which sees large and established companies working with academia and small technology start-ups.

During this century, the scientists and engineers envisage that small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) bespoke to specific military operations, could be ‘grown’ in large-scale labs through chemistry, speeding up evolutionary processes and creating bespoke aircraft in weeks, rather than years.

A radical new machine called a Chemputer™ could enable advanced chemical processes to grow aircraft and some of their complex electronic systems, conceivably from a molecular level upwards. This unique UK technology could use environmentally sustainable materials and support military operations where a multitude of small UAVs with a combination of technologies serving a specific purpose might be needed quickly. It could also be used to produce multi-functional parts for large manned aircraft.

Flying at such speeds and high altitude would allow them to outpace adversary missiles. The aircraft could perform a variety of missions where a rapid response is needed. These include deploying emergency supplies for Special Forces inside enemy territory using a sophisticated release system and deploying small surveillance aircraft.

“The world of military and civil aircraft is constantly evolving and it’s been exciting to work with scientists and engineers outside BAE Systems and to consider how some unique British technologies could tackle the military threats of the future” said Professor Nick Colosimo, a BAE Systems Global Engineering Fellow.

Regius Professor Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow, and Founding Scientific Director at Cronin Group PLC – who is developing the Chemputer™ added; ‘This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry. We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.’

Learn more: Lifting the lid on future military aircraft technologies

 

 

The Latest on: Chemputer

via  Bing News

 

Project Greenglow and the battle with harnessing gravity

via BBC

via BBC

A handful of leftfield scientists have been trying to harness the power of gravity. Welcome to the world of Project Greenglow, writes Nic Young.

In science there exists a uniquely potent partnership between theory and engineering. It’s what’s given us atomic energy, the Large Hadron Collider and space-flight, to name a few of the more headline acts.

The theorists say: “This is theoretically possible.” The engineers then figure out how to make it work, confident the maths is correct and the theory stands up.

These camps are not mutually exclusive of course. Theorists understand engineering. Engineers draw on their deep understanding of the theory. It’s normally a pretty harmonious, if competitive, relationship.

Yet occasionally these two worlds collide. The theorists say something is just not possible and the engineers say: “We’re going to try it anyway – it’s worth a shot.”

There is one field of science where just such a contest has been raging for years, perhaps the most contentious field in all science/engineering – gravity control.

When, in the late 1980s, the aerospace engineer Dr Ron Evans went to his bosses at BAE Systems and asked if they’d let him attempt some form of gravity control, they should probably have offered him a cup of tea and a lie down. Gravity control was a notion beloved of science fiction writers that every respectable theoretical physicist said was impossible.

As Evans himself admits, it was a tough sell. “Let’s be clear – there were many people in the company who felt we shouldn’t do it because we made aeroplanes and this was highly speculative.” Pushing against gravity with wings and jets was BAE’s multi-billion pound business, why dabble in scientific heresy? Because, as Evans puts it: “The potential was absolutely enormous. It could totally change aerospace.”

If it was possible to make gravity push instead of pull, they would have a potentially infinite – and free – source of propulsion. It would put BAE Systems at the forefront of the greatest technological breakthrough since the invention of powered flight. It might just be worth a small punt.

They asked Evans to go away, consult with his colleagues and come up with some concepts. He brought them a drawing of a vertical take-off plane, powered by an as-yet non-existent “gravity engine”.

He worried it didn’t look visionary enough, so he asked the artist to add some green rays emanating from the plane – a green glow. When Evans’s bosses decided to give him a small budget and an office, Project Greenglow was born. “It was incredible, everyone was captivated by what we were trying to do. We were overwhelmed.”

Evans soon discovered he was able to call on engineers at leading UK universities to help with the research, and it wasn’t just academic curiosity. Like BAE, everyone was looking for the next propulsion paradigm. Wings and jets had reached their limits.

In the US, Nasa aerospace engineer Marc Millis began a parallel project – the Breakthrough Physics Propulsion Program. Nasa had committed to getting beyond the solar system within a generation, but knew conventional rockets would never get them there.

Learn more: Project Greenglow and the battle with gravity

 

 

The Latest on: Gravity control

via  Bing News

 

Powering space craft of the future

Lancaster research will look at how mechanical energy generated by the vibration of the aircraft’s wings can be transferred, stored and used to support the communications system.

Lancaster research will look at how mechanical energy generated by the vibration of the aircraft’s wings can be transferred, stored and used to support the communications system.

Engineers at Lancaster University are working on powering future ‘giant leaps’ for mankind.

They are major partners of a consortium working on a new £1 million project to maximise ‘energy harvesting’ on a space craft of the future.

The BAE Systems initiative seeks to find energy-saving and maximising solutions to enable eco-friendly aircraft to stay in space for long periods of time without the need to return to earth to re-fuel or to avoid carrying vast amounts of heavy fuel on long-stay journeys.

Principal Investigator Professor Jianqiao ye, of Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, said: “Our role is to look at saving the power used to support the monitoring system. There needs to be frequent communication between the aircraft and earth and power is needed to send huge constant quantities of data as well as receiving instructions from a communications centre.”

The Lancaster research, which has just begun, will look at how mechanical energy generated by the vibration of the aircraft’s wings can be transferred, stored and used to support the communications system.

Sensors constructed from special spatial material are adhered to the surface of the aircraft wing panels. Vibration from the wings is then transferred to and collected by the sensor to generate electricity and, therefore, maximising the energy generated by the craft.

Lancaster Researchers will examine the actual structure of the aircraft and estimate the amount of energy that can be ‘harvested’ in this manner by looking at the location, geometry of the sensor and the distribution of the energy.

The consortium will also look to see how the process could be improved and built on from, for example, a design perspective and using wireless connections to reduce weight.

Read more . . .  

 

The Latest on: Energy harvesting

via  Bing News

 

 

General Atomics tests UAV that can “sense and avoid” other aircraft

uav-saa

A Sense and Avoid (SAA) system that allows UAVs to operate safely around other aircraft in flight has been flight tested on a Predator B

The lack of this ability is a major reason why UAVs are not permitted to fly over much of the United States

General Atomics Aeronautical System, Inc. (GA-ASI), the maker of the Predator and Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has successfully completed the first of several flight tests of a prototype Sense and Avoid (SAA) system that allows a UAV to operate safely around other aircraft in flight. This marked the first time the entire system – consisting of a radar, transponder, and traffic alert system – worked together as a “system of systems” to detect the various types of aircraft it might encounter in the air.

The FAA and international agencies have long insisted that UAVs have their own “sense and avoid” systems onboard that can detect other nearby aircraft and instruct either the onboard autopilot or the ground-based remote operator of the UAV how to avoid a collision. The lack of this ability is a major reason why UAVs are not permitted to fly over much of the United States, and are restricted to special airspace that has been set aside just for that use. The addition of an SAA system to a UAV paves the way for them to operate in airspace with manned air traffic.

“We are working closely with the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security [DHS], and our industry alliances to advance the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft systems into domestic and international airspace,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI. “Our Sense and Avoid capability is a key part of that goal, and we continue to make ongoing progress towards this end.”

The technology demonstrated during General Atomics’ flight test does not rely on optical detection, and would be able to operate in any weather. It combines three integrated systems – the BAE Systems’ AD/DPX-7 Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transponder with Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver; the GA-ASI-developed Due Regard Radar (DRR); and Honeywell’s TPA-100 Traffic Collision Avoidance System or TCAS.

During the test, the system had 40 pre-planned encounters with other air traffic, including some not being tracked by Air Traffic Control. The test was conducted from the Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, California, a facility on the edge of the Mojave Desert and located just south of Edwards Air Force Base. The test aircraft was a Predator B model.

The three onboard systems were able to track two participating “intruder” aircraft that acted as targets for the exercise. The onboard software fused the data into a single set of tracking information that was relayed to the Conflict Prediction and Display Systems (CPDS) in front of the Predator’s ground-based pilot.

Modern aircraft have a variety of means to “see” each other in the air. It is still legal in certain areas of the US to fly with no radio at all – and even no electrical system in the aircraft. Sailplanes and gliders have no onboard power except for batteries, and ultralights can fly in uninhabited areas. The UAV SAA system would use its radar to see these targets.

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Aircraft collision avoidance

via  Bing News

 

Beyond military drones – the future of unmanned flight

jetstream-drone

It may be that the Top Gun of the 21st century is an artificial intelligence.

In April of this year, a BAE Systems Jetstream research aircraft flew from Preston in Lancashire, England, to Inverness, Scotland and back. This 500-mile (805 km) journey wouldn’t be worth noting if it weren’t for the small detail that its pilot was not on board, but sitting on the ground in Warton, Lancashire and that the plane did most of the flying itself. Even this alteration of a standard commercial prop plane into an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) seems a back page item until you realize that this may herald the biggest revolution in civil aviation since Wilbur Wright won the coin toss at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

The Jetstream flight was conducted as part of the Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment (ASTRAEA) program, which is a UK industry-led consortium aimed at developing unmanned aircraft that can operate routinely in civilian airspace. It’s one of hundreds of UAV projects around the world, but what’s notable about it is how the use of a passenger plane blurs the line between quadcopter-with-a-camera jobs and full-blown airliners.

For many people, UAVs came out nowhere. In the popular imagination, they started out as exotic reconnaissance aircraft in the early days of the Afghanistan War that have grown in numbers and sophistication until they’ve turned into experimental combat aircraft taking off from aircraft carriers. In fact, UAVs have come from a number of areas aside from the military. Hobbyists have made their contributions, scientists as well, and, of course, aircraft engineers.

In many ways, UAVs are a bit like computers. First they were rare and then they were everywhere. Whether they’re tiny quadcopters that fly within a few hundred feet of their operator or huge winged affairs piloted via satellite thousands of miles from the joystick, UAVs are taking to the skies in ever-increasing numbers for a a variety of applications.

One obvious area for UAVs to move into is police work. Take away the missiles and hunting for bad guys on a civilian street is very similar to hunting them on the battlefield. The challenges are virtually the same and transferring the technology from one sphere to the other is relatively straightforward. An eye in the sky could be used for general law enforcement, border control, sea lane monitoring, traffic control, crime scene photography, searching for missing persons, and combating drug trafficking.

The FBI has admitted in recent congressional testimony to using UAVs in the US on a number of occasions and some US police departments have been granted permission by the FAA to operate them. In Canada, a UAV is credited with saving a man’s life. However, other locations, such as Seattle, have abandoned plans for their own drones due to the fierce debate over the use of UAVs in law enforcement.

The question isn’t just whether drones should be used at all, but also how they should be used. Should they only be used in extraordinary circumstances, such as hostage situations? Should they be used routinely like a CCTV camera on a pole a hundred feet tall? What sort of oversight is needed? How can privacy issues be addressed? When does policing go over the line to surveillance of the public?

Read more . . .

via Gizmag – 
 

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