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Tecnam Unveils New P-Mentor Training Aircraft with G3X Cockpit

Tecnam unveiled its new P-Mentor flight training aircraft this week, with plans to make its public debut later this month at a general aviation trade show in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Tecnam)

Capua, Italy-based general aviation aircraft maker Tecnam has unveiled its new flight training single piston-engine P-Mentor that will make its global debut during Germany’s AERO Friedrichshafen trade show later this month.

The two-seater P-Mentor aircraft received its European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) CS-23 type certification on April 7, and it is capable of training student pilots from their first flight up to instrument training. P-Mentor has a range of 730 nautical miles (nm), with a max cruise speed of 117 kts.

Inside the cockpit of the P-Mentor is Garmin’s G3X, with Garmin GI275 as a backup instrument and multiple configurations to allow performance based navigation (PBN) as well as GFCTM 500 autopilot training. G3X consists of two touchscreen displays, standard synthetic vision, and the company’s built-in built-in “Connext” technology for wireless flight plan transfers.

The P-Mentor’s cockpit features Garmin’s G3X avionics system. (Photo courtesy of Tecnam)

Additional design features on the new P-Mentor include an all-new wing and a “tapered planform with laminar flow airfoil and mixed structure; light alloy for spars and wing box, CFRP for the one-piece leading edge,” according to Tecnam.

“I am sure this new design will revitalize the Trainer market, helping many flight schools to remain competitive and profitable and making new student pilots happier and more proficient. Real sustainability, fuel economy, and profitability start here,” Tecnam’s Managing Director, Giovanni Pascale, said in a statement.

(Photo courtesy of Tecnam)

Tecnam claims that the P-Mentor saves “up to 10 tons of CO2 for every graduated Commercial Pilot” that the aircraft provides flight training for.

The post Tecnam Unveils New P-Mentor Training Aircraft with G3X Cockpit appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Jet It Selects SmartSky LiTE Connectivity System for Honda, Gulfstream Fleet

Jet It will add the “LiTE” configuration of SmartSky’s in-flight connectivity system to its fleet of HondaJet Elite and Gulfstream G150 aircraft, according to an announcement made this week. (Photo courtesy of SmartSky)

Jet It, the North Carolina-based business aviation operator, will install the light jet version of SmartSky’s in-flight connectivity (IFC) system across its fleet of HondaJet Elites and Gulfstream G150s.

SmartSky announced Jet It’s selection of its “LiTE” system on Monday, noting that Jet It will become the first business jet fleet operator to modify its aircraft with the configuration of its IFC technology developed for light jet and turboprop aircraft. SmartSky first launched the light jet version of its connectivity system in 2018 targeting aircraft with up to 19,000 pounds max takeoff weight (MTOW). The system has the ability to  simultaneously connect up to six onboard devices to the in-flight internet service.

“At Jet It, we focus on providing our members an ownership experience without compromise, and selecting SmartSky for our fleet-wide fast connectivity solution is no exception,” Glenn Gonzales, CEO and founder of Jet It, said in a statement. “Their advanced technology and hardware combined with a choice of configurations is a great fit for both our HondaJet and Gulfstream aircraft where we will be able to support both passenger and operational connectivity needs.”

Jet It added 13 new aircraft to its fleet, including two Gulfstream G150s, and launched a new brand, Jet Club, that expands their “day-use” fractional ownership model to Europe. Between the two brands, Jet It and Jet Club now have 23 total HondaJet and Gulfstream aircraft in operation. Gonzales first launched Jet It in 2018 with a unique business model that uses days rather than hours to sell shares of aircraft to customers, allowing owners to only pay for the direct operating costs of the aircraft.

Jet It is also now also “Honda’s largest aircraft buyer and operator in the world,” according to a Dec. 31 update on the operational and fleet expansion they achieved last year.

SmartSky expects its IFC network service, which is currently live, to become available for flight operations throughout CONUS airspace “this quarter,” according to a recent announcement. The company has also released several updates about its network on its website in recent months, including the data size and pricing for its business aviation service plans. The basic configuration for SmartSky’s system includes an aircraft base radio, a full-duplex quad antenna, and a blade antenna. Supplemental Type Certification for the LiTE configuration of their system is expected to occur by “the summer,” according to SmartSky.

The post Jet It Selects SmartSky LiTE Connectivity System for Honda, Gulfstream Fleet appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Honeywell Aerospace Engineers Develop Version 2 of the IntuVue RDR-84K Radar System

Honeywell Aerospace is currently working on version 2 of its IntuVue RDR-84K radar system, which can be seen mounted on the drone in the image above, taken at the Advanced Air Mobility Lab in Phoenix. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell Aerospace)

Honeywell Aerospace has unveiled a new lab at its facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, featuring the company’s latest advanced air mobility (AAM) solutions. The lab has not formally opened yet, but the Honeywell team hosted a preview event on April 12. Attendees were able to experience three different flight simulators and see some of Honeywell’s systems developed specifically for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and for vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

The AAM lab featured a space dedicated to its RDR-84K radar system, which was presented by Lead Systems Engineer Larry Surace and by Andrew Baker, Senior Advanced Systems Engineer for Urban Air Mobility. The first version of Honeywell’s RDR-84K radar system recently demonstrated autonomous detect-and-avoid (DAA) capabilities during a series of tests completed with a second non-cooperative drone in Arizona. The DAA algorithm calculates the speed of moving targets to determine when it needs to change direction in order to avoid collision. “There was no intervention from the pilot, who relinquished control of the drone to the radar,” stated Surace during the preview of the AAM lab. “We flew it on multiple missions, at various altitudes, and at different angles. That allowed us to characterize how the radar was performing when it was put on a real drone.” 

Honeywell’s AAM lab at its facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, featured multiple flight simulators showcasing their simplified vehicle operations (SVO) and other technological developments like its radar system. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell Aerospace)

Next, they plan to perform tests with the radar against multiple drones in multiple different scenarios. The radar is capable of detecting up to 30 moving targets at the same time. A more immediate goal for the team is to release the second version of the radar, which they expect to do by the end of June. 

The radar is compact and capable of detecting objects at a distance of 3 kilometers. The second version of the RDR-84K radar that is in the works right now will weigh about 1.5 pounds, a significant weight reduction from the first version. Although Honeywell has built a wide variety of radar systems for decades, the RDR-84K model was designed specifically for drone DAA applications. Its other features include ground mapping, weather detection, obstacle detection on the ground, and detection of multiple targets. 

The RDR-84K radar system on display at Honeywell’s AAM lab (Photo taken by Jessica Reed)

“We’re expecting a 2025 timeframe or sooner to integrate it on vehicles like drones for delivery,” Surace remarked, but the timeline will be driven by the market demand for the radar. Aerospace company Airflow announced a new partnership with Honeywell in October 2021 in which Airflow selected the RDR-84K as the radar system that it will integrate into its electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft. 

Potential customers have also expressed interest in using the radar system for search and rescue operations, Surace noted, especially those taking place over water. “We are targeting the advanced air mobility market for our OEMs that are asking for this type of capability. We design for certification, and we’re in the process of working with the committees to understand how to get it certified, to show it will perform as designed in a safe manner. We work very closely with the FAA, and they give us suggestions for how to prove that we’re safe.”

Andrew Baker emphasized the engineering involved in determining how to fly the radar. “You can’t just google how to put a radar on a drone,” he explained. “Cameras and LIDAR [light detection and ranging] are very common payloads for UAVs, but not radars.” 

An important capability that Baker highlighted is that a radar technician can remotely connect to the RDR-84K radar while it is in flight and quickly change various parameters, meaning that the team doesn’t waste time bringing the vehicle back to the ground. Average flight time with the model performing these tests is just 18-20 minutes, so every moment of a flight test is valuable.

The post Honeywell Aerospace Engineers Develop Version 2 of the IntuVue RDR-84K Radar System appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Wisk Aero and Skyports Release Concept of Operations for eVTOL and Vertiport Integration

Wisk Aero and Skyports have formed the first-ever partnership between an autonomous eVTOL developer and a vertiport developer-operator. The companies collaborated to produce a Concept of Operations for autonomous advanced air mobility operations. (Photo courtesy of Wisk)

The first partnership between an autonomous eVTOL developer and a vertiport developer-operator in the United States was announced this week. Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Wisk Aero is collaborating with Skyports, vertiport designer and operator. The companies worked together to create a Concept of Operations that describes requirements for accommodating safe, autonomous eVTOL operations, including necessary upgrades, procedure changes, and retrofits. This new partnership, according to the announcement from Wisk, is focused on evaluating several core areas including the management of ground operations, schedules, final approaches and take-offs, and contingencies, in addition to defining airspace design, passenger accommodation, navigational aids, and physical aircraft considerations such as functions and capabilities.

Wisk Aero has always had a strong focus on advanced air mobility (AAM). Just two months ago, the company announced a collaboration with the Long Beach Economic Partnership to conduct a study on the economic impact of AAM operations in Southern California. Over the next two years, Wisk and the City of Long Beach will coordinate in bringing together local government, business, and community leaders in a working group focused on autonomous flight and the implementation of AAM in Long Beach.

In January, Wisk shared news of a large investment from Boeing—$450 million, to be exact—making Wisk one of the world’s most well-funded companies focused on AAM operations. Boeing’s investment is contributing to the continued development of Wisk’s 6th-generation eVTOL aircraft, Cora, an all-electric and self-piloted model. The investment from Boeing also boosts Wisk’s efforts to launch scale manufacturing and go-to-market operations.

The ConOps produced by Wisk and Skyports, titled “Autonomous UAM Aircraft Operations and Vertiport Integration,” details the relationship between autonomous eVTOL aircraft and UAM-specific infrastructure. The document describes its scope and purpose: “While the introduction of commercial autonomous eVTOL aircraft may not be immediate, Wisk and Skyports are focused on developing and testing processes and solutions that will be critical to the advancement of urban air mobility (UAM). Considering autonomous eVTOL integration today will help future-proof the development of UAM aviation infrastructure and challenge the advancement of more sophisticated and safer solutions that could benefit piloted eVTOL aircraft and all AAM operations. This ConOps serves as a basis for discussion as industry and regulators begin to consider the integration of autonomous eVTOL aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”

One of the key ideas put forth in the ConOps is that a standardized data system is essential for a vertiport’s function, in particular where autonomous eVTOL operations are introduced. This data system must be able to provide current and future vertiport status to every aircraft operator in the area, and it should also serve as a platform for an informational exchange interface between eVTOL aircraft operators and other vertiport partners.

Wisk and Skyports also describe the necessity of a resource management and scheduling system (RMSS) for vertiports that will allow for passengers to reserve space at a vertiport terminal. The ideal RMSS will have the capacity to allocate and un-allocate resources in order to mitigate risks or delays. “The system will also need to consider the likelihood of offnominal events, weather or airspace delays, and other impacts,” as explained in the ConOps.

The post Wisk Aero and Skyports Release Concept of Operations for eVTOL and Vertiport Integration appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Archer Signs Letter of Intent with Composites Supplier Hexcel

Archer Aviation and Hexcel signed a letter of intent regarding a proposed relationship that would involve Hexcel supplying high-performance carbon fiber material for production of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft. (Photo courtesy of Archer)

Archer Aviation announced their intention to enter an agreement with Hexcel, provider of solutions in lightweight composites technology. In the agreement, Hexcel would supply Archer with high-performance carbon fiber material for manufacturing production aircraft, a relationship detailed in the letter of intent signed last week. 

Archer’s objective is to establish a network of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in cities across the U.S. To achieve this goal, the team needs to be able to manufacture their aircraft at scale, a spokesperson from Archer told Avionics International in an emailed statement. “An undertaking of this magnitude requires advanced materials that are high in quality, meet our high safety standards, and align with our planned aircraft design. Hexcel’s high-performance carbon fiber and resin systems check all of these boxes for us, making them an ideal composites partner.”

Hexcel manufactures lightweight composite structures for commercial and military fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, and more. Hexcel has worked with numerous companies in the aviation sector, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Sikorsky, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin. (Photo courtesy of Hexcel)

Archer co-founder and co-CEO, Brett Adcock, stated in the company’s announcement, “When selecting a partner, our primary focus was on safety and quality. We were impressed by Hexcel’s track record in delivering high-performance prepreg [carbon fiber and resin systems] materials for the commercial aerospace industry and their proactive approach to developing cutting-edge materials.” 

Hexcel’s Chairman, CEO, and President, Nick Stanage, remarked that his team is looking forward to contributing to Archer’s efforts in bringing the new technology to market, “This is a terrific opportunity for Hexcel to join with an innovative leader such as Archer to bring eVTOL to market. By selecting our leading lightweight composites, Archer helps improve aerodynamics, safety and quality in their aircraft designs.”

Another advantage of partnering with Hexcel is the company’s experience with the certification standards of the Federal Aviation Administration. Archer continues to work closely with the FAA as it pursues certification. The FAA presented the eVTOL developer with a Special Airworthiness Certificate towards the end of 2021. Shortly after, on December 16, Archer completed the first successful hover flight with its Maker aircraft.

Archer’s Maker eVTOL aircraft, pictured above, completed its first successful hover test in December 2021. (Photo courtesy of Archer)

Following the hover flight test, the team at Archer Aviation is focused on expansion of their flight testing envelope. Archer has previously stated that they expect to unveil the production-ready aircraft at the end of 2022. Archer’s representative told Avionics that the company will soon release news  “about the progress we’re seeing in all facets of our aircraft and operational development plans.” 

The proposed relationship between Archer and Hexcel would involve the use of Hexcel’s prepreg materials for fabricating composite parts of Archer’s aircraft. “We’re still in the early days of this partnership, so we’re not able to share specific details at the moment,” stated the company’s spokesperson. “We’re looking forward to sharing more about Archer’s overarching manufacturing plans in the coming months.”

The post Archer Signs Letter of Intent with Composites Supplier Hexcel appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Safran Electrical & Power to Supply Propulsion Systems for Aura Aero Electric Aircraft

Safran Electrical & Power is partnering with AURA AERO to conduct studies of the electrical architecture needed for AERO’s 19-seat electric regional aircraft (ERA) pictured above. (Photo courtesy of AURA AERO)

Last week, Safran Electrical & Power announced a partnership with AURA AERO, a startup created in 2018 that develops fixed-wing electric aircraft. Safran has agreed to supply propulsion systems for two of AERO’s new aircraft. Safran’s smart ENGINeUS electric motor will be integrated into the two-seat Integral E light aircraft from AERO, which will also feature the GENeUSGRID electric distribution and protection system. The Integral E pilot training aircraft could take flight for the first time this year, and first deliveries are expected to commence in 2023.

The agreement between these two companies includes collaboration on the electrical architecture studies for AURO AERO’s planned 19-seat Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA), ensuring that the high direct voltage propulsive architecture will be capable of delivering the necessary power. AERO may begin flights of its hybrid-electric ERA in 2024, and the team plans to start commercial service in 2027.

The ERA’s electric architecture will also include power for the other systems within the aircraft that are non-propulsive. AERO is designing these aircraft with an estimated range of 900 miles. “As part of the joint aim to industrialize the production of electric aircraft, Safran is providing its rare expertise in high-voltage networks, which is needed for the Integral E and ERA architectures,” said AERO’s co-founder and chief programs officer, Wilfried Dufaud. Both AERO and Safran have made decarbonization of the aviation industry a strategic priority, as evidenced by this newest collaboration. AERO has made a commitment beyond reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 in contributing to the reduction of emissions by 55% by 2035.

Hervé Blanc, General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Power division at Safran Electrical & Power, remarked on the new partnership: “This agreement bolsters our position as a key player in the fields of equipment electrification and electric and hybrid propulsion. It also marks two Toulouse-based companies—both firmly established in the Occitanie region’s industrial fabric—working together.”

Safran Electrical & Power, part of Safran Group, develops aircraft electrical systems using its expertise in equipment electrification and the electric and hybrid propulsion sector. Safran E&P was one of 11 organizations that consulted with the FAA in the development of special conditions for certifying electric propulsion systems, published last September. These special conditions provide standards for companies to achieve type certification of electric aircraft propulsion systems.

The ENGINeUS electric motors that will power AERO’s Integral E aircraft are modular and scalable, simplifying integration into vehicles. The direct drive propulsion power pods, according to Safran, maintain “optimization of the propulsive function of new mobility platforms and hybrid turbomachinery.” The GENeUSGRID energy management system that will also be featured in the Integral E aircraft is capable of managing a combination of high-voltage batteries and generators, and it uses electrical protection to maintain system integrity. “Its protection components,” according to Safran, “are of the solid-state relay type—Solid State Power Controller, pyro-fuse or electromechanical contactors.”

Safran Electrical & Power’s Hervé Blanc explained the significance of the partnership with AURA AERO, including the collaborative effort to conduct the electrical architecture studies on the electric engines’ high direct voltage propulsive architecture for the ERA aircraft. Blanc stated, “These projects are in line with our strategic aims: they feature breakthrough technologies, have a low-carbon footprint and are electrically powered.”

The post Safran Electrical & Power to Supply Propulsion Systems for Aura Aero Electric Aircraft appeared first on Aviation Today.

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OPINION: Critical Cleaning Helps to Propel Avionics Reliability

It is critical that the Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBAs) inside avionics systems work long-term without interruption. In this opinion article, Emily Peck provides some insight on the importance of ensuring PCBAs inside avionics systems are properly cleaned to ensure long-term reliability and performance.

 

 

Avionics helps to control just about every part of an aircraft. From communication, monitoring and navigation, to flight control, collision avoidance and fuel and weather systems; avionics are integral to an aircraft’s functionality. It goes without saying that because of its importance, components used within avionics must be manufactured precisely to ensure reliability. There is no room for error as the consequences would be catastrophic.

It is critical that the PCBAs (Printed Circuit Board Assemblies) inside avionics systems work long-term, and continue to work, without interruption.  A key step in the challenge to guarantee reliability is precision cleaning.

 

Contamination – A Main Cause of PCBA Failure

Production of avionics systems must include precision manufacturing and the accurate assembly of highly complex PCBAs. Components used within avionics require not just long-term functionality, but they must also stand up to rigorous regulations and standards. One example is IPC-A-610 Class 3. This is the highest standard of the IPC (Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits) with the most stringent manufacturing requirements. This standard is aimed at products whose performance is critical, for example in aerospace and military applications.

On top of that, there is the challenge of ensuring the PCBA withstands the harsh conditions found in aircraft including extreme temperatures and high humidity to radiation, chemicals and excessive shock and vibration.

Furthermore, avionics are becoming smaller and more multifaceted. The increasing demand for miniaturized PCBAs to operate modern avionics systems, and the extremely complex nature of these assemblies, which incorporate delicate components on compact, densely-packed boards, can prove to be a reliability risk if not manufactured and assembled correctly.

One of the main causes of electronic device failure is contamination of the PCBA. The smallest amount of debris can form a barrier between electrical contacts. If the contamination isn’t cleaned, the PCBAs run the risk of intermittent or complete field failure. Dirty PCBAs are susceptible to a whole host of problems. This can include everything from electrochemical migration and delamination to parasitic leakage, dendrite growth and shorting. This is why cleaning is crucial to ensuring the reliability of a device, but it is becoming increasingly more challenging as PCBAs become smaller and smaller.

 

Finding a Process that Critically Cleans

All PCBAs in the aerospace sector require cleaning during production to remove contaminants like flux, dust, marking inks, oils or inorganic contamination resulting from the manufacturing process. This, however, is more difficult due to the reduced PCBA’s size and complexity.

Smaller assemblies housing PCBAs that are multi-layered with hard-to-reach areas makes cleaning extra tough. Removing contamination under and around tightly-spaced components is difficult and can lead to a greater likelihood for insufficient, weak solder joints, bridging, and dendrite growth. If the contaminant is not cleaned properly the risk of board malfunction is high. It is, therefore, crucial to ensure cleaning procedures are in place and work effectively to guarantee clean boards every time.

Finding a cleaning process that ensures critical cleaning is completed successfully can be a challenge. There are many factors that must be considered. It needs to be a process that can easily and reliably clean miniaturized electronic assemblies and meet specific cleaning standards. It must also be a method that is sustainable and cost-effective.

One of the most reliable methods to effectively clean PCBAs is with a vapor degreaser. Vapor degreasing not only ensures the cleanliness of the PCBA, but also meets the economic and regulatory requirements within aerospace and aviation manufacturing.

 

The Mechanics of a Vapor Degreaser

Vapor degreasers offer a simple process that is very successful at removing contaminants. When used with advanced cleaning fluids it is extremely effective at thoroughly removing contamination from every area of the PCBAs.

A vapor degreasing machine contains two chambers, a boil sump and a rinse sump. In the boil sump, the cleaning fluid is heated and the parts are immersed and cleaned in the fluid. Once cleaned, the parts are mechanically transferred into the rinse sump for a final clean in a pure, uncontaminated fluid.

The cleaning fluids used within the system have multiple chemical properties that are advantageous to critical cleaning. The low viscosity and surface tension ratings of modern cleaning fluids used within a vapor degreaser, combined with their volatility, allow them to easily infiltrate and clean very tight spaces like BGAs, MLFs, QFNs, and D-Paks often found within avionics assemblies. Most vapor degreasing fluids also are very heavy and dense, typically 20-40% heavier than water used in aqueous cleaning. This aids in dislodging particulate from the components, an important factor when cleaning mission critical PCBAs.

Critically for PCBAs found within avionics, vapor degreasing can handle the most challenging and complex shapes with the parts coming out clean, dry and spot-free to ensure they meet specific standards like IPC-A-610 Class 3.

 

Future-Proof Cleaning for Reliable Avionics

There is no question that the aerospace industry is reliant on high-performing printed circuit boards. Avionics, and the PCBAs used within them, enable aircraft to be automated, safer and more intuitive thanks to its cutting-edge technology. Avionics will continue to be critically important as the industry pushes towards the next generation of aircraft and the idea of autonomous flight.

As avionics plays a bigger role, the importance of ensuring these systems, with their complex miniaturized PCBAs, work unfailingly becomes even more important, particularly in an industry where the smallest margin of error could mean a life-threatening outcome.

A critical step to ensure PCBA functionality is through cleaning. Vapor degreasing is an effective solution to increasing quality and reliability. It ensures contaminated PCBAs are not the cause of device failures.  The advanced next-generation cleaning fluids used within the vapor degreaser allow for better PCBAs to be built and deployed, therefore creating new capabilities for the future of avionics.

 

Emily Peck is a senior chemist at MicroCare, LLC, she has been in the industry more than six years and holds a MS in Chemistry from Tufts University. 

The post OPINION: Critical Cleaning Helps to Propel Avionics Reliability appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Wisk, Xwing, Elroy Air Weigh In on Future Autonomy in Advanced Air Mobility

In a recent panel discussion, industry leaders discuss the requirements for safe, autonomous operations in the future ecosystem of advanced air mobility. (Photo, courtesy of NASA)

Ensuring the safe and successful integration of autonomous aircraft into the existing ecosystem involves maturing the technology, infrastructure, and the aircraft themselves. A panel discussion at NASA’s AAM Ecosystem Working Groups Workshop last month featured representatives from electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Wisk, autonomous flight technology company Xwing, and hybrid-electric VTOL developer Elroy Air. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Deputy Director of Regulatory Operations, Policy & Innovation Division, Victor Wicklund, also participated in the panel discussion, called “Later UMLs & the Future of Autonomy.”

Wisk’s team is currently working on their sixth-generation aircraft, a fully electric and autonomous vehicle, according to Director of Product, Infrastructure, and Operations Erick Corona. He emphasized the importance of quiet operations in designing aircraft for the future advanced air mobility (AAM) ecosystem. “When we talk about the customer, it’s not just the flying public. It’s the communities as a whole: they are a part of the customer ecosystem, and we are delivering services to them, either directly or indirectly. This is an urban air mobility problem, period.”

Another focus at Wisk is designing their aircraft to maximize utilization of existing infrastructure. Within urban environments, said Corona, there is underutilized infrastructure that is suitable for AAM operations. Taking advantage of existing infrastructure means less new construction and minimized disruption to local communities.

In February, Wisk announced a two-year-long partnership to conduct a study on AAM operations and their economic impact, and will collaborate with the Long Beach Economic Partnership. The joint effort will analyze the economic impact and workforce development of AAM integration as well as community acceptance and outreach, the integration of autonomous advanced air mobility operations into city transportation plans, and funding opportunities with the federal and state governments.

Wisk’s Erick Corona also foresees that future AAM infrastructure, and vertiports in particular, will need to be compatible with all types of VTOL aircraft. “It doesn’t make sense to have infrastructure that is unique to one aircraft,” he explained. “That would be extremely expensive and detrimental to the entire industry.”

NASA’s “Later UMLs & the Future of Autonomy” panel was moderated by NASA’s Wes Ryan (top left). Victor Wicklund of the FAA also contributed his insights to the panel discussion (pictured at the bottom right). Featured participants included Maxime Gariel, Xwing (top center); Erick Corona, Wisk (top right); Terik Weekes, Elroy (bottom left); and Todd Petersen, Ellis & Associates (bottom center).

Maxime Gariel, CTO of Xwing, remarked that a priority for enabling autonomy in the AAM ecosystem will be digitalization of air traffic control. Moving to a more digital air traffic control system will facilitate the management of AAM operations in urban airspace as various autonomous aircraft take to the skies. “That’s something that the FAA really has to drive,” added Gariel. “It’s a huge challenge for regulators to look at the amount of data that’s being produced. The more we can embed the FAA early on, the easier it will be to understand what’s happening.”

Xwing’s Maxime Gariel told Avionics in an interview last year that their team works closely with the FAA to bring their technology to market. “We are running two tracks simultaneously. The first track focuses on certifying individual components of the system through supplemental type certificates. Our first STC focuses on the detect and avoid system and is currently underway. The second track focuses on optionally piloted and unmanned flights, which uses non-certified technology, but operational limitations to mitigate risk. This will allow us to perform revenue operations without requiring full certification.”

At Elroy Air, the focus is on middle-mile logistics for automated cargo delivery. “It’s not just about operations in the air, but also about having robust ground operations to really reduce the impact of a cargo operation,” stated Terik Weekes, Chief Engineer at Elroy. “We are flying a fully-featured hybrid electric aircraft this year,” he added. Elroy Air recently announced a partnership agreement with FedEx Express for flight-testing Elroy’s Chaparral VTOL aircraft. They plan to begin flight testing and evaluating Chaparral’s potential for cargo carrying operations by next year.

A main concern in achieving future autonomy goals for advanced air mobility is establishing a mature ecosystem for suppliers, Weekes explained. “We’re dealing with relatively novel aircraft configurations. What that means is that not every company can vertically integrate and develop every single technology.” It will be important to understand the basis and the timeline for maturing those first-generation aircraft, and to have the ability to certify novel configurations and increasingly complex technology in order to release subsequent generations of aircraft.

Victor Wicklund of the FAA encourages autonomous aircraft developers to work with the organization early on, “even if you think you’re not ready for certification,” he said. “We’d like to understand your objectives and goals to help identify what needs to be done to enable that [pathway to certification].”

“We do recognize that certification alone is not enough to introduce these new concepts and aircraft into the system. We will help foster the communication with air traffic control and flight standards to help establish a path for integration. We’re there to help identify limitations that we have to make sure those standards meet regulatory needs. As far as airport and vertiport requirements, we [want to] understand everyone’s objectives and drive some of that industry collaboration. The more we can share among industry, the more successful we’ll be.”

The post Wisk, Xwing, Elroy Air Weigh In on Future Autonomy in Advanced Air Mobility appeared first on Aviation Today.

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2021 Collier Trophy Awarded to NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team

The National Aeronautic Association awarded the 2021 Collier Trophy to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Robert J. Collier Trophy has been awarded by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) every year since 1911 for achievements in astronautics and aeronautics. For 2021, the trophy’s recipient is NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team. The award recognizes the team’s accomplishment in April 2021 of performing the first powered, controlled aircraft flight on another planet. NAA Chairman Jim Albaugh remarked in the organization’s announcement that it was an immense challenge to fly a helicopter autonomously in Mars’ atmosphere, and such an accomplishment is certainly deserving of the 2021 Collier Trophy.

The President and CEO of the NAA, Greg Principato, commented on the announcement in an emailed statement to Avionics International: “History shows that every time we do something previously thought impossible, we learn things well beyond what was required for any one particular mission. Ingenuity has already paid off; the extra missions it has flown have discovered features on the Martian surface that would have been detrimental to the rover, but which could only be seen from the air.

“The fact that this is flying autonomously, and the adjustments that had to be made to ensure it could fly, will yield information that could be used across a variety of platforms. It also increases our understanding of stresses various kinds of materials can withstand. The fact that it has captivated the nation will inspire more people to enter aviation fields. This is an incredible accomplishment, deserving of great respect and we are truly looking forward to presenting the Collier Trophy to the Mars Ingenuity Team.”

This image depicts the first flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on April 19, 2021, taken by cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Forty-four aviation and aerospace professionals participated in the Collier Trophy Selection Committee, and selected the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team from four potential nominees. The committee included representatives from the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), Airbus, Embraer, Electra.aero, Bombardier, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), GE Aviation, Textron Aviation, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce North America, Safran USA, and Garmin International, amongst several other companies and organizations.

The award will be formally presented during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in June.

The NAA has awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy, pictured above, on an annual basis since 1911. The trophy recognizes “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use.” (Photo courtesy of the NAA)

The Mars Helicopter performed this incredible feat, a 30-second hover flight, in April 2021 after rising 10 feet above the surface of Mars, achieving a total flight time of 39.1 seconds. Ingenuity originally landed on Mars in February 2021. NASA robotics electrical engineer Jaakko Karras commented on the possibilities of exploration on Mars—despite the low atmospheric density—in a presentation at the 2022 Transformative Vertical Flight event. In operating the helicopter, he said, the team had to consider several factors such as the low temperatures on Mars and the need to develop a self-sufficient solar power system. The flight dynamics and controls for the helicopter were invented from first principles because of Mars’ thin atmosphere, according to the NAA. Karras added that it was necessary to enable autonomous operation of Ingenuity due to the planet’s distance from Earth and the impossibility of real-time communications.

The NASA/JPL team expanded the flight envelope by 100 million miles, stated Interim Director Larry James. “It was the efforts and ingenuity of those women and men who developed and tested cutting-edge vehicles before us that helped make powered-controlled flight on another planet possible,” James said. “That our Mars Helicopter name will now appear on this iconic trophy alongside so many of these air and space giants is an honor, and fuels us to continue exploring the skies over the Red Planet.”

Ingenuity now serves as a science scout to investigate safe routes for the Perseverance rover on Mars. Cumulative flight time for the helicopter is now over 43 minutes. Ingenuity has also accomplished all of the technology demonstration goals set out by the team. According to the NAA, “The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team displayed exceptional creativity, perseverance, and dedication to advancing the state of the art in aeronautics and astronautics.”

 

The post 2021 Collier Trophy Awarded to NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team appeared first on Aviation Today.

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SkyWest Airlines Becomes Launch Customer for Bombardier CRJ Cockpit Display Upgrade

SkyWest Airlines is the launch customer for a Pro Line 4 flight deck display upgrade on its fleet of Bombardier CRJ aircraft, including the CRJ pictured here that SkyWest operates as a Delta Connection aircraft for Delta Air Lines. (SkyWest Airlines)

SkyWest Airlines has been confirmed as the launch customer of the TFD-4000 liquid crystal display (LCD) upgrade for the Bombardier CRJ’s Pro Line 4 flight deck.

Thomas Global Systems, the Australian avionics manufacturer that makes the TFD-4000, first launched the LCD display as a drop-in replacement for the cathode ray tube (CRT) displays that are featured in the CRJ’s Pro Line 4 flight deck two years ago. At that time, the TFD-4000 was announced along with an unnamed launch airline, which Thomas Global has now confirmed as SkyWest Airlines.

Now, after recently releasing another CRT-to-LCD display upgrade in February for several other business jet models, the company has confirmed that the TFD-4000 achieved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification in early March.

Thomas Global Systems developed the TFD-4000 as a CRT-to-LCD display upgrade for Pro Line 4 flight decks. (Thomas Global Systems)

“Bringing the TFD-4000 drop-in LCD solution to CRJ and other Pro Line 4 operators is a huge accomplishment and a key step in helping our Pro Line 4 customers get the most from their flight deck investment,” Thomas Global CEO, Angus Hutchinson, said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate and thank SkyWest for choosing Thomas Global, and for their important role in making the TFD-4000 LCD product launch and rollout a success.”

The TFD-4000 is one of several CRT-to-LCD display upgrades developed by Thomas Global in recent years. In February, the company launched the TFD-4100 as a cockpit display upgrade option for the EFD-4077 CRT displays currently installed in a range of business aircraft with Pro Line 4 avionics, including Bombardier Challenger 604, Dassault Falcon 50EX/2000/2000EX, Gulfstream G100/G200, Learjet 60, Beechjet 400A, and Hawker 400XP. Other versions include the TFD-7000 Series that has been adopted by a number of commercial and military operators, including Delta, Japan Airlines, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Thomas Global has developed its display upgrades as “plug and play” CRT replacements, with no changes to cockpit panels, wiring, or flight crew re-training required.

The SkyWest fleet includes three different Bombardier CRJ models, including the CRJ200, CRJ700, and CR900. SkyWest is on track to start receiving its first certified TFD-4000 displays for its CRJ fleet by “mid 2022” according to Thomas Global.

The post SkyWest Airlines Becomes Launch Customer for Bombardier CRJ Cockpit Display Upgrade appeared first on Aviation Today.

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