PrecisionHawk on 2020 Lessons and What’s to Come in 2021

January 5th, 2021   •   Comments Off on PrecisionHawk on 2020 Lessons and What’s to Come in 2021   
PrecisionHawk on 2020 Lessons and What’s to Come in 2021

PrecisionHawk is looking to pursue EVLOS and BVLOS in 2021. (PrecisionHawk)

The integration of drones into the national airspace is approaching quickly as companies are developing new and innovative technologies and government bodies are figuring out how to regulate them. PrecisionHawk, a commercial drone and data company, is one of many innovating in this space.

Kristen Ellerbe, VP of product management and design at PrecisionHawk, spoke to Avionics International about the challenges they faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and their goals for 2021.

Avionics International: What challenges or opportunities were presented in the UAV space from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020? How will these carry over into 2021?

Ellerbe: COVID-19 presented many challenges, as well as opportunities, in 2020 and some of these will carry over into the new year. One very obvious challenge was the sudden significant shift in how and where people worked. While that was a difficult and momentous transition, the value of data and data analytics really crystalized, as companies managing dispersed physical assets shifted to remote collection methodologies, such as UAVs, that could gather data in a safer way compared to manual inspections. UAVs have many benefits – a benefit directly related to COVID-19 is the ability to conduct inspections with limited exposure to other people. The remote aspect of UAVs allowed smaller inspection teams without inherent touchpoints.

More than just the remote collection, the visual audit data from remote collections also enables digital insights that you do not get from manual visual inspections. Beyond helping workers stay safe, this shift also led to more uniform and accurate findings with the ability for audits and new analysis from the computer, along with cost savings, meaning it’s likely a trend that is here to stay.


Avionics International: What new technologies is PrecisionHawk looking to explore in 2021? What are PrecisionHawk’s goals with these technologies?

Ellerbe: I think the whole industry hopes to take advantage of new technologies related to [extended visual line of sight] EVLOS and [beyond visual line of sight] BVLOS, but we are also waiting for regulation to catch up to our innovations. Here at PrecisionHawk, we are focused on bringing action-ready solutions to the market today. While we wait, we are exploring accelerators to use for full end-to-end data analytics solutions.

We’re integrating different technologies ranging from AI on the edge, fleet management systems, and automated flight options to bring to reality the fastest realization of actionable insights from collection in the field. We do this all with the goal of learning about physical assets as consistently, safely, and quickly as possible.



Avionics International: How will PrecisionHawk advance artificial intelligence and machine learning in UAVs in 2021?

Ellerbe: Our biggest focus is to take the models we’ve already created and continue to advance towards the edge. On cloud, batch computing has its place in comprehensive and advanced analytics, but there is also real value in targeting the right use cases on the edge. How do we bring the most critical identification as near to real-time as possible? This will all be facilitated by new chips, heavy payloads, and more computing power onboard our UAVs. Edge AI will facilitate faster reporting for critical issues and move our insights from the field to the command center. This will accelerate automated workflows and ultimately allow the industry to leverage AI on the edge to reduce time-to-value for supercritical issues.



Avionics International: What trends do you see emerging in the UAV space in 2021?

Ellerbe: We will make more progress in the shift toward fully autonomous flight. We have a specific autonomous flight for some of our most critical structures, but we need to continue to push better, smarter flights for more complex and sensitive structures. Today’s FAA standards dictate that even if a drone is automated you have to be able to take control of it, and even more limiting, you also have to keep it within visual line of sight.

But autonomous capabilities are rapidly advancing and as the use cases for drones continue to multiply – another shift accelerated by the pandemic – the FAA will have to decide how it wants to integrate drones into the national airspace sooner rather than later, a process they will likely be working through next year.

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EPA Releases First US Airplane Emissions Rules, Environmental Groups Express Criticism

December 30th, 2020   •   Comments Off on EPA Releases First US Airplane Emissions Rules, Environmental Groups Express Criticism   
EPA Releases First US Airplane Emissions Rules, Environmental Groups Express Criticism

Airbus unveiled three new zero-emission commercial aircraft concepts, all named ZEROe, this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first U.S. airplane emission rules which will align with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) carbon dioxide emission standards, the agency announced on Dec. 28. However, environmental groups and the agency itself say these rules will not reduce emissions. 

The standards apply to new design airplanes and in-production airplanes used by civil subsonic jet airplanes with a maximum takeoff mass greater than 5,700 kilograms and civil larger subsonic propeller-driven airplanes with turboprop engines with a maximum takeoff mass greater than 8,618 kilograms, according to the final rule document released by the EPA. The standards meet section 231 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) for six well-mixed GHGs. 

According to the document, the EPA does not project these standards reducing emissions. All aircraft manufactured in the U.S. will probably already meet the standards by 2028 because they will either re-certify as compliant or older models that are not compliant will go out of production before then. 

“For these reasons, the EPA is not projecting emission reductions associated with these GHG regulations,” the document states. “However, the EPA does note that consistency with the international standards will prevent backsliding by ensuring that all new type design and in-production airplanes are at least as efficient as today’s airplanes.” 

Annie Petsonk, International Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, called the rules “do-nothing” and claimed they are inadequate because they fail to address the aircraft as a whole and instead just focus on the engine. 

“Moreover, EPA’s new rule fails to address the environmental injustice of high toxic and particulate pollution around airports, which disproportionately affects airport workers and local communities downwind,” Petsonk said in a statement. “An ambitious rule that addresses these disproportionate effects, and gives the industry flexibility to use the full panoply of measures – from better engine and aircraft design to light-weighting, to high-quality sustainable fuels, and limited high-quality carbon credits such as those already agreed to by the United States in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – can spur innovation across the sector, put people to work retrofitting today’s aircraft and producing better fuels and aircraft, and make real cuts in aviation pollution.”  

The Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit conservation organization, also released a statement criticizing the final rule. The Center said if the incoming Biden administration does not immediately replace the rule they will challenge it in court. 

“This rule is especially infuriating because there are effective ways for the aviation industry to modernize and decarbonize,” Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in the statement. “What we desperately need are technology-forcing standards to get the industry on track.”

Airline groups and manufacturers applauded the rule as a commitment to addressing climate change. 

“With this final rule, the EPA has demonstrated America’s commitment to global action against climate change and ensured U.S. aircraft will meet the same standards as our competitors across the world,” David Silver, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Vice President of Civil Aviation, said in a statement. “Improving aircraft efficiency is a crucial part of the aviation industry’s plans to reduce CO2 emissions, and we look forward to working with the FAA to incorporate this standard into its aircraft certification requirements.” 

Aligning standards with ICAO was important because it ensures that U.S. manufacturers can produce one fleet which can fly globally. 

“In the absence of U.S. standards for implementing the ICAO Airplane CO2 Emission Standards, U.S. civil airplane manufacturers could be forced to seek CO2 emissions certification from an aviation certification authority of another country (not the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) in order to market and operate their airplanes internationally,” the document states. “We anticipate U.S. manufacturers would be at a significant disadvantage if the U.S. failed to adopt standards that are harmonized with the ICAO standards for CO2 emissions.”

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FAA Releases Final Rules for Remote ID and Drone Operations Over People

December 29th, 2020   •   Comments Off on FAA Releases Final Rules for Remote ID and Drone Operations Over People   
FAA Releases Final Rules for Remote ID and Drone Operations Over People

Remote ID rules will allow the identification of UA in the national airspace. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the highly anticipated final rules for unmanned aircraft (UA) concerning Remote Identification (Remote ID) and drone operations over people, the agency announced on Dec. 28. 

“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, said in a press statement. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The Remote ID ruling, seen as a major step to integrating drones into the national airspace, will essentially provide a digital license plate for drones allowing them to be easily identified while flying. The final Remote ID rule establishes a new Part 89 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and becomes effective 60 days after the publication date which is expected to occur in January 2021, according to the FAA.

There are three options for commercial and civilian drone operators to satisfy the requirement: standard Remote ID, UA with Remote ID broadcast module, and FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA), according to the FAA. The standard Remote ID will include the UA ID number, latitude, longitude, altitude, velocity, location information about the control station, emergency status, and time mark. The Remote ID database will be limited to the FAA, but its information can be shared with authorized law enforcement and national security personnel. 

UA can also use a broadcast module, which would be a separate device attached to the UA or built into the aircraft, to comply with the Remote ID rules, according to the FAA. The broadcast module will include information about the drone’s flying location, take-off location, and time mark, and must be operated within visual line of sight. 

FRIA will be available for operators to fly without Remote ID. Operations have to fly within the boundaries of the FRIA and within visual line of sight, according to the FAA. 

The final Remote ID rule eliminates the network-based and internet transmission requirements in the proposed rule and replaces the limited remote ID UAS with Remote ID Broadcast Module requirements.

“This is the kind of the next big step in our strategy to integrate UAS operations and be able to scale them in the airspace, rather than segregate them in specific areas or do exemption carve-outs and things like that, which was really kind of where the agency was about four or five years ago,” Dickson said during a presentation in October. “And so, I think that we are on a path towards integration and Remote ID is the next big enabling step to do that.”

Part 107 waivers will be eliminated with the “Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Over People” final rule. This rule will also enable operations at night and over moving vehicles, according to the FAA. The rule divides UAS into four categories according to the level of risk to the people on the ground and assigns requirements by category. 

The final ruling made changes to the exposed rotating parts on Category 1 small UA and added Category 4 as eligible for operations over people and moving vehicles. It also requires Category 1, Category 2, and Category 4 small drones to operate over open-air assemblies if they can meet the requirements of the Remote ID rule, according to the FAA. 

The rule requires operators to have a remote pilot certificate and Remote ID while operating UAS, according to the FAA. It also requires pilots to complete pilot certification tests every two years. 

“These final rules carefully address safety, security, and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, said in a press statement. 

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The Top 10 Avionics International Articles of 2020

December 29th, 2020   •   Comments Off on The Top 10 Avionics International Articles of 2020   
The Top 10 Avionics International Articles of 2020

As 2020 comes to a close, we have compiled the top 10 most read articles published by Avionics International this year. Using our web data analytics platform, our traffic monitoring shows that these are the most read articles published between Jan. 1 and Dec. 20, 2020.

Look out for more coverage of the exciting world of aviation electronics and aerospace technology from our publication in 2021. Our regular news cycle will return on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.


10. Airlines in Middle East Adjust to COVID-19 Pandemic

Airlines based in the Middle East are resuming limited flight operations in support of COVID-19 passenger repatriation and going through maintenance checks, such as disconnecting batteries, as an Etihad Airways technician pictured here does. Photo: Etihad Airways

Middle Eastern carriers are resuming limited passenger flights, using the grounding of airplanes to perform extensive maintenance checks, and introducing new airport testing and mask wearing requirements in response to travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus. This article published on Apr. 17, 2020, covers some of the new policies airlines in the region enacted in reaction to new international COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

9. PODCAST: Airbus A220 Chief Engineer Explains How Cabin Air is Cleaner Than You Think

The Airbus A220, pictured here, preparing for a demo flight at Chubu International Airport in Japan. (Airbus)

On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we caught up with Jean-François Parent, head of engineering and chief engineer for the Airbus Canada Limited Partnership’s A220 program. This podcast, published May 29, 2020, provided a timely perspective on the safety of cabin air associated with passenger concerns about transmitting COVID-19 in-flight.


8. Lockheed Awarded $2.3 Billion in Various F-35 Contracts at Year’s End

Lockheed Martin nabbed up to $2.3 billion in contract awards for the F-35 program prior to the end of 2019. Photo: Lockheed Martin

The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin five contracts worth a cumulative $2.3 billion at the end of 2019 for various work related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, to include logistics services for delivered aircraft, long-lead materials, and upgraded software capabilities. This article, published Jan. 4, 2020, covered the contracts, awarded between Dec. 27-30, 2019 totaled $2.347 billion, per a Dec. 31, 2019 Defense Department contract round-up.



7. First Flight of MagniX eCaravan Showcases Maturity of Electric Aviation

A thirty minute flight by an all-electric Cessna Grand Caravan, by MagniX and AeroTEC, brings electric aviation one step closer to primetime. (MagniX)

Skies were all-clear for Redmond, Washington-based MagniX’s first flight of the largest all-electric commuter aircraft yet. This article, published May 29, 2020, covers the first flight of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan retrofitted with a 750-horsepower Magni500 propulsion system.



6. FAA Targets 2021 for Launch of Drone Remote ID Service

Through the remote ID system, described in the agency’s proposed remote ID rule released on December 29, drone operators will be required to transmit via broadcast and network their location, their drone’s location, velocity, and identifying data to a centralized system, which a variety of remote ID USSs share and retrieve information from in near-real-time. This article, published May 14, 2020, covered some of the latest updates around the FAA’s Remote ID service.



5. Vistara to Become India’s First Airline to Feature In-flight Internet

Soon, Vistara Airlines’ cabin experience will feature in-flight Internet access for passengers. Photo: Vistara

This article, published Feb. 27, 2020, covered a new partnership agreement between Panasonic Avionics and Tata Group subsidiary Nelco Limited that made Vistara India’s first domestic airline to offer in-flight Internet access to passengers.



4. Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flight Waiting on Software Validation

During their first quarter 2020 earnings call, Boeing’s chief executive provided updates on their work to return the 737 MAX to passenger-carrying service.

This article, published on Apr. 30, 2020, covered some of the latest updates around Boeing’s 737 MAX flight control software update.


3. Investigators Reviewing Crashed Pakistan Airlines A320 Flight Data Recorder in Karachi

An Airbus A320 operated by Pakistan International Airlines as flight PK8303 crashed just before reaching the runway at Jinnah International Airport, pictured here. Photo: Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority

This article, published May 26, 2020, covered a report on accident investigators recovering the flight data recorder (FDR) from the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303’s Airbus A320 that crashed upon landing on May 22 near Jinnah International Airport.



2. Palantir Forecasts Major Increase in Its Share of DoD, Other Federal Software Business

Palantir CEO Alex Karp. (Keystone)

This article, published Nov. 2, 2020, covers a forecast by Denver-based Palantir Technologies, Inc. noting a major future increase in the company’s share of DoD, intelligence community, and other federal software business, as the company seeks to become the “central operating system for all U.S. defense programs,” per last month’s prospectus for the company’s initial public offering (IPO).



1. Elon Musk Talks Starlink, 5G, Education and More at SATELLITE 2020

SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk discussed a number of hot topics facing his company and the broader aerospace industry during a keynote speech and fireside chat at SATELLITE 2020.

Our most read article of the year borrows coverage from sister publication Via Satellite Editorial Director Mark Holmes’ coverage of Elon Musk at SATELLITE 2020.

“If the schedule is long, the design is wrong,” was an adage shared by SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk as he waded into a range of topics on the first day of SATELLITE 2020 — from the value of a college education, management by rhyming, and updates on Starlink and Starship — while name-checking everyone from Homer Simpson, Sergei Korolev, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison.

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Los Angeles Creates New Partnership to Advance Urban Air Mobility

December 23rd, 2020   •   Comments Off on Los Angeles Creates New Partnership to Advance Urban Air Mobility   
Los Angeles Creates New Partnership to Advance Urban Air Mobility

A new City of Los Angeles partnership has set out to introduce Urban Air Mobility, becoming one of the first U.S. cities to provide local government support to the emerging industry. (Urban Movement Labs)

Los Angeles took its next step in integrating Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles into its skies with the creation of the Urban Air Mobility Partnership, a collaboration between the Mayor’s office, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and Urban Movement Labs (UML), according to a Dec. 16 press release. 

“Los Angeles is where we turn today’s ideas into tomorrow’s reality — a place where a barrier-breaking concept like urban air mobility can truly get off the ground,” Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti said in a press statement. “The Urban Air Mobility Partnership will make our city a force for cleaner skies, safer transportation, expanded prosperity, and stunning innovation, and provide a template for how other local governments can take this new technology to even greater heights.” 

The Urban Air Mobility Partnership is a one year project that will map out challenges to UAM in the city, implement solutions to challenges, visualize a vertiport, and hire a UAM fellow to advance public engagement around UAM, according to the release. The effort will receive financial support from the UAM Division of Hyundai Motor Group. 

Hyundai, a financial sponsor of the partnership, unveiled its prototype eVTOL aircraft during the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Hyundai)

“Developing a scalable system to support urban air mobility will ‘take a village,’ and Hyundai is proud to work alongside the City of L.A. and Urban Movement Labs to advance this important mode of transportation,” Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer, Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group said in a press statement. “This partnership sets a precedent for how diverse stakeholders can collaborate on a safe, community-centered approach to integrating aerial mobility technology into existing and new multimodal platforms.”

This announcement succeeds the publication of the “Principles of the Urban Sky” from the World Economic Forum. The LADOT, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) collaborated on the report with the World Economic Forum to establish a policy road map for implementing UAM in Los Angeles. 

The LADOT, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) collaborated on the report with the World Economic Forum to establish a policy road map for implementing UAM in Los Angeles. (World Economic Forum)

Another goal for the partnership is to enable testing of new transportation technologies in a select number of “Urban Proving Grounds” or neighborhoods where new concept of operations can be tested, according to the Idea Accelerator document the partnership has provided. The Idea Accelerator includes guidelines on how new companies, entrepreneurs and inventors can “pitch a project, attend a workshop, suggest a solution, develop a proof-of-concept” or work for the partnership.

The “Principles of the Urban Sky” established seven UAM principles: safety, sustainability, equity of access, low noise, multimodal connectivity, local workforce development, and purpose-driven data sharing. 

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Australia Prepares for UAM with EmbraerX and Airservices CONOPS

December 22nd, 2020   •   Comments Off on Australia Prepares for UAM with EmbraerX and Airservices CONOPS   
Australia Prepares for UAM with EmbraerX and Airservices CONOPS

EmbraerX’s eVTOL aircraft concept. (Embraer)

As the development of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxis advances, other partners in the industry are working on developing plans for their integration into airspace. In Australia, EmbraerX, an organization within the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer dedicated to developing disruptive businesses that transform transportation, and Airservices, Australia’s civil air navigation provider, have developed a concept of operations (CONOPS) for integrating urban air mobility (UAM) into Australia’s airspace. 

EmbraerX created the spinoff, Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions, which will be responsible for developing UAM solutions in partnership with Airservices. 

“This was essentially a research project that we’ve been working with Embraer to prepare the Australian airspace and aviation industry, for the growth of the UAM industry itself, so air taxis throughout Australia,” Kristian Cruickshank, program manager at Airservices, said during a Dec. 17 Vertical Flight Society webinar interview. “What our goal was, wasn’t to develop a CONOPS that was only applicable to Australia, instead, we were working towards, and have worked towards, a globally applicable concept, but using Melbourne, Australia as a use case.”

Melbourne was selected because of its strong aviation safety record, the original host to the international Uber Air launch city, and a growing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and UAS traffic management (UTM) community, Cruickshank said. Australia is also quite sensitive to aircraft noise and has a strong requirement for community engagement which means that if a company can successfully fly its air taxi services there, it will probably be able to do so in other places with less stringent requirements.

The initial integration of electric air taxis into Melbourne airspace will involve their integration with current conventional rotorcraft, David Rottblatt, project leader for EmbraerX’s urban air traffic management and vice president of business development for Eve, said during the webinar. As eVTOL development and production ramp up and more aircraft are integrated into the airspace, there will need to be changes to the region’s air traffic management policies. 

“We expect that in the initial horizon or those initial Urban Air Mobility operations, those ought to be well served by the current paradigm and should fit within existing procedures,” Rottblatt said. “However, as more entrance to airspace continues, and in the segmentation of aircraft vying for access to dense low altitude urban airspace increases, we do believe that there will be some changes that will be warranted as the demand for access as well as just the volume craft continue to grow.”

To contend with this, Rottblatt said Eve is planning to first launch a piloted eVTOL aircraft with plans to build to autonomous flight in the future. 

Eve and Airservices completed fast time and real time simulations and collision and risk avoidance analysis to demonstrate the impact of UAM operations in Melbourne, Rottblatt said. The results of this analysis found that some areas would be quickly overwhelmed by the volume of operations. They also suggested that UATM services have safety, flight efficiency, capacity, and predictability benefits. 

Publishing the CONOPS was just the first step in this partnership, now Embraer’s Eve and Australia’s Airservices will gather industry stakeholder and government perspectives, Cruickshank said. The companies will then provide analysis, validation and reporting for the feasibility and practicality of the proposed CONOPS. 

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Fifth Generation Flight Test Demonstrates Military IoT with XQ-58A and gatewayONE Platform

December 22nd, 2020   •   Comments Off on Fifth Generation Flight Test Demonstrates Military IoT with XQ-58A and gatewayONE Platform   
Fifth Generation Flight Test Demonstrates Military IoT with XQ-58A and gatewayONE Platform

The Air Force completed a successful test flight that demonstrated the ability of two fifth-generation aircraft and an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) to communicate in their secure native languages without the need for legacy tactical data connections. (Air Force)

The Air Force completed a flight test that demonstrated the ability of two fifth-generation aircraft and an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) to communicate in their secure native languages without the need for legacy tactical data connections, according to a Dec. 9 U.S. Air Force press release. The test flight also marked the first time the XQ-58A Valkyrie, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), conducted a semi-autonomous flight with the F-35 and F-22.

The success of the test flight is the next step toward an Air Force element of the military Internet of Things (IoT). The test flight occurred at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and involved an F-22 Raptor, F-35A Lightning II, and an attritableONE XQ-58A Valkyrie. The F-22 and F-35A communicated through gatewayONE, according to the release. 

“The gatewayONE payload really showed what’s possible and helped us take a big step towards achieving (Joint All-Domain Command and Control),” Lt. Col. Eric Wright, a 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-35 pilot, said in a press statement. “This critical capability provides additional connections between our advanced fighters and other forces and battle managers across all domains. The future is promising, and gatewayONE will allow the F-22 and F-35 to connect to and feed data sources they’ve never before accessed. Those future connections will bring additional battlefield awareness into the cockpit and enable integrated fires across U.S. forces.”

GatewayONE allows battle managers on the ground and air to manage operations. Using this platform, the position data of each platform was pushed outside of the aircraft’s close proximity formation, according to the release. The communication occurred not only between the ground and air but also between the aircraft. 

The success of the test flight is the next step toward a military Internet of Things (IoT). The test flight occurred at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and involved an F-22 Raptor, F-35A Lightning II, and an attritableONE XQ-58A Valkyrie. (Air Force)

“If fifth-generation platforms are going to be quarterbacks of a joint-penetrating team, we have to be able to communicate with those quarterbacks in an operationally relevant manner and enable data sharing between them, to them, and from them. For years people said it couldn’t be done. Today the team turned another page toward making the impossible possible,” Preston Dunlap, Air and Space Force’s chief architect, said in a press statement. “In just 12 months, the team has opened the door to a world where we can put the power of an operations center into the cockpit at the tactical edge.”

The XQ-58 Valkyrie completed the test flight alongside the F-22 and F-35, which was also the first semi-autonomous flight for the UCAV. However, while the gatewayONE payload was integrated on to the UCAV, the communications were lost shortly after takeoff. 

“Testing is all about pushing the limits of what’s possible, finding out where the toughest challenges are, and adapting creative solutions to overcoming difficult problem sets,” Lt. Col. Kate Stowe, gatewayONE program manager at the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, said in a press statement. “The real win of the day was seeing the gatewayONE establish a secure two-way translational data path across multiple platforms and multiple domains. That’s the stuff ABMS is all about.”

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PODCAST: Valour Consultancy Talks 2021 Outlook, COVID-19 and In-flight Connectivity Trends

December 21st, 2020   •   Comments Off on PODCAST: Valour Consultancy Talks 2021 Outlook, COVID-19 and In-flight Connectivity Trends   
PODCAST: Valour Consultancy Talks 2021 Outlook, COVID-19 and In-flight Connectivity Trends

Daniel Welch, senior consultant with Valour Consultancy, gave a presentation during the recent Connected Aviation Intelligence two-day program.

On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we feature a presentation given by Daniel Welch, senior consultant with Valour Consultancy, during our recent two-day Connected Aviation Intelligence live virtual event.

Valour, who has been a guest on the podcast earlier this year, gives an updated outlook on trends to watch across the connected aircraft ecosystem as 2020 comes to an end and industry stakeholders start to shape their plans for 2021. Welch discusses merger and acquisition activity, business models for airlines and service providers as well as equipage trends and commercial production rates.

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.

Listen to this episode below, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play If you like the show, subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes as soon as they’re released.

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What’s Trending in Aerospace – December 20, 2020

December 21st, 2020   •   Comments Off on What’s Trending in Aerospace – December 20, 2020   
What’s Trending in Aerospace – December 20, 2020

Check out the Dec. 20 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.

Commercial Aviation 


New Senate FAA Investigation Report Uncovers More Boeing Influence on 737 MAX Certification

Boeing 737 MAX cockpit. (Boeing)

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the Committee’s investigation report on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), looking into information about the 737 MAX certification process from multiple “whistleblowers,” according to a Dec. 18 press release.

“Twenty months ago, the Commerce Committee launched an investigation into FAA safety oversight. We have received disclosures from more than 50 whistleblowers, conducted numerous FAA staff interviews, and reviewed over 15,000 pages of relevant documents,” said Wicker. “Our findings are troubling. The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly.”

The Committee provided a brief overview of some of the report’s findings, including the following:

  • FAA senior managers have not been held accountable for failure to develop and deliver adequate training in flight standards, despite repeated findings of deficiencies over several decades.
  • The FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers instead of welcoming their disclosures in the interest of safety.
  • The Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel (DOT OGC) failed to produce relevant documents requested by Chairman Wicker as required by Article I, Section I of the Constitution.
  • The FAA repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at risk.
  • During 737 MAX recertification testing, Boeing inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times involving a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) failure.
  • FAA senior leaders may have obstructed a DOT OIG review of the 737 MAX crashes.


UPS Delivers First U.S. COVID-19 Vaccines to Worldport

UPS completed the first flights of COVID-19 vaccines to its global hub in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 13. (UPS)

UPS provided air cargo flights for the transportation of the first COVID-19 vaccines to its global hub, Worldport, in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 13.

“Capt. Houston Mills, UPS pilot & U.S. Marines veteran, just flew the 1st U.S. COVID-19 vaccines to Worldport, our global Airplane hub in Louisville, KY.Tomorrow, we will deliver the vaccines across the country,” Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS said in a Dec. 13 tweet.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines will originate from storage sites in Michigan and Wisconsin, before being transported to Worldport, where they will be expedited to select destinations, including hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, according to UPS.

“This is the moment of truth we’ve been waiting for at UPS,” said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare. “We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action.”



Boeing, University of Arizona Demonstrate How to Kill COVID-19 on Flight Deck Surfaces

Boeing and the University of Arizona put an age-old technique, thermal disinfection, to use in the fight against COVID-19. (Boeing)

Researchers from the University of Arizona have been working with Boeing to demonstrate how the use of thermal disinfection can effectively eliminate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft flight deck surfaces.

According to Boeing, the flight deck is one of the most challenging areas to sanitize using traditional chemical disinfectants. This is especially true in areas with sensitive electronic equipment. Boeing’s flight decks are designed to withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (about 70 degrees Celsius), making thermal disinfection an optimal sanitization method.

“We’re basically cooking the virus,” Dr. Charles Gerba, University of Arizona microbiologist and infectious disease expert, said in a Dec. 15 press release. “Thermal disinfection is one of the oldest ways to kill disease-causing micro-organisms. It’s used by microbiologists in our laboratory every day.”

Boeing completed the testing as part of its Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) to enhance the well-being of passengers and crews during the COVID-19 pandemic. This testing was conducted in a protected laboratory environment at the university using flight deck parts and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, this fall.

“Passenger and crew safety are our top priorities — that extends from the cabin to the flight deck,” said Michael Delaney, who leads Boeing’s Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) efforts. “Thermal disinfection could deliver another valuable tool to destroy COVID-19 on sensitive and difficult-to-reach components that protect pilots.”

Check out video footage from the research initiative here.

Business & General Aviation 

Gulfstream Delivers First G600 Certified by EASA

The first EASA-certified Gulfstream G600 has been delivered to an undisclosed operator in Europe. (Gulfstream)

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in a Dec. 16 press release announced delivery of the first G600 certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to an undisclosed operator based in Europe.

“We are glad our customers in Europe can now register their G600 on the continent and easily experience the advanced technology and cabin comfort of the aircraft,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Pilots have told us the Symmetry Flight Deck is a joy to fly, and customers are reaping the benefits of the award-winning Gulfstream cabin, with its advanced ergonomics, flexibility and health benefits. With the latest range increase—the third for the G600—customers in Europe.”

After a recently announced range boost, the G600 can now travel 6,600 nautical miles/12,223 kilometers at its long-range cruise of Mach 0.85 and 5,600 nm/10,371 km at its high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90.

Embraer Completes First Praetor 500 Conversion in Europe

Embraer completed its first Praetor 500 conversion in Europe. (Embraer)

Embraer announced the completion of the first European conversion of a Legacy 450 to a Praetor 500 for an undisclosed customer. The conversion was performed at the Embraer Executive Jets Service Center at Le Bourget International Airport, in Paris, France.

“These conversions are only made possible by the expertise of structures and avionics specialists, mechanics, logistics teams, and engineers from Embraer operations around the globe,” said Johann Bordais, President & CEO, Embraer Service & Support. “Per Embraer’s strategy for the future, we are consistently investing in and expanding our portfolio, focused on offering our customers the industry’s best services and support.”

The full process to convert a Legacy 450 (2,900 nautical miles range) into a Praetor 500 (3,340 nautical miles range) requires replacement of the level-sensing wiring in the fuel tanks, moving the over-wing gravity fueling ports and re-location of the fuel-measurement system, according to Embraer. There were also adjustments made to the flight control systems, including a new avionics load for the aircraft’s Pro Line Fusion flight deck.




Lockheed Martin ARRW Hypersonic Flight Demonstration Planned This Month

Members of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 test team make final preparations prior to a captive-carry test flight of the prototype hypersonic weapon at Edwards AFB, Calif. on Aug. 8 (U.S. Air Force.).

The U.S. Air Force plans to hold a flight demonstration of the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) by Lockheed Martin this month.

“We’re hoping that our flight demonstrator for our hypersonic weapon will be successful this month and that we’ll get into production next year,” Air Force Acquisition Chief Will Roper told the Air Force Association Doolittle Forum on Dec. 15.

If that happens, ARRW would become the U.S.’ first fielded hypersonic weapon. Roper said on Dec. 15 that, while the Air Force is looking to lure commercial companies, including start-ups, to provide advanced technologies for military use, the service has not turned its back on traditional defense firms.

Check out the full story as first published in Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International.



Romanian Air Force Tap Elbit Systems for IAR-99 Upgrade

Avioane Craiova S.A., a Romanian company, awarded a four year $27 million contract to Elbit Systems for an upgrade of the Romanian Air Force’s (RoAF) IAR-99 Standard trainer aircraft, according to a Dec. 14 press release. The upgrade will help transition RoAF pilots to advanced fighter aircraft like the F-16. 

The contract will equip the IAR-99 Standard aircraft with advanced avionics systems, close air support, and air to air capabilities, according to the release. Elbit Systems will also be providing integrated logistic support. 

“We are honored to provide continued support for the RoAF,” Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace, said in a press statement. “This upgrade program follows a range of technologies delivered by Elbit Systems to the RoAF in collaboration with Romanian companies, including large scale upgrades for various fixed-wing aircraft as well as the supply of advanced capabilities for rotary-wing aircraft.” 



UK Selects BT & Altitude Angel for Project XCelerate 

The United Kingdom is creating its first commercial drone corridor in open and unrestricted airspace, Project XCelerate, and has selected BT and Altitude Angel along with other tech start-ups to deliver use cases and technology for the project, according to a Dec. 15 press release. 

“As drone numbers continue to rise, there is an urgent need to safely integrate commercial drones into global airspace alongside manned aviation,” Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, said in a press statement. “In showing how drones can deliver improved, potentially life-saving services to the public, we’re aiming to accelerate the adoption of fully automated drones in unrestricted UK airspace in a safe and responsible way.”

Project XCelerate will begin in the summer of 2021 with flight trials with manned aviation along the 8km-long corridor located south of Reading, Berkshire, according to the release. The use cases demonstrated in the project will include industries like healthcare, emergency services, and infrastructure. 

“Project XCelerate is bringing together experts and world leaders in their respective fields, something we’re very proud and excited to be a part of,” Richard Parker, Altitude Angel CEO and founder, said in a press statement. “Our Arrow technology is truly ground-breaking and the key enabler to the project and we’re pleased to be deploying it for maximum benefit in the UK first.”

Dronecloud, HeroTech8, Skyports, Angola, DkyBound Rescuer and DroneStream will also participate in the consortium, according to the release. 


Virgin Galactic Reviews Ignition Problems That Prevented Test Flight from Reaching Space

SpaceShipTwo Unity takes off for latest Dec. 12 test flight from New Mexico. (Virgin Galactic)

A Dec. 12 Virgin Galactic test flight failed to reach space after their SpaceShipTwo spacecraft’s rocket motor experienced ignition problems, the company said in a Dec. 14 press release.

During the test flight, the rocket motor did not fire due to the ignition sequence not completing. Following this event, the pilots conducted a safe landing and return to Spaceport America, New Mexico as planned.

“The flight did not reach space as we had been planning. After being released from its mothership, the spaceship’s onboard computer that monitors the rocket motor lost connection. As designed, this triggered a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor. Following this occurrence, our pilots flew back to Spaceport America and landed gracefully as usual,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement following the flight.

Colglazier said the team is now focused on continuing the fight testing program, with a repeat of the Dec. 12 flight, followed by another test flight that will include mission specialists as passengers. The company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, will participate in a test flight next year following the flight featuring mission specialists.

“We look forward to sharing information on our next flight window in the near future,” Colglazier said.

Check out images and B-roll from Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight here.

Air Taxi

ADAC Luftrettung Invests in 2 VoloCity eVTOLs

Volocopter 2x flying at Helsinki international airport. Photo: Volocopter

ADAC Luftrettung has invested in two VoloCity electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft following the results of a feasibility study about multicopter use in rescue services, according to a Dec. 15 press release from Volocopter, the company that makes the aircraft. ADAC Luftretung will begin operations tests with the aircraft in 2023. 

“After the groundbreaking results of our feasibility study, we are expanding our technological lead with regards to integrating multicopters in rescue services. Volocopter is the only eVTOL on the market that is advanced enough to reliably plan a test program with for our purposes,” Frédéric Bruder, Managing Director of the non-profit ADAC Luftrettung, said in a press statement. “We are excited to have secured our right to receive amongst the first VoloCity multicopters upon receival of type certificate.” 

The operation tests by ADAC Luftrettung will be the first eVTOL test for emergency services, according to the release. Volocopter plans to launch its air taxi services as early as the next two years. 

“Our partnership with ADAC Luftrettung, Europe’s largest helicopter operator, clearly demonstrates the potential Volocopter multicopter technology brings across all areas of mobility— in this case as a new means to get medical help to more people, faster,” Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, said in a press statement. “By reserving their first two VoloCitys, ADAC Luftrettung are making a clear statement of confidence about our readiness to deliver and in our multicopter technology.” 

The post What’s Trending in Aerospace – December 20, 2020 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Transport Canada Validates 737 MAX Design Changes, Expects Return to Service in January

December 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Transport Canada Validates 737 MAX Design Changes, Expects Return to Service in January   
Transport Canada Validates 737 MAX Design Changes, Expects Return to Service in January

Transport Canada expects to issue a final airworthiness directive (AD) clearing the 737 MAX for return to passenger carrying service in Canadian airspace next month. (Air Canada)

Transport Canada civil aviation regulatory officials have completed their independent design review of changes integrated into the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and outlined next steps for the grounded aircraft type’s projected return to Canadian airspace next month, according to a Dec. 17 press release.

Under the validation approval, airlines operating Transport Canada registered 737 MAX aircraft can begin the implementation of Canadian design modifications, while the agency expects to publish an airworthiness directive stipulating the design changes that must be incorporated on Canadian registered aircraft next month. The Canadian agency published background information along with the press release signaling their approval of the design changes to clarify the next steps that need to be completed prior to the return of the 737 MAX to passenger-carrying service in Canada.

“The commercial flight restrictions for the operation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in Canadian airspace remain in effect and will not be lifted until Transport Canada is fully satisfied that all its safety concerns have been addressed, that required modifications have been incorporated, that enhanced flight crew procedures are in place, and that all training has been conducted in Canada,” the agency said in the release.

Similar to the European Union Safety Agency’s 737 MAX approval issued Nov. 24, Transport Canada’s approval of the design changes include different requirements from those featured in the Nov. 18 publishing of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) AD. While Transport Canada concurs with all provisions included in the FAA version, some key differences in their upcoming AD are “an enhanced flight deck procedure that provides the option for a pilot-in-command to disable a loud and intrusive warning system (commonly called the ‘stick shaker’) when the system has been erroneously activated by a failure in the angle of an attack sensor system,” according to the release.

“This feature will help to reduce pilot workload given what has been learned from the two tragic accidents and has been fully evaluated by Transport Canada’s flight test pilots. There will also be differences in training including training on the enhanced flight deck procedure,” the agency said.

Transport Canada further clarified its reasoning behind including the flight deck feature, stating that the measure will provide pilots with the option to reduce cockpit workload during certain flight conditions.

Transport Canada published its timeline for a return to service of the MAX on Dec. 17. (Transport Canada)

Air Canada, the largest Canadian operator of the 737 MAX, has a total of 24 of the aircraft in its fleet, serving routes across North America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Atlantic Canada to London Heathrow. The airline has made a number of changes to its original order for 737 MAX placed in 2014, since the fleet was first grounded last year. Among these changes include cancellations to 10 jets on order and rights to purchase an additional 30 MAX aircraft.

Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL became the first airline to perform a commercial flight on Dec. 9 with the MAX since its grounding in March 2019. While the FAA has already re-certified the MAX, no U.S. airline has performed a passenger-carrying flight with it yet.

Transport Canada expects to issue an interim order outlining required training for 737 MAX flight crews in January prior to publishing a final airworthiness directive.

“While global certification authorities have worked extensively together in the review of this aircraft, the decision to certify/validate an aircraft is one that Canada has taken independently,” the Canadian regulator said. “The differences between the FAA and Transport Canada in procedures and training demonstrate these independent actions.”

The post Transport Canada Validates 737 MAX Design Changes, Expects Return to Service in January appeared first on Aviation Today.

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