U.S. Air Force Leaders Witness Manned eVTOL Demonstration by LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA

August 26th, 2020   •   Comments Off on U.S. Air Force Leaders Witness Manned eVTOL Demonstration by LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA   
U.S. Air Force Leaders Witness Manned eVTOL Demonstration by LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA

U.S. Air Force leadership watched a manned demonstration of LIFT Aircraft’s single-seat HEXA, one of fifteen companies contracted through Agility Prime’s Air Race to Certification. (Kenneth Swartz / eVTOL.news)

Leadership from the U.S. Air Force observed a manned demonstration of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft last week near Austin, Texas, as first reported by eVTOL.news.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr. were on hand to witness LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA, a single-seat eVTOL aircraft powered by 18 overhead electric motors and propellers, fly for four minutes in a demonstration that included hovers, turns and forward flight within 40 feet of the ground.

The demonstration was part of a leadership visit to AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation center and home to its Agility Prime initiative. LIFT Aircraft is one of fifteen companies the service has contracted with under Agility Prime, encompassing three categories: 1-2 seats, 3-8 seats, and unmanned cargo aircraft with greater than 1,320 lbs gross takeoff weight.

Development of HEXA was first announced publicly in December 2018. LIFT intends to certify the aircraft under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 103 as an ultralight and allow paying members of the public — after less than an hour of training and no pilot’s license — to fly it recreationally in scenic locations.

“We believe the market for experiential entertainment flying of electric multi rotors will be huge,” Matt Chasen, founder and CEO of LIFT Aircraft told Avionics International. “We will soon launch the first consumer flying experience – where anyone can fly with < 1 hour of training, no pilots license required – for less than $250 per flight.”

LIFT has conducted close to 600 test flights to date with a total of between 10-15 hours flight time, according to Chasen, across three pre-production aircraft and four pilots. Between one-third and half of those tests were with a pilot onboard.

“We are developing a touch screen interface – actually an iPad app running on a 12.9” iPad Pro,” Chasen said. “The touch screen app is not required for flight and so treated as a supplemental device. Other user interface elements are the joystick and also an audio/communications system that will eventually allow for some voice control features.”

Unlike most other eVTOL startups attempting to provide effective transportation services, Chasen is focused on recreational use. LIFT plans to offer flights over scenic, un-congested areas to start, such as the San Francisco Bay, Elliot Bay in Seattle, the Santa Monica waterfront, and Dubai’s Marina waterfront. Beginning early next year, LIFT plans to spend 12-18 months touring the United States, offering flights to more than 15,000 people on its waitlist and other members of the paying public.

“We believe the market for eVTOL will develop first with Ultralights under Part 103, then with public use including military, emergency medical, law enforcement and coast guard rescue, etc.,” Chasen said. “Only after these aircraft get certified and are proven at the levels of safety required for passenger transportation — 10^9 — will they be used for transportation.”

Chasen expects operating costs for each flight down will fall below $20 within five to ten years, which would make each flight “1/10th to 1/50th the cost of traditional small helicopter flights.”

LIFT has received a total of $2.6 million in funding and grants through AFWERX, with much of that funding tied to future development milestones, according to Chasen. Five production HEXA aircraft are now under development, two of which are to be allocated to Air Force flight test and evaluation activities “with the aim of evaluating our aircraft against the airworthiness certification requirements the DOD has for their aircraft,” Chasen said, according to eVTOL.news,

In addition to understanding the technology and its performance, the Air Force is attempting to identify applications for the HEXA within the service.

“We now have over fifteen of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world applying to partner with Agility Prime, with many of them already on contract,” said Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director and Agility Prime lead. “This flight today marks the first of many demonstrations and near-term flight tests designed to reduce the technical risk and prepare for Agility Prime fielding in 2023.”

The post U.S. Air Force Leaders Witness Manned eVTOL Demonstration by LIFT Aircraft’s HEXA appeared first on Aviation Today.

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EHang Joins ICAO’s Ambular Project As First Hardware Partner

August 25th, 2020   •   Comments Off on EHang Joins ICAO’s Ambular Project As First Hardware Partner   
EHang Joins ICAO’s Ambular Project As First Hardware Partner

EHang joined ICAO’s Ambular project, which is exploring eVTOL use for medical transport, as its first hardware supplier. (Ambular)

Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle-maker EHang has joined Ambular, a volunteer project run by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to explore applications of electric vertical flight for emergency medical response operations.

Launched in 2018, Ambular seeks to develop a prototype aircraft that will be open-sourced, rather than built and sold as a commercial product, as well as to demonstrate that electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft can be affordably and responsibly used for emergency medical response purposes. As the project’s first hardware partner, EHang will provide rotors and motors, and potentially other necessary hardware, to aid in the design of an aircraft intended to be provided open-source to whomever wants to use it.

Ambular is currently in the early phase of its second design cycle, according to Yuri Fattah, lead guide for the team at ICAO. One academic partner, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, is using computational fluid dynamics and a wind tunnel to contribute on the design’s aerodynamics, while Concordia University’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science is working to include a digital twin of the aircraft in its unmanned traffic management simulator.

Ambular’s three expected design cycles. (Ambular)

“Based on the results of those analyses, we will start finalizing the next iteration of the Ambular, which will then be the basis for a ¼-scale prototype that we hope to have ready in the next 4 to 5 years,” Fattah told Avionics International. “At that time, we will have a clearer understanding of what other hardware will be provided to the project and by whom.”

Fattah added that EHang is currently the project’s only hardware contributor, and it has not yet been decided whether Ambular will move on to a full-scale functioning prototype after sub-scale testing. Other partners include Imaginactive, a engineering concept firm owned by Charles Bombardier, and the Second Research Institute of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

“The aim is to demonstrate that the use case — that of an eVTOL ambulance — can be realized in a manner that is affordable and socially responsible (including with respect to the environment),” Fattah said. “That might be a bit of a moonshot but we hope that many issues, both technical and otherwise, will be solved through the collective work on this singular problem. And we definitely believe that we will also have a working prototype that demonstrates that we can reach our goal.”

A presentation on Ambular’s progress given during last month’s virtual Farnborough International Airshow proposed using four sets of rotors placed around a central cockpit to transport one patient and one paramedic. The next phase of design anticipates accommodating two paramedics and one patient.

The presentation featured an eVTOL aircraft much like EHang’s two-seat 216 flying to the scene of an accident, in the middle of a city street, and taking off again to transport the patient to a hospital.

“AI sorts location, assigns vehicle and allocates nearest paramedic. AI also handles the commute which is controlled by a pilot remotely in a command center. The paramedic takes over command if an issue arises,” the presentation stated.

Unlike some other “EMS eVTOL” projects, Ambular intends to transport patients to medical facilities as well as move paramedics to the scene of the accident. (Ambular)

Ambular is not the only project touting the potential of eVTOLs to safe critical minutes in emergency response situations. Jump Aero, led by former Terrafugia leader Carl Dietrich, is in the initial stages of designing a commercial eVTOL specifically for emergency medical use. Volocopter is nearing completion of an 18-month study in partnership with the ADAC Air Rescue Foundation to explore medical applications of its VoloCity aircraft.

However, both Jump Aero and Volocopter intend their aircraft solely to bring paramedics to the scene of an accident: not also for transporting a patient to a medical facility, as Ambular proposes.

EHang has previously demonstrated its aircraft’s applicability to medical transport by moving supplies a distance of four kilometers in the city of Hezou, along with a proposal to use the 216 for aerial firefighting. The company has also obtained a special flight operations certification from Transport Canada, announced a production facility in Guangdong, and partnered with a number of small European cities to implement urban air mobility.

In January, EHang published a white paper describing its approach to commercializing urban air mobility, with each two-passenger autonomous vehicle capable of generating $352,174 in annual revenue at a profit margin of 39 percent.

However, those figures assume a load factor above 90 percent and 6,000 hours annual utilization, meaning the aircraft is expected to be flying passengers an average of 20 hours per day — despite a stated charge rate of up to 120 minutes. EHang has not yet responded to inquiries from Avionics International regarding these figures and its business case.

The post EHang Joins ICAO’s Ambular Project As First Hardware Partner appeared first on Aviation Today.

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What’s Trending in Aerospace – August 23, 2020

August 24th, 2020   •   Comments Off on What’s Trending in Aerospace – August 23, 2020   
What’s Trending in Aerospace – August 23, 2020

Check out the Aug. 23 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

PWI Testing Biotek Shield Potential for In-Flight Virus Neutralization

PWI is testing the use of a new “Biotek Shield” device that the FAA repair station believes could neutralize viruses in-flight from within an aircraft’s air conditioning system. (PWI)

PWI, a Wichita, Kansas-based FAA aircraft repair station, is testing the use of a new device called the “Biotek Shield,” designed to neutralize pathogens and viruses from within an aircraft’s air conditioning system.

Through a partnership with its sister company, Aero Biotek Inc., PWI is working with a lab to test Biotek Shield’s ability to use UVC lighting to neutralize the COVID-19 coronavirus. When installed within the air conditioning duct it is designed do operate “silently and invisibly throughout the flight,” PWI said in a Aug. 18 press release.

When the aircraft is on the ground, the device will draw power from the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit, when the aircraft is in the air-the device will be powered by the plane’s engines.

“There are only a handful of BSL 3 or “Biological Safety – Level 3” labs which are authorized to test on live viruses like Covid 19,” said Robi Lorik, President and CEO of PWI. “These viruses can be very dangerous, so locating a lab certified to test with Covid 19 was a challenge in itself.”

“Since viruses are not alive, nothing will “kill” a virus. But a virus can be rendered incapable of reproducing or infecting a host,” he added.

The company is targeting certification on the Boeing 737 as its first entry into commercial service.

United Airlines is Using ‘AUVCo Blades’ to Clean Flight Decks

United Airlines is now using UVC lighting to disinfect the interiors of its flight decks.

United Airlines is using Ultraviolet C (UVC) lighting technology to disinfect the flight deck interiors on most aircraft at its hub airports. According to an Aug. 6 press release, the airline is using “AUVCo blades” supplied by the American Ultraviolet company to kill viruses that may reside on” sensitive switches and touch screen displays within the flight deck.”

The technology was selected under advice obtained through their “United CleanPlus” partnership with Cleveland Clinic, which recommended the use of UVC in United’s flight decks.

“United implementing UVC lighting in its flight decks is an important tactic because we know that the virus can be killed by ultraviolet light,” said Dr. James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic.

The airline is also using electrostatic spraying to disinfect its aircraft cabins through the same partnership with Cleveland Clinic.

“Flight decks have many working parts, screens and components that are challenging to clean with traditional hand wipes and liquids, especially for someone who isn’t a pilot. The UVC lighting gives us a faster, more effective disinfection of one of the most important areas of the aircraft,” said Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president of flight operations.


Save the Date: Avionics International Co-Hosts Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats Web Series Sept. 22-24, 2020

Mark your calendar for September 22-24, where the Global Connected Aircraft team will be launch its second session of Cabin Chats.

Due to the impact on travel restrictions and social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the annual Global Connected Aircraft Summit – co-hosted by Avionics and Via Satellite – has been postponed until June 2021.

In place of the live event, we have launched the Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats virtual series. The first installment of the series occurred in June, and we’re planning a second installment next month Sept. 22-24, 2020.

Check out a snapshot of the agenda below, with speakers soon to be confirmed.

Each day will feature short 1-hour interactive presentations, networking, virtual panels and Q&A sessions with industry influencers and leaders across the connected aircraft value system. Check out more information about Cabin Chats and register here.


Northrop Grumman Demonstrates Firebird In Unmanned Operations

Northrop Grumman’s Firebird aircraft taxis ahead of night demonstration flight. (Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman recently demonstrated its optionally-piloted Firebird multi-mission aircraft in series of unmanned evaluations that included one flight lasting longer than a day and operations with a ground-based sense and avoid radar that eliminated the need for a manned chase aircraft to observe flights.

During seven flights in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mode at Grand Sky, N.D., the Firebird accumulated 70 hours of flight time, including day and night operations, Jon Haun, director of the Firebird product line and strategy for Northrop Grumman, said on Wednesday during an update for media held virtually via Zoom. The evaluations included 36 hours of flight-time during a 38- hour stretch in which the first flight lasted 25.6 hours, he said.

Check out the full story first published in Defense Daily.

Near Earth Autonomy and NAVAIR to Develop Autonomy Package for K-MAX

Photo: Kaman Aerospace

Pittsburgh, Pa.-based autonomy systems integrator Near Earth Autonomy is partnering with Kaman Aerospace and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to develop an autonomy system specifically for the K-MAX helicopter, but with broad applicability to large VTOL aircraft.

Near Earth previously worked with the Office of Naval Research in 2014 on a smaller sensor and software autonomy package for the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) project, which has since been implemented on small and medium-sized VTOL aircraft. The company also continued to develop obstacle avoidance technology, working primarily with smaller drones.

The K-MAX helicopters, capable of carrying 6,000 lbs, flew numerous unmanned missions during 33 months of deployment in Afghanistan, moving cargo between forward operating bases and remote outposts, but relied on remote pilots to do so.

Through this partnership with Near Earth, the Navy hopes to validate a more intelligent aircraft and reduce the amount of “manned” in the “unmanned.”

Near Earth says its technology allows the aircraft to autonomously take off, fly, and land safely, with or without GPS. The company’s goal, however, extends beyond the K-MAX.

Unmanned Traffic Management

Australian ANSP Releases RFI for FIMS Prototypes

Australian air navigation services provider, Airservices, released a request for information regarding the development of a Flight Information Management System (FIMS) prototype to be build with industry partners. A FIMS is a gateway connecting various unmanned traffic management providers with each other and the ANSP’s air traffic management system.

“This RFI is seeking to identify the FIMS requirements and functionality necessary to ensure emerging airspace users, such as drones and proposed air taxis, are safely integrated into Australia’s overall air traffic management system with other piloted aircraft,” said Michelle Bennetts, Airservices’ executive general manager for customer service enhancement. Through this RFI, we will better understand industry capability to deliver a future operational FIMS solution and more broadly UTM for Australia.”

Airservices is requesting information from industry on the functional requirements of a FIMS to inform an approach to market to build a number of FIMS prototypes with the intention of selecting a preferred partner to deliver the operational FIMS solution for Australia.

India Testing BVLOS Flights

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has approved a series of BVLOS flight trials, to be conducted by operator AutoMicroUAS with support from UTM provider Unifly.

Over the next few months, the group will conduct 100 hours worth of BVLOS flights in multiple remote locations, beyond normal ground control coverage, to gather data that will inform future rulemaking on BVLOS drone flights in India. The main areas of application of interest to Indian regulators are agricultural business, healthcare and law enforcement.

The post What’s Trending in Aerospace – August 23, 2020 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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In Effort to Bolster U.S. Small Drone Industry, Pentagon Clears Five Models for Government Use

August 22nd, 2020   •   Comments Off on In Effort to Bolster U.S. Small Drone Industry, Pentagon Clears Five Models for Government Use   
In Effort to Bolster U.S. Small Drone Industry, Pentagon Clears Five Models for Government Use

A version of Skydio’s X2, pictured, and four other U.S.-made drones were approved by the Defense Innovation Unit as trusted purchases for government customers. (Skydio)

With Congress poised to ban all U.S. government purchasing of Chinese drones and components, the Department of Defense is leveraging its small UAS prototyping efforts with industry to offer domestically manufactured options to military and federal customers.

The new effort by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), called Blue sUAS, builds on the Army’s ongoing Short-Range Reconnaissance (SRR) development program, which selected six U.S. and allied companies to develop an inexpensive VTOL drone weighing less than 5 pounds that can be used for situational awareness.

Five of those companies — Altavian, Parrot, Teal Drones, Skydio, and Vantage Robotics — have now been selected by Blue sUAS as trusted options to be available for purchase on the GSA schedule by September.

“Recognizing the demand signal across the federal government for trusted and secure sUAS, DIU took the lead in developing systems that are broadly applicable to an array of users and mission sets,” DIU said in a press release. “Coined Blue sUAS, this spinoff effort builds upon the Army’s initial success and offers sUAS that mirror the air vehicle and software architecture of SRR, but provides alternative ground controller and radio configurations to accommodate a variety of users across the federal government.”

For over a decade, U.S. industry has struggled to find success in the small UAS industry, where Chinese DJI controls between 70 to 80 percent of the market. Amid data security concerns and broader decoupling actions between the two nations, both the House and Senate versions of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act include an amendment to ban the use of federal funds to purchase DJI and other drones with Chinese systems or components.

The billion-dollar opportunity created by that legislation, coupled with Blue sUAS, may be the drone industry’s best shot at gaining a market foothold — and the Pentagon’s best shot at securing a trusted supplier ecosystem.

“Blue sUAS represents a tremendous first step toward building a robust and trusted UAS domestic industrial base that ensures sustained delivery of highly-capable, secure UAS to the warfighters that depend on it,” said Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering.

One key player not listed on the release is Auterion, a Switzerland and California-based software company developing and maintaining open-source software tools for drones, including the widely-used PX4 autopilot. From the start of the SRR solicitation, Auterion was contracted by DIUx to build software for all participants’ ground control architecture, ensure interoperability, and integrate capabilities such as the U.S. Air Force’s Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK).

Dave Sharpin, CEO of Auterion Government Solutions, explained that taking the burden of software development off of each drone company improves commonality for DoD and lowers overall development prices for companies like those participating in Blue sUAS — helping smaller startups compete with the likes of DJI, which has thousands of software engineers at its disposal.

“We need an alternative to Chinese-made small drones and Blue sUAS is a first step in achieving that objective.” said Mike Brown, director of DIU.  “Working across DOD and the U.S. government aggregates the business opportunity for these five vendors and enhances the long-term viability of this capability for the U.S. and our allies.”

The post In Effort to Bolster U.S. Small Drone Industry, Pentagon Clears Five Models for Government Use appeared first on Aviation Today.

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PODCAST: Allegiant Talks Aircraft Network Security and Predictive Maintenance

August 22nd, 2020   •   Comments Off on PODCAST: Allegiant Talks Aircraft Network Security and Predictive Maintenance   
PODCAST: Allegiant Talks Aircraft Network Security and Predictive Maintenance

This episode of the podcast features a presentation given by Ankit Nanda, managing director of engineering, Allegiant, at the first installment of the Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats web series in June.

On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we feature a pre-recorded presentation on aircraft network security and predictive maintenance at Las Vegas-based low cost airline Allegiant.

The presentation was given by their managing director of engineering, Ankit Nanda during the first installment of the Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats that took place in June. This is our first time releasing the presentation, where Nanda provides  in-depth perspective on how the airline has adopted the Airbus Skywise predictive maintenance technology. Listeners will also gain an understanding of their efforts to establish and associated aircraft network security program.

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at wbellamy@accessintel.com, 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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Qantas Keeps Project Sunrise in Future Plans Despite Impact of COVID-19

August 22nd, 2020   •   Comments Off on Qantas Keeps Project Sunrise in Future Plans Despite Impact of COVID-19   
Qantas Keeps Project Sunrise in Future Plans Despite Impact of COVID-19

Despite suffering a $1.9 billion loss during the second half of its fiscal year 2020, Qantas will resume its ambitious “Project Sunrise” initiative once its balance sheet allows, CEO Alan Joyce said during an Aug. 20 earnings call. Pictured here, are pilots onboard a Boeing 787-9 from a November 2019 Project Sunrise research flight.

Quantas is unlikely to resume international flying until July 2021, CEO Alan Joyce said during the Australian carrier’s Aug. 20 conference call. The company reported a $1.9 billion loss under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the financial year that ended in june. Joyce also said the carrier’s Project Sunrise is temporarily on hold – but not cancelled.

During the first six months of the year, Qantas experienced a 91 percent drop in profit compared to the same period in 2019. As a result, their fleet of Boeing 747s have been retired six months ahead of schedule, the A380 fleet is being held in “long-term storage” in the United States and they’re on track to reduce their workforce by 6,000 employees, or 20 percent of the entire organization.

“That’s the sad reality of what the pandemic means for airlines – far fewer employees, at least for a while,” Joyce said. “Some carriers are shrinking their workforce by 30, 40 percent. Some may not survive at all.”

Project Sunrise is a research project that Qantas has been evaluating for three years, challenging both Airbus and Boeing to field an aircraft capable of serving three of the world’s longest non-stop routes: Brisbane to Paris, Melbourne to New York and Sydney to London. After completing two Project Sunrise research flights–New York to Sydney and London to Sydney – using newly delivered Boeing 787-9s last year, the airline ultimately announced in December 2019 that the A350-1000 was its preferred aircraft for the routes if the project were to proceed.

On Thursday, Joyce, confirmed the future of Project Sunrise.

“Hard decisions in the current climate are largely about survival – and also about eventually being able to grow again,” Joyce said.

“Coming out of this crisis, we’ll be the only Australian airline that can fly long haul. We want to expand on that when our balance sheet allows, picking up where we left off with Project Sunrise,” he added.

In June, Qantas started to see passenger demand come back domestically, even re-deploying some grounded Airbus A320s and launching new routes such as Sydney to Ballina and Orange. In Singapore, Jetstar, the carrier’s regional subsidiary brand, reduced its operational fleet and workforce by more than 25 percent.

The Qantas Group also completed the sale of its 30 percent shareholder stake in Vietnam-based Jetstar Pacific. A total of 100 aircraft within the Qantas fleet have been shifted to storage in a state “that significantly reduces the need for ongoing maintenance,” the airline said in a statement.

A representative for Qantas told Avionics International in an emailed statement that the airline stopped offering Internet access on domestic flights to reduce operational costs. That policy began in April, although changes have recently been implemented according to the airline’s website.

“Yes that’s correct we’re not offering Wi-Fi on our domestic aircraft. It’s also due to the fact that we’re also operating a significantly reduced network,” the representative said.

An updated statement has since been posted to the Qantas website noting the their “free In-flight Wi-Fi is being progressively switched back on across our domestic B737 fleet, in partnership with Viasat.”

Joyce did not give a projected restart date for Project Sunrise during the earnings call.

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Long Road Ahead for FAA, Airports on Drone Security and Integration

August 20th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Long Road Ahead for FAA, Airports on Drone Security and Integration   
Long Road Ahead for FAA, Airports on Drone Security and Integration

FAA officials described during the latest UAS Symposium sessions next steps for drone integration, including measures for airport security.

Continuing on its path toward greater integration of drones into the national airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will soon proceed with testing and evaluation of drone security systems for safe use at airports.

For the moment, however, officials are concerned that drone security systems may cause more harm than good, if used improperly. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice as well as the FAA and Federal Communications Commission jointly released guidelines — interpreted by some as a warning — for airports and other potential operators of counter-UAS systems, detailing legal and technology considerations.

Though counter-UAS systems have found success in military environments, their use in civilian settings is much more complicated — both in terms of accurate, legal detection of drones as well as mitigating threats without disturbing nearby devices and communications. Distinguishing between authorized and unauthorized drones is also a challenge that the FAA hopes remote identification, with final rulemaking slated for this December, will help address.

“If you don’t know who the drone is, who the operator and what the intent is, maybe they’re supposed to be there,” said Elizabeth Soltys, UAS program advisor to the deputy associate administrator of security and hazardous materials safety. “Carte-blanche use of mitigation across the [national airspace] or in and around airports … is highly inappropriate. So, it’s important to be able to discriminate if the operator supposed to be there before we start handing out mitigation.”

Speaking during the FAA’s virtual UAS Symposium, Soltys said the agency did not advocate expanding mitigation authorities at this time, which is currently restricted to the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Energy.

DHS is taking the lead on efforts to evaluate counter-UAS systems in civilian settings, but the FAA is also authorized to conduct tests specific to airport applications. In the coming weeks, the agency will release a request for information for system vendors to participate in tests at five airports, beginning with Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, where the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center is located.

Once tests are conducted, the FAA intends to release an advisory circular detailing safe drone detection and mitigation methods, according to John Dermody, director of the agency’s Office of Airport Safety and Standards.

That document will establish standards and guidance for safe use of counter-UAS systems by airports and enable the use of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for purchasing of these systems when justified.

“There needs to be an FAA standard before [that purchase] would be AIP-eligible,” Dermody said. “But there’s a few other requirements too. One of them is that the legal airport sponsor would actually need to purchase the system outright. It cannot be a lease arrangement … the airport is responsible for the operation, updates and maintenance to the system. Another requirement is the system needs to be installed on airport property or land that the airport has an easement on.”

Demand from airports to install such systems is high, but FAA officials cautioned that even once standards are developed, airports are unlikely to have the legal standing to use systems such as radiofrequency-based detection and mitigation capabilities.

And such systems can’t simply be pre-purchased and positioned and placed for federal officials to use if necessary.

“The U.S. government would have to determine from our own legal and policy perspective, including any resource constraints we have, who would actually operate the equipment,” Dermody said. “So, there would need to be discussions before an airport operator would think of buying and installing it on who would not only be permitted to use it, but who would actually be able to use it, and have it a commitment in place.”

Meanwhile, FAA officials said they intend to expand the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, through which drone operators can be granted near-real-time access to restricted airspace, from its current 400 participating air traffic control facilities to 530 total facilities. The agency’s Integration Pilot Program, which has been instrumental in creating test cases and data to inform drone-related rulemaking, will expire in October, but the FAA is planning to move forward with a new program to renew focus on enabling operations beyond the operator’s visual line of sight and defining the societal and economic benefits of drones.

We are focused on more complex, safe and routine BVLOS operations that may rely on a combination of technologies and procedures. We are more focused on performance-based solutions than specific technologies, but detect-and-avoid systems may be part of those solutions,” a representative for the FAA told Avionics. “Those operations are likely to include package delivery, infrastructure inspection and agricultural applications, but they are not limited to those areas.”

In addition to policymaking around remote ID, the FAA has yet to define standards for BVLOS flight. Sources familiar with upcoming policy tell Avionics a few military bases will soon be added to the LAANC system as well.

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10 New Concepts, Technologies Developed to Address COVID-19 in Aviation

August 20th, 2020   •   Comments Off on 10 New Concepts, Technologies Developed to Address COVID-19 in Aviation   
10 New Concepts, Technologies Developed to Address COVID-19 in Aviation

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic in March, companies across different segments of the aviation industry have introduced new concepts, initiatives, trials and technologies designed to help the aviation industry reduce the transmission of the virus.

Here, Avionics lists 10 of these new technologies — in no particular order — released in recent months for different COVID-19 related use cases across aviation.

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What the First Passenger Air Taxi Services Will Look Like

August 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on What the First Passenger Air Taxi Services Will Look Like   
What the First Passenger Air Taxi Services Will Look Like

In their early days, eVTOLs might mostly leverage existing infrastructure and demand to offer a change of pace — and altitude — from trains, buses and cars, rather than create new routes and markets. (Volocopter)

The early days of passenger air taxi service are likely to be more conventional than one would expect from what has been hyped as a transportation revolution.

The aircraft will, of course, represent a huge leap forward in aerospace technology. Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles promise to be cleaner, quieter, cheaper and safer than helicopters, paving the way for vertical flight to expand its footprint around the world.

But the first applications of eVTOLs will be less exciting than the on-demand, autonomous urban taxi services promoted by Uber Elevate and cited as a ‘North Star’ by Wisk, a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing. The futuristic concept of accessible, affordable three-dimensional travel in urban and suburban spaces will require significant advancements in airspace management, autonomy and regulation — all undergirded by mounds of flight data — that won’t be ready by the time the first eVTOLs are certified for commercial operations.

Instead of enabling new aviation markets and routes, early passenger-carrying eVTOLs will likely fly where existing transportation options exist, adding a faster travel option for already-connected regional cities, from city centers to airports, or improving awkward transfers between rail lines.

Lilium, with its 186-mile range, four-passenger eponymous jet, plans to start with scheduled routes between 20 to 180 miles that have high existing two-sided demand in order to maintain a load factor that makes sense economically — roughly 72 to 76 percent, according to Oliver Walker-Jones, the company’s vice president of communications. If the third passenger seat is filled, the company takes home up to a 30 percent profit margin.

Take, for instance, New York City to Philadelphia — a highly-trafficked part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor rail system. At a distance of about 81 miles, this trip can take two hours or more by car and about 80 minutes via train. Lilium would offer a 24-minute trip for $170, according to Walker-Jones, which is about the price of a first-class ticket on Amtrak’s speedy Acela trains.

In that scenario, Lilium’s air taxi service may be competitive with higher-end rail service, but the company is also in talks with numerous cities and rail service providers to co-locate vertiports with existing transportation in a complementary fashion.

Pictured is how Lilium envisions a service network centered around Zurich, Switzerland. (Lilium)

Deutsche Bahn, one such operator in Germany, has invested in both Volocopter and infrastructure provider Skyports, expressing interest in building more air mobility into their existing network — also a much cheaper way for air taxi operators to test routes and service options in the early days.

“We are looking into different modes of transportation and how we can integrate that into the existing network, and it is likely that will include air taxis in the not too distant future,” Boris Kuehn, managing director of Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, told Skyports recently. “Deutsche Bahn own the most mobility hubs in Germany and our train stations already connect different modes of public and private transportation. In big cities they are located right at the centre and serve as a transfer point. We are currently in the process of assessing the feasibility of integrating vertiports in our train stations.”

Volocopter, with its two-seat VoloCity multicopter that has a shorter range of 20 miles and a cruise speed of 68 mph, is also in talks with rail operators and cities to offer their service a convenient option amongst many existing other transportation choices.

A representative for the company explained that they see the future of mobility as increasingly multi-modal and flexible, with technology offering people a number of options based to reach their destination based on intended time, price, and number of passengers. Airport shuttle services and moving from city hubs to other common destinations are attractive early applications for the VoloCity.

Uber also sees airport shuttle services as a central part of its air taxi business, which the company hopes to launch in three cities in 2023: Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Melbourne, Australia.

“We expect trips to and from airports will comprise a major part of the Elevate business given that major airports tend to be further from city centers, making for long trips by ground,” a representative for Uber told Avionics. “We’ve been working closely with LAX and DFW in our launch cities, as well as surrounding regional airports where we have an opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure from the outset.”

Paul Puopolo, executive vice president for innovation at DFW Airport, confirmed the facility has been discussing UAM operations with Uber, including flight tests in the metroplex area with a broader local coalition, and views the sector as important to improving travelers’ complete journey. Many aspects of how and where to integrate UAM into the airport are currently being assessed by DFW’s planning team.

“As we look at airport locations [for on-campus UAM service], we need to ensure we have other processes in place to facilitate the time savings UAM is expected to deliver,” Puopolo told Avionics via email. “For example, it wouldn’t make sense to take a UAM to the airport but have a significant connection time from the landing site to the terminal. One of the critical decision points is knowing how many vehicles will need to be supported and the volume of expected flights per day. This will determine operationally, the best location for servicing the vehicles as well as transitioning passengers. We know this a new space, so we may pick a short-term location while assessing another option as the market develops.”

The volume of UAM vehicles is a key undetermined piece of information, from DFW’s perspective, affecting these decisions. Representatives for LAX declined to comment at this time.

“Right now we are in Phase I of the program, which is preparing for a limited number of vehicles for a specific flight condition, so the investment should be manageable,” Puopolo said. “There are a lot of unknowns with this technology but we plan to take it one phase at a time to learn and improve before moving on to the next phase.”

Uber’s data projects that most air taxi trips will range from 20-60 miles, with an average trip length of 25 miles, according to the company. And though shorter trips tend to be efficient by ground and difficult for an air taxi to save passengers time, Uber expects it will be more difficult to achieve high load factors for longer trips.

In the United States — and likely many other nations — early air taxi operations will likely operate within existing airspace systems and regulatory requirements, as laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration’s draft urban air mobility Concept of Operations, released earlier this summer, likely restricting flights to less direct routes.

Technologies including ground-based or onboard detect-and-avoid, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and improved sensors and computer vision will slowly enable UAM operators to reduce separation minima and perhaps allow flight over more densely-populated areas that will in turn improve the value proposition.

Fully autonomous commercial aircraft are likely to appear first in cargo and logistics applications, where the stakes are lower than with human passengers onboard.

Eventually, the passenger applications of air taxis may become what many eVTOL advocates and investors dream of: mobility options that create entirely new methods of movement and allow for previously impossible patterns of life and living. Bypassing much of the cost involved in new infrastructure required for most terrestrial mobility, passenger air taxis promise an inherent flexibility that allows for creative thinking and applications.

But in their early days, eVTOLs will simply leverage existing infrastructure and demand to offer a change of pace — and altitude — from trains, buses and cars.

The post What the First Passenger Air Taxi Services Will Look Like appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Leonardo Developing ‘Connectivity Layer’ to Enable Predictive Maintenance for Helicopter Operators

August 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Leonardo Developing ‘Connectivity Layer’ to Enable Predictive Maintenance for Helicopter Operators   
Leonardo Developing ‘Connectivity Layer’ to Enable Predictive Maintenance for Helicopter Operators

Leonardo’s Advance Services division is developing new connectivity and digital technologies to enable predictive maintenance operations for civil and military helicopter operators. (Leonardo)

Engineers at Leonardo are advancing new digital and connectivity services and techniques designed to introduce the concept of predictive maintenance to in-service civil and military helicopter operators, leadership from within the company’s civil avionics and advanced services divisions told Avionics International during a recent interview.

“We’re not looking to re-invent [health usage monitoring system] HUMS technology for helicopters, that capability has already been designed into our helicopters for years now,” said Simone Gobbi, head of civil aircraft avionics systems engineering for Leonardo.

The ability to acquire performance data, store it and eventually download it for analysis is achieved by the basic aircraft maintenance computer and data transfer device that is featured on all in-production Leonardo helicopter models. Gobbi describes this concept enabled the maintenance computer sitting within the helicopter’s internal network, capable of gathering data from every component and system on the aircraft. Next, the data transfer device transmits data collected by the computer to a maintenance technician who downloads it for analysis from the aircraft.

Until now, that process of acquiring and analyzing data for maintenance purposes by Leonardo operators has primarily been manual. Gobbi said his team is working both internally and externally with several unnamed HUMS, analytics and connectivity technology and modem suppliers on increasing the amount of data their maintenance computer and data transfer can capture, process and transmit in real-time both in-flight and on the ground.

On the development side, Gobbi’s team has focused on adding more flexibility to the configuration files that store data about individual Leonardo helicopter systems inside their aircraft maintenance computer. Recent software updates introduced related to this effort include a “Phase 7” modification to software featured on the AW189 and “Phase 6” is being certified for the AW169.

“We’re developing that connectivity layer,” Gobbi said. “Up until today, all of that HUMS data has been available, but the operator had to arrive with a memory stick to connect to the aircraft and download the package, then go to a computer and upload this data for processing and possible maintenance actions. Now, the connectivity layer we’re developing will give the ability to the system to close the package and prepare the package to be automatically downloaded without the actions of the operator. As soon the system finds the right channel for the download, it transfers it. In-flight that could be 4G or satcom, or the same on the ground with cellular or Wi-Fi.”

While Leonardo’s in-production helicopters already feature the maintenance computer and data transfer device, a modem and connectivity system would be required to enable in-flight or on the ground data transfer in the way that Gobbi described. The avionics engineer also said that they’re evaluating use cases involving the uploading of data to helicopter operators from ground-based systems.

In one scenario, Gobbi described an emergency medical helicopter operator’s flight operations center uploading the coordinates of a search and rescue victim to an in-the-air helicopter’s navigation system.

“If you take an EMS scenario, you could consider looking at our helicopter data chain in reverse for uploading,” Gobbi said. “So the operations center would upload the coordinates, that data is captured by the modem, which sends it to the data transfer device that provides security against that data before verifying it and ultimately passing it onto the avionics. Then from there, the flight management system takes those coordinates and populates them for the pilot who can verify them and fly to the position.”

An effort to further improve Leonardo’s cyber resilience on the cloud computing side of supporting their helicopter operator’s data, the company announced a partnership with CrowdStrike, a provider of cybersecurity endpoint technology designed to protect against enterprise related cloud computing risks. The partnership will see the adoption of CrowdStrike Falcon, a platform that “leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and unifies next-generation antivirus (NGAV), IT hygiene, endpoint detection and response (EDR), cyber threat intelligence and proactive threat hunting via a single, intelligent agent to stop breaches,” according to Leonardo.

HUMS software updates introduced recently on the AW169, pictured here. (Leonardo)

Beyond giving operators the ability to monitor the health of critical components and systems, Leonardo also has interest in expanding its digital services and cloud computing capabilities as an OEM. Data collected in the same way that Gobbi described could be stored and analyzed on a historical basis that would help Leonardo improve the thresholds recorded as a performance or fault exceedances that ultimately trigger maintenance actions over the lifecycle of individual helicopter parts.

“One of the initiatives and we have put aside is helicopter data transmission, and increasing the terabytes of data we already collect from customers so that new helicopter performance data analytics programs, benchmarks and visualization can be introduced,” said Alberto Clocchiatti, capability development manager for Leonardo Helicopters.

Clocchiatti also described Leonardo’s investment in expanding its cloud computing support and eventually developing a data lake where historical data about individual helicopter systems can be leveraged to develop algorithms that automatically trigger maintenance actions. He said the company is investing in expanding its own internal cloud and server storage, while also taking advantage of the “advances of cloud providers worldwide, such as Amazon and Microsoft, among others.”

“One of the key reasons why we’re focused on that real time surveillance of everything that is happening on the helicopters is so that we can improve our ability to forecast and correlate performance data with events that occur in the field,” Clocchiatti said. “This will improve our ability to introduce predictive maintenance as it is called in the market or predictive support, which is a major goal for our Advance Services division.”

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