Duncan Aviation and Gogo Business Aviation are partnering to offer additional options for business operators to install the Gogo AVANCE L3 Wi-Fi system and the Gogo AVANCE Smart Cabin System (Duncan Aviation Photo)
Duncan Aviation said earlier this month that it is partnering with Gogo to offer new installation options for the Gogo AVANCE L3 Wi-Fi system and the Gogo AVANCE Smart Cabin System (SCS).
The new options, afforded through Duncan Aviation’s amending of three Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) for the Gogo AVANCE L5 Wi-Fi system, will allow business aviation operators to install the Gogo AVANCE L3 Wi-Fi system or a standalone SCS in more than a dozen aircraft models, including the Gulfstream GIV and GIV-X and the Bombardier Challenger 300, 250, 604, 605, and 650, according to Duncan Aviation.
The Nebraska-based company, which bills itself as the largest family-owned maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in the world, said that amended STCs for the Gogo AVANCE L3 Wi-Fi system will include the installation of the single air card Line Replacement Unit (LRU) and mounting tray and will cover all other existing architecture for the AVANCE L3, including the Wi-Fi and terrestrial modem antennas. The amended STCs will also cover design changes for the installation of the Gogo AVANCE SCS.
David Salvador, vice president of aftermarket sales for Gogo Business Aviation, said in a statement that the added STCs Duncan Aviation is developing for Gogo AVANCE L3 and SCS, “will greatly benefit our mutual business aviation customers.”
Duncan Aviation said that the built-in cybersecurity of the AVANCE L3 allows business passengers to “connect safely and securely” to their companies’ Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) “to meet deadlines, send and receive important email, and access information on the Web” and to access onboard news and entertainment with no connection needed using Gogo Vision, which is built into the L3 system. AVANCE L3 also provides pilots with real-time information on popular pilot applications, Duncan Aviation said.
SCS allows passengers to make voice calls, view in-flight maps and destination weather reports, and access entertainment with Gogo Vision enabled.
Shawn Carraher, Duncan Aviation’s manager of engineering and certification business development, said in a statement that L3 and SCS are “cost-effective options for customers who want the reliability and functionality of Gogo’s AVANCE system but don’t yet need the speed of the L5 Wi-Fi system.”
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On June 10, Pipistrel’s Velis Electro received the first type certification for an electric aircraft from EASA, a major milestone for electric aviation. (Pipistrel)
Pipistrel’s two-seat Velis Electro was awarded type certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on June 10, the first electric aircraft in the world to do so.
Derived from the Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer’s Virus SW 128, the Velis Electro is designed to be a trainer aircraft, with 1,230 lbs maximum takeoff weight, 100 mph cruise speed and 50 minutes of endurance plus reserves. It’s powered by Pipsitrel’s E-811-268MVLC electric engine, which was certified by EASA on May 18.
“The type certification of the Pipistrel Velis Electro is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible. It is considerably quieter than other aeroplanes and produces no combustion gases at all,” said Ivo Boscarol, founder and CEO of Pipistrel Aircraft. “It confirms and provides optimism, also to other electric aircraft designers, that the Type Certificate of electric engines and aeroplanes is possible.”
According to Pipistrel, the Velis Electro’s built-in continuous health and monitoring system enhances its reliability, allowing the airplane to have “more than double the lifespan of powertrain elements in comparison to the previous generation of electric aeroplanes.”
“It should also be noted that this innovative product was, despite the many challenging aspects, certified in less than 3 years, showing the excellent work performed by Pipistrel and the EASA teams,” said Dominique Roland, head of the general aviation department at EASA. “Finally, it is worth mentioning that the certification team was composed of EASA staff, but included experts from the Swiss and French authorities, in order to prepare and facilitate the entry into service of the Velis Electro in these two countries.”
Pipistrel plans to deliver 31 Velis Electros in 2020 to customers in seven different countries.
AlpinAirPlanes, the Switzerland-based launch customer, plans to initially distribute 12 aircraft on 10 airfields across the country.
According to Pipistrel, one battery pack is located in the nose of and the second behind the cabin. This ensures redundancy of the power source: in case of battery failure, the malfunctioning battery would get automatically disconnected from the system. A single battery is capable of standalone operation and has enough power capability to support climbing and continuation of flight. Photo: Pipistrel
“Each base will be equipped with 150 m2 of photovoltaic panels, producing electricity for 12,000 flight hours per year on the Velis Electro,” said Marc Corpataux of AlpinAirPlanes. “We are happy to offer the most environmentally friendly training possible.”
Pipistrel’s achievement is a significant milestone for electric aviation. In the United States, Bye Aerospace was targeting type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for its two-seat eFlyer 2 by late 2021, though that timeline is likely to slip due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The eFlyer 2 is also intended for use as a training aircraft, though at least one company — Quantum XYZ — intends to use it for regional airline services.
And last month, magniX and AeroTEC successfully flew an all-electric Cessna 208B Grand Caravan for 30 minutes. MagniX hopes to receive FAA certification for its 750-hp Magni500 propulsion system by the end of 2021 as well.
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L2 Aviation is working on a ruggedized version of IPVideo Corp.’s HALO IoT smart sensor for commercial airline cabins. Photo: L2 Aviation
L2 Aviation and IPVideo Corp. introduced a patent-pending HALO smart air quality monitoring system designed to provide an Internet of Things (IoT) approach to cabin air quality monitoring during a June 9 webinar.
The two companies have partnered in an effort to ruggedize and integrate HALO into aircraft cabins to help airlines not only monitor cabin air quality, but also gather empirical data about it. introduced HALO during a June 9 webinar.
“There’s nothing in an airplane today installed or portable that can capture what is truly in cabin air and all areas of fuselage, flight deck to the labs to the galleys and cargo areas,” Lebovitz said. “What if we could show what was floating around to include the really bad elements?”
IPVideo Corp., the Bay Shore, New York-based provider of HALO, describes the IoT sensor as an environmental monitoring tool designed to measure changes in air quality by the micron. The company’s website shows how public schools have started adopting HALO in recent years as a method for identifying vape with web-based dashboard monitoring of the HALOs located in areas throughout buildings.
Both companies believe that by installing multiple HALO sensors throughout an aircraft, airlines can start to improve the way that they digitally monitor changes in cabin air quality. IPVideo Corp. President David Antar said the company hopes some of the use cases of HALO by organizations on the ground can be transferred to airplanes.
“An interesting thing with HALO and how it’s being used right now with COVID-19 is a lot of commercial buildings are implementing this to be able to determine when a building has been sanitized. Given what we’ve been hearing a lot about the airline industry doing the same thing and being able to fog and disinfect the airplanes, this would be a way to get a confirmation that it was properly sanitized. It will give you the chemical concentrations and amount of time they existed on that airplane,” Antar said.
The IoT aspect of technology was also described by Antar’s colleague – Frank Jacovino, vice president of product development for IPVideo Corp., based on how each sensor is connected to the HALO cloud. How the company sees this working on an airplane is to have each sensor feed data points to the cloud for each flight, enabling airline maintenance technicians to view the visual signatures associated with different occurrences such as as smoke or fume events with a focus on those that could lead to diversions.
L2 showed what a sample configuration for four HALO sensors installed within an aircraft could look like. Photo: L2 Aviation
Jacovino said trending data from the HALO cloud could be used to identify and prevent such occurrences.
“We can start combining maintenance information, fume events and using artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques to see where the correlations are. Think about the power of deep learning and AI, combining millions of data points over five HALOs that are located throughout an airplane. We know when the airplane took off, we know when there’s a fume event, if we apply intelligence to this, now we can start identifying the causes of these events and actually start to come up with ways of preventing them,” Jacovino said.
Data recorded by HALO can also be recorded and stored on the HALO sensor itself, and alerts on severe air quality levels could be transmitted via in-flight Wi-Fi, according to Jacovino.
Several airlines have published new videos and infographics to their websites describing how they’re improving the way they disinfect aircraft in between flights. As an example, on June 10, Delta Air Lines announced it has established a new global cleanliness division, a few weeks after it started using electrostatic spraying to disinfect airplanes in between flights. Emirates in March, published a press release showing how it would enhance cleaning procedures with a focus on aircraft that transported a passenger with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Others, such as JetBlue have even published videos showing how their aircraft are equipped with have High-Efficiency-Particulate Arrestors (HEPA) filters and more advanced air recirculation systems designed to keep cabin air cleaner. Airbus A220 Chief Engineer ___ recently explained how HEPA filters work on one of the manufacturer’s newest airliners, which includes functionality for pilots to control the level of fresh air being recirculated throughout the cabin.
However, airline travelers could still be cautious as travel and social distancing restrictions begin to ease getting back on airplanes, especially considering the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) specifically points to seating configurations as a possible culprit.
“Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” CDC’s guidance reads.
L2 and IPVideo are focusing on how the air circulation systems work on older aircraft, some of which do not feature HEPA filters or the type of advanced cabin air systems featured on newer planes
“We researched and validated a variety of air flow options in typical aircraft like a 737, and looked at airplanes that are 15 years old, or those delivered 15 years ago. As some of you may know, about half of the cabin air flow is often recirculated in a lot of these older generation aircraft. Whereas 787 has a dedicated system, it’s all fresh air, not part of the bleed air system, and you get high powered fans blowing air in to pressurize the aircraft – for a lot of pre-787 era aircraft we’re recirculating the air. The typical passenger doesn’t know that,” Lebovitz said.
A carry on version of HALO developed by L2 to collect baseline cabin air quality data. Photo: L2 Aviation
An overview of a sample configuration on an aircraft provided by L2 showed the use of four HALO units that take advantage of the mix manifold design of most modern aircraft that helps manage the way inlets bring circulate fresh air across different zones of an aircraft cabin. The sample configuration places HALO units
“We’re looking at putting HALO units on each one of the inlets as it goes to different zones in the cabin,” he said.
A basic cabin air quality monitoring control panel is also in development for aircraft as part of the full HALO wireless system, designed to give pilots basic alerts when needed. An initial carry on version of HALO that can be used in a trial run in passenger carrying cabins was also unveiled during the webinar. The kits are designed to collect baseline cabin air quality data and the L2-IPVideo team does have several candidates considering trial runs, Lebovitz said. No actual in-flight testing of the kits has been performed yet.
Lebovitz said the goal is to achieve design assurance level D certification for HALO by early next year.
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GPS III satellites are to feature improved accuracy, service life, and anti-jamming capabilities. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Aircraft will need to have avionics receivers able to process the legacy L1 signal and the most recent L5 signal to take advantage of the precision location advances in the Global Positioning System III and GPS III Follow-On (GPS IIIF) satellites.
L5, the third signal for GPS satellites, operates at 1176 MHz and is used on GPS II satellites, but will become fully operational with GPS III and IIIF satellites.
GPS III and IIIF satellites are to feature better resiliency, greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability for military users.
The L5 signal “is going to be enabled as the fully operational [GPS] signal in the near future,” Sai Kalyanaraman, a technical fellow at Collins Aerospace, said during a June 10 GPS Innovation Alliance webinar, GPS III: Unleashing the Next Generation of GPS. “GPS L5 is a signal that we need in the avionics receiver equipment. Right alongside, they’re looking for the GPS signal’s physical FOC [full operational capability]. Receiver equipment has to take advantage of that and perform signal processing with both GPS L1 and L5 signals. This is going to help enable the performance of global LPV 200 [localizer performance with vertical guidance at 200 feet AGL], a terminology that’s essentially equal to a CAT I landing approach. If you look at safety of flight applications, today we have landing across the U.S. that’s equal to CAT I approaches, even at small airstrips without any substantial ground based infrastructure.”
Aircraft equipped with the L5 signal compatible receivers will be able to perform “seamless global operations with GPS L1 and L5, and the goal is to be able to perform landing worldwide with positions equal to CAT I,” Kalyanaraman said.
The GPS Innovation Alliance includes Lockheed Martin, the alliance’s newest member and the builder of the GPS satellites; John Deere, Garmin, Trimble, and Collins Aerospace, as well as 11 national organizations in the alliance’s affiliates program. The alliance aims to heighten the awareness of the benefits of GPS technology, and Lockheed Martin is acting as the voice of the GPS industry in Washington, D.C.
Lockheed Martin’s first two GPS III satellites became operational on-orbit in January and April 2020. The GPS constellation has 31 satellites.
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Air taxis could have profound implications for how people move, live, and work. Will they exacerbate socioeconomic divisions, or create opportunities and strengthen connections? Photo: MVRDV
Just about every company working on electric air taxis boldly proclaims its mission as tackling urban congestion and reclaiming commuters’ time, or more broadly — and vaguely — enabling cheaper, safer access to vertical space for the socioeconomic and environmental benefit of communities.
In the last twenty years, U.S. metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Dallas, New York City, Seattle and many others have seen continuous growth in communities further and further away from their urban centers, pared with a rapid increase in super-commuters who often travel more than an hour each direction to work.
This is a complicated problem with many interconnected parts, but one air taxi startups hope to impact through affordable access to third-dimension travel at more than 150 mph, thereby enabling some commuters to “fly over” the congested roads at greater speeds, and others to benefit from fewer cars on terrestrial corridors.
Advocates for air taxis and aerial ridesharing tell the public their solution — affordable, emission-free VTOL aircraft coupled with autonomous traffic management — will seamlessly integrate into a broad urban transit system, offering new options for movement and lifestyle without negative side effects.
Now that billions of dollars have been raised and air taxis are likely on the horizon in some form or another, it may be time to more carefully analyze these assertions. What impact will electric air taxis actually have on traffic, on urban mobility systems, and on society?
Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank and political advocacy organization, recently wrote one of the first in-depth public policy papers on air taxis, presented with quite the provocative headline: “Flying Cars Will Undermine Democracy and the Environment.”
DeGood argues not only that “flying cars” will have no impact on traffic congestion, but that if the technology becomes ubiquitous, it could threaten the progressive vision of democracy. Air taxis, DeGood explains, would give wealthy elites more ability to physically opt out of the spaces and communities used by the rest of society, lessening their dependence and investment in shared public institutions while enabling them to create a “parallel society.”
“Flying cars represent a political danger because they will allow wealthy elites to further opt out of common institutions and everyday experiences, deepening social segregation,” DeGood wrote. “The biggest societal challenges such as combating climate change or alleviating poverty can only be solved through persistent, collective action. Yet, it’s hard to fashion a broad-based political project if the most sophisticated and powerful actors live in a parallel society decoupled from the problems in need of solutions.”
There’s a lot to unpack in DeGood’s article, including: why did he choose to spend the time researching and writing on the impact of air taxis, a mobility option that — even on Uber’s optimistic timeline — won’t exist for at least three years, let alone at scale?
To answer that question, DeGood pointed to claims made years ago by ridesharing companies that their service would reduce traffic in congested city centers by moving more people in fewer cars — a claim Uber has used in its advertising, similar to air taxi companies. By promoting the efficient use of vehicles for on-demand travel as well as higher occupancy through pooling, ridesharing would reduce the need for private car ownership, removing vehicles from the road. Or so the claim went.
In August 2019, Uber and Lyft released a joint analysis admitting that their services “are likely contributing to an increase in congestion,” as Chris Pangilinan, Uber’s head of global policy for public transportation, wrote in a blog post at the time.
In some city centers such as San Francisco and Boston, Uber and Lyft found that their cars made up 13.2 percent and 8 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, respective to each city. One-third or more of these vehicle miles are “deadheading,” or drivers who are in between passengers. A number of academic and transit authority studies have also offered evidence that ridesharing apps have other negative effects on public transportation networks, such as declining public transit ridership.
Urban air taxi networks are envisioned as closely linked to existing public transportation options, like buses and subways, so they may be less likely to draw riders away from public transit than ride-hailing. But the message presented by Uber, Joby and other invested companies is similar: our technology will reduce traffic and improve commutes, even for those who don’t get to use it.
“The progressive community was caught flat-footed by the ride-hailing and [autonomous vehicles], DeGood told Avionics. “We let proponents make claims about reduced congestion and other social benefits that just aren’t true. For one, ridehailing increases VMT and congestion. So with VTOLs, we need to think hard in advance about the ways this emerging technology is likely to produce harm.”
Now, as air taxi advocates begin making a similar claim — and perhaps look for public investment in infrastructure — he’s presenting a counter-argument.
Will Air Taxis Reduce Urban Congestion?
The massive investment in urban air mobility is predicated on creating a market that is exponentially larger than the entire commercial vertical lift industry, let alone just the existing helicopter air taxi market. Targeting production rates of aircraft not seen since 1946, Uber’s Elevate project intends for thousands of aircraft to fly daily above major metropolitan areas.
This is made possible by reducing aircraft production and operating costs — through scale, autonomy, electrification — to a point that enables ticket prices that would never be achievable via helicopter or private jet. There is a small pool of people able and willing to spend $725 per seat to travel from Manhattan to Nantucket via Blade Air Mobility, a New York-based air taxi company.
With cheaper trips, Uber envisions thousands of commuters choosing air taxis over other options.
“We believe there is a path to making VTOLs economically favorable to private vehicle ownership and a viable alternative to ridesharing on the ground, so long as VTOL customers are willing to trade off some cost and/or privacy for large gains in speed,” the company wrote in its 2016 Uber Elevate white paper.
But ultimately, each trip is made by an aircraft that can only carry three to four passengers. Using national data on the carrying capacity of highways and vehicle occupancy rate, DeGood estimated one lane of a highway can move approximately 3,740 people per hour during peak travel periods. Without incorporating deadhead VTOL flights, which Uber’s white paper estimated at 20 percent of trips, DeGood arrived at 1,246 air taxis, with three passengers each, equaling the capacity of one lane of highway.
“To put this number into perspective, it’s more than the total number of commercial carrier takeoffs and landings at Los Angeles International Airport every day,” DeGood wrote. “It’s hard to imagine even a large metropolitan area accommodating this level of air traffic demand, let alone what would be necessary to equal the capacity of a high-quality transit line.”
Bell’s Nexus 4EX air taxi concept, a four-seat all-electric aircraft targeting 60 miles of useful range for use in and near urban areas. (Bell)
DeGood’s reasoning involves an assumption that automated unmanned traffic management systems capable of high-density operations will not be live until perhaps 2050, as he told Avionics — a timeline Uber, UTM companies, NASA and even the FAA would find overly pessimistic.
However, his point remains valid: a massive number of low-capacity aerial vehicles would be required to match the capacity of highways, subway systems, and even buses.
This begs a follow-on question: How many cars do air taxis have to replace in order to improve traffic flows on the ground? In France, for example, the UAM project pursued by the metropolitan region of Toulouse aims to take five percent of cars off the road by 2030, which the city believes would significantly reduce congestion.
According to DeGood, these projections and analyses are missing the point entirely: traffic is governed by induced demand, rather than fixed demand, meaning that any cars “replaced” by air taxis will simply be replaced by other cars.
“Flying cars will not reduce congestion. Claims to the contrary ignore decades of research about induced demand,” DeGood told Avionics. “The total number of trips people take is not fixed. When a little roadway space opens up, people quickly fill it with more trips.” Uber declined to comment for this article.
Even if aerial rideshare is capable of adding a “highway lane in the sky,” DeGood would refer readers to studies of highway expansion projects that have resulted in no improvement or even worse congestion on the ground, as “demand” — drivers willing to take the highway — increases alongside “supply,” or space on the highway to drive.
One major advantage of aerial transportation over highways and rail systems, however, is greatly reduced infrastructure costs. Metro and commuter rails are capable of moving thousands of people per hour, but cost millions per mile to construct. The United States spends more than $160 billion annually to build and maintain the nation’s highways, bridges and tunnels.
In an analysis of 74 cities believed capable of sustaining a UAM market, Nexa Advisors estimated the total cost of both ground-based (i.e., vertiports) and traffic management infrastructure to be $32 billion in total— a tiny piece of the total $90 trillion that Nexa estimates will be spent on infrastructure globally between 2020 and 2040. That could make UAM more attractive than some methods of public transit on a cost-per-capacity basis.
However, there are qualitative elements to these calculations as well; not all “trips” are created equal, or undertaken for the same purpose.
“Just as important is that many of the VTOL trips will be additive, not a substitute for a car trip. So, flying doesn’t ‘remove a car’ because the flight is at a time and over a distance that the passenger simply wouldn’t try to make in a car,” DeGood said.
Even if eVTOLs don’t help reduce traffic, they may still improve transportation systems by opening up access to new parts of the distance, time, and cost Venn diagram that aren’t currently covered by highways, metro systems, and existing commercial air travel.
What impact will that have on how people move, work and live?
Societal Connection vs. Separation
Many air taxi advocates envision eVTOLs enabling a larger movement radius in one’s daily life. Using a car, public transit system or combination thereof, people in most metropolitan areas are able to comfortably move 20-30 miles from work to home and other common destination.
How far could one move — commute, visit friends, volunteer — in the same amount of time using aircraft that fly over 150 mph and can land with minimal infrastructure requirements? And how far away from a congested economic center like the San Francisco Bay Area could one live with affordable access to VTOL transportation?
Combined with growing acceptance of partly or fully remote work, it’s not a huge leap to imagine thousands of workers in the Bay Area and other expensive economic centers, struggling due to sky-high housing prices, moving sixty to a hundred miles away from the coast to lower-cost cities previously inaccessible. Quite a few already have.
That vision, which drives many entrepreneurs and investors in the air taxi space, is precisely what DeGood views as a threat to the common experiences that unite members of a democracy. Today, only the wealthiest few are able to entirely “opt out” of traffic and public transportation, building their homes and communities and lives separate from what the rest of society relies on.
If the top five percent of income-earners in society were able to live that life, rather than the top 0.1 percent, the impact of that separation on society would be much more profound.
“It may be tempting to argue that flying cars are a new twist on an old problem since wealthy elites have always been able to purchase exclusive goods and services,” DeGood wrote. However, flying cars deserve special scrutiny because they have the ability to greatly exacerbate the trend of rising social segregation.”
“Country clubs, private schools, and gated communities have existed for a long time. The danger of flying cars comes from their ability to exacerbate existing patterns of exclusion,” he added. “The threat is pronounced because the startups and aerospace companies building prototypes are aiming for a price point that, while clearly out of reach for the average traveler or family, will extend the special privilege of flying to a wider circle of elites.”
EmbraerX’s approach to eVTOL vehicle design included significant user experience research and new ideas concerning early adopters and use cases for air taxis. (EmbraerX)
But these outcomes are far from guaranteed. Instead of constructing entirely new “VTOL communities” of wealthy elites, as DeGood fears, air taxis could strengthen the connection between existing communities on the outskirts of economic centers like Stockton, California, or Prince William County, Virginia. The positive impacts of eVTOLs are even more clear in remote communities, like those across Alaska, or inaccessible by roads.
Cities and counties have numerous public policy levers at their disposal to shape socioeconomic and environmental impacts to meet their needs and values. For air taxis, these levers will include zoning laws, service availability and other development requirements — levers that were mostly unavailable to communities when confronted with the rise of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft because they didn’t require new infrastructure projects to be approved and built.
In conversation with Avionics, DeGood explained that he doesn’t take issue with NASA, FAA and Air Force government spending on research and development related to UAM, or “advanced air mobility,” as NASA has re-termed it. Rather, he opposes the use of public money to “subsidize the hypermobility preferences of elites” through transportation projects, whether from federal pots of money for infrastructure or incentives offered to developers by local governments.
“There are legitimate concerns about social equity and broad societal value with the roll out of any new technology,” Anna Dietrich and Yolanka Wulff, co-founders of the Community Air Mobility Initiative, wrote to Avionics. “Transportation technologies in particular have a spotty history when it comes to ensuring broad public benefit. This is not however a reason for the public sector to ignore or shun urban air mobility – which includes MUCH more than personal use within a metropolitan area. Rather, it is a call to action to ensure that this new technology is implemented in a way that provides the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.”
Conclusions Not Yet Foregone
Even if DeGood is right about air taxis’ lack of impact on traffic congestion, it is not a foregone conclusion that more affordable access to vertical flight will exacerbate socioeconomic divisions in societies.
Initial air taxi services — piloted, using current battery technology, and without economies of scale — may indeed only be available to the wealthy. If the industry fails to reduce prices enough significantly in the decade that follows, it will likely fail to create a market large enough to justify current levels of investment.
Contemporary technologies just barely allow for a four-passenger air taxi to be electric and acceptably quiet. In ten or twenty years, due to continuous improvement of energy storage and propulsion systems, aerial transportation networks could include larger electric aircraft capable of moving a dozen passengers or more.
Few architects of modern-day systems and devices — Steve Jobs and the iPhone, Tim Berners-Lee (and others) who built the internet — predicted how these technologies would transform lives, in many unforeseen positive and negative ways. However, with air taxis on the horizon, DeGood is right to raise questions of societal, economic and environmental impact.
“Mr. DeGood raises excellent points concerning the potential impacts of advanced air mobility, and the dangers of inadequately exploring the ramifications of elitism and techno-sprawl this technology could exacerbate,” J.R. Hammond, founder of Canadian Air Mobility, wrote to Avionics. “Our goal in Canada has been to focus efforts not on the question of how to make AAM fit, but rather how AAM can fit our environmental, social and economic needs. The answer comes from creating a diverse ecosystem focused on slowing down to identify specific use cases where AAM would make sense. This is not a ubiquitous solution.”
At this point, the development of electric VTOL aircraft is likely inevitable. Their effect on cities and communities around the world, however, is not.
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Hughes said that it conducted a flight test of its HeloSat system on a UH-60A Black Hawk pictured here on May 21. Photo: Hughes
Beyond line of sight satellite communications (SATCOM) for helicopters will become increasingly common over the next decade for a variety of missions, including military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); search and rescue; disaster relief; firefighting and VIP transport for officials who want to conduct VTCs and use streaming video, according to a Hughes executive.
“The market opportunity is huge,” Wayne Marhefka, senior director of business development for the defense and intelligence systems division of Hughes, told Avionics International in a June 9 telephone interview. “The desire for data anywhere, anytime is great and is increasing in society as a whole. 10 years from now, it [SATCOM] will probably be on every helicopter.”
Marhefka’s comments come, as Hughes Network Solutions announced a successful flight demonstration on May 21 of its HeloSat SATCOM system on a UH-60A Black Hawk owned by XP Services, based in Tullahoma, Tenn. The flight demonstration included a Hughes HM series modem and a 22-pound fuselage-mounted GetSat antenna.
Hughes said that HeloSat during the May 21 demonstration “transmitted consistent, real-time, full-motion video to a live global audience from the Black Hawk as it surveilled the Tennessee landscape on May 21.”
Ultra Blade is one of the L-band electronically steerable array antennas supplied by GetSAT for commercial airplanes, weighing less than 9 lbs and compatible with any land mobile L-band terminal. Photo: GetSAT
Moving rotors can significantly disrupt satellite communication signals–a signal degradation known as “rotor shadow”– and can lead to a substantial loss of data received by rotorcraft, but Marhefka said that the May 21 demonstration featured transmission of data at a rate of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) to 2 Mbps over the Intelsat Galaxy 18 (G-18) satellite with “zero packet loss.” HeloSat is capable of transmitting 10 Mbps, depending on weather conditions and the satellite used, he said.
Another HeloSat flight test on the Black Hawk is scheduled for June 29 – a test that will add a high-definition L3Harris WESCAM electro-optical/infrared camera. Thus far, a majority of potential HeloSat customers have been militaries, as HeloSat “is not inexpensive” and will cost several hundred thousand dollars per unit because of the required antenna, modem, ground infrastructure, integration, and certification expenses, Marhefka said.
Spain is interested in HeloSat for its NH90 helicopters, while India may acquire them for its Mi-17 helicopters.
|Want to hear more on aircraft connectivity applications? Check out the Global Connected Aircraft Podcast, where Avionics editor-in-chief Woodrow Bellamy III interviews airlines and industry influencers on how they’re applying connectivity solutions.|
Hughes began the HeloSat effort in 2013 with writing an algorithm to allow wideband data to pass through the rotor blades, but the unique waveform initially required a 100-pound antenna in testing in 2014 for possible incorporation on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8 Fire Scott unmanned helicopter. Over the years, industry has progressed in increasing satcom technology readiness levels and reducing the size, weight and power of satcom antennas to make them compatible for helicopter use.
In addition to Hughes, Inmarsat and Cobham debuted the SwiftBroadband Helo (SB-Helo) X-Stream system last November to allow X-Stream high data rate services in rotorcraft. Last month, the Austria-based SCOTTY Group said that its onboard satcom system, which uses the Thuraya or Inmarsat satellite networks, is available for Airbus H135 and H145 helicopters.
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South Korea is planning to begin offering urban air mobility services as early as 2025 in a limited capacity, working with automaker Hyundai and other partners. Photo: Hyundai Motor Group
South Korea plans to have a limited commercial urban air mobility service available by 2025 in an effort to reduce traffic congestion in major cities, according to the ministry of land, infrastructure and transport.
Beginning with just one or two routes — or terminals — in the Seoul metropolitan area, South Korea plans to open ten air taxi terminals by 2030. The ministry expects the UAM market to reach $10.8 billion by 2040, focused on 18-30-mile trips offering transport in connection with buses, the city’s subway system and other forms of mobility.
“The ministry will join hands with Hyundai Motor Group and other local companies to push forward the UAM commercialization project,” a ministry official said, without identifying other companies that may participate.
In January, Hyundai unveiled its S-A1 vehicle concept and role as a vehicle partner to Uber Elevate, indicating interest in markets outside of South Korea such as the United States. The Korean automaker has also created a UAM division, made a series of high-profile industry hires, and pledged to invest $1.5 billion in the air mobility market over the next few years.
Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, and Dr. Jaiwon Shin, head of Hyundai’s UAM effort, announce the company’s mobility initiatives at CES 2020. (Hyundai/Uber)
However, Hyundai is targeting 2028 for the commercialization of UAM, beginning with overseas markets — a timeline that doesn’t match the South Korean government’s aggressive 2025 date for initial service. That may mean the government will look abroad to Joby Aviation or other manufacturers whose electric air taxi designs are closer to certification.
The Greater Seoul metropolitan area is a highly promising market for urban air mobility, according Nexa Advisors, which last year released analysis on 75 cities the firm sees as capable of sustaining a UAM market.
Ranked fifth in population density and fourth in gross domestic product, Seoul also has more existing heliports than any other city in the world, according to Michael Dyment, managing partner at Nexa Advisors. Dyment’s firm estimates Seoul will have 94 vertiports for UAM use, with total ground infrastructure costs of $262 million and unmanned air traffic management costs of $458 million — a good ratio of revenue to infrastructure cost.
“We estimate that by 2040 there could be over 7 million passengers processed per year in the Greater Seoul region,” Dyment told Avionics International, with operator revenues reaching $7.2 billion between 2020 and 2040.
Other megacities in Asia are similarly exploring integrating air taxis into their urban transportation networks. In Singapore, the government is working with Airbus on unmanned traffic management, while Volocopter and rideshare service Grab announced a feasibility study to find the “hottest routes” in the city-state as well as the broader Southeast region of Asia. Bell, Japan Airlines and Sumitomo announced a joint effort to similarly develop air taxi services in Japan.
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Lone Star Analysis has developed predictive and prescriptive analytics to predict the remaining useful life of avionics and other systems, such as Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PADs), used to power ejection seats. Pictured is a photo taken after an un-commanded CAD/PAD activation in a Navy F/A-18D in 2007. Photo: U.S. Navy
Commercial and government customers of Dallas-based Lone Star Analysis have realized significant avionics cost savings and aircraft availability from the firm’s predictive and prescriptive analytics solutions, its CEO told Avionics International.
The dollar return on analytics can be 20 to 1 or more for customers, according to Lone Star Analysis.
“At the enterprise level, one of the things that’s probably spread across more kinds of fleets of airplanes than anything else we do are staffing prescriptions,” Steve Roemerman, the CEO of Lone Star Analysis, said in a telephone interview on June 4. “If you think about any sort of big fixed asset fleet, that requires skilled people to keep it flying. Typically, whoever is trying to do the staffing planning is doing it one or two years out because skilled mechanics especially are really hard to hire. It’s a really complicated, interesting problem. You don’t know exactly how you’re going to use those assets next year. You don’t know what the weather’s going to be. Maybe you’re going to introduce some younger airplanes, maybe something you haven’t flown before so you don’t know what your experience is going to be, and you’ve got some things that are aging into an era of their life you haven’t experienced before.”
“A lot of what we do is based on the mathematics of uncertainty,” Roemerman said. “We build a big Monte Carlo hedge that runs through all the variables that that fleet operator has uncertainty about.”
Such variables can include avionics components and shops. Several Lone Star Analysis customers have used the company’s analytics to help resolve work demands placed by the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) mandates, Roemerman said. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has required ADS-B Out equipage for flights after January 1 this year in U.S. airspace where a transponder is required.
Lone Star Analysis relies on Monte Carlo simulations and a guided Artificial Intelligence (AI) process in which, instead of initiating a simulation with a neural network or another general AI method, a customer’s known requirements, such as annual inspections or removing avionics cards after 100 flights, are pulled out first to limit the number of variables and uncertainty.
Limiting such uncertainty is crucial for flight safety decisions by fleet operators.
Last year, the U.S. Naval Air System Command’s Precision Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA-201) issued a contract to Lone Star Analysis to develop a digital twin of MT29, WB15, and MT30/31 Cartridge Actuated Devices/ Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PADs) used to power the ejection seats in F/A-18 aircraft. PMA-201’s purview includes the sustainment of all cartridge/propellant actuated devices.
The Navy wants to prevent the uncommanded activation of the jets’ parachute deployment rocket motors (PDRM), such as a PDRM auto-ignition in the ejection seat of an aircraft at Naval Air Station (NAS) China Lake, Calif. that occurred in July, 2007. The explosion destroyed the canopy and severely damaged the rear ejection seat. A second PDRM un-commanded PDRM actuation occurred in August, 2017 in the rear seat of an F/A-18F parked at NAS Lemoore, Calif.
The digital twin is intended to predict the remaining useful life of the CAD/PADs due to heat exposure to the stabilizers in the devices based on the historical and scheduled future location of the aircraft they are installed in.
While the Navy had used regular calendar inspections of the CAD/PADs and manuals to determine the remaining useful life the devices, the Lone Star Analysis digital twin has proved more accurate in determining which CAD/PADs need to be replaced and which can extend their service life, Roemerman said.
Lone Star Analysis built and delivered the digital twin in its TruNavigator platform, which allows the user to quickly run as many scenarios as desired to predict the remaining useful life of the specified device.
“Preliminary results show that the current policy of removing and replacing devices after two years of service life does not provide optimal utilization based on the location of the aircraft,” according to a summary of a Lone Star Analysis presentation last year. “Depending on location, stabilizer depletes in as little as 12 months to over 5 years. PMA-201 can now utilize the digital twin to help identify an optimal and safe device replacement and inventory strategy as well as applying the current methodology to scale to other devices.”
Roemerman said that Lone Star Analysis is also supplementing its analytics expertise with Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) for helicopters.
“We have a number of initiatives in that area,” he said. “That’s a great example of where there’s an enormous amount of data capture that really nobody knows very much about. That’s really rich, untapped and ready for good analytics.”
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On this episode, we’re joined by Thomas Rehrberg, head of airports and airlines business for Nokia Enterprise.
Rehrberg provides an overview of how 5G works and what its enabling elements within the aviation industry will be, with a focus on airports. The airports division of Nokia Enterprise has already deployed a 5G private wireless network at Brussels Airport in partnership with Belgian mobile operator Citymesh.
Lufthansa Technik has used the same technology to enable virtual aircraft hangar maintenance trainings as well.
Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at email@example.com, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.
Check out the recently announced agenda for the 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats to view the virtual event, June 22-26, 2020.
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A new set of data acquisition, flight data monitoring recording
technology developed by Appareo is designed to bring some of the post-flight data
transmission and analytics capabilities that airlines have been adopting in
recent years to smaller general aviation aircraft.
The North Dakota avionics manufacturer unveiled a lineup of
new computing hardware and software updates over the last month designed to
make access and analysis of flight data easier among business and general
aviation fleet operators. Appareo’s most recent release include their June 3
unveiling of Conexus, a new set of aircraft communications units (ACUs)
designed to act as data acquisition systems for flight data monitoring.
Through Ethernet, ARINC 429 or RS-422, Conexus can acquire
data while in-flight so that it can be retrieved and analyzed post-flight.
“The Conexus ACU-200 has an embedded cellular modem that is
connected to an antenna. That antenna can either be mounted to the ACU-200
itself or to the fuselage, depending on the aircraft. The product is
telematically enabled solely to provide offload of data from the ACU-200 after
the aircraft has landed, it’s not intended to operate the cellular function in
flight,” Appareo CEO David Batcheller told Avionics.
Each ACU-200 consists of dual-core ARM cortex A9 processors,
an LTE cellular radio that relies on 3G/2G as a fallback and a short-range 433
MHz radio. Since the technology provides access to the data after a flight is
complete and features embedded cellular connectivity – there is no additional
investment in any type of satcom or air to ground connectivity required to
Another capability featured on Conexus is its ability to
transfer information without the removal of an SD card from a flight data
recorder. Appareo has also demonstrated its ability to be integrated into the
cockpit voice and image recorder technology that the company also has also
developed for light jets.
Prior to unveiling the Conexus ACU-200, on Apr. 29, Appareo
announced a new addition to its line of flight
data recording modules, the Recoverable Data Module, model 300 (RDM-300).
Batcheller describes RDM-300 as being adaptable to any type
of aircraft, although the company is targeting the general aviation segment
with the RDM-300, which is designed to automatically accommodate an aircraft’s
bus speed and adjust its configuration to desired data recording preferences.
“The RDM-300 is typically installed by aircraft
manufacturers on either type certificate or supplemental type certificates obtained
in the factory. The product connects to data sources from avionics, or other
sources such data output from a FADEC and stores that data to memory,
overwriting old data in a FIFO fashion. The product can also be installed by
operators looking to improve the recoverability of data from incidents or
accidents, finding an installation location in their aircraft where the unit
can be stored and reasonably wired into data output from avionics,” Batcheller
Smaller general aviation aircraft are not required by civil aviation regulatory agencies in the U.S. or internationally to feature the type of flight data recorders mandated on larger commercial airliners. The National Transportation Safety Board, within its 2019-2020 “Most Wanted List,” included a recommendation for the FAA to start requiring flight data monitoring on smaller U.S.-registered aircraft in an effort to improve safety.
In March, the FAA published a response to the recommendation
noting that it is not considering proposal of such regulations.
“The FAA is not considering rulemaking at this time for
these recommendations. The FAA will examine possible ways of polling operators
through our aviation safety inspectors to identify voluntary flight data
monitoring (FDM) system equipage rates,” the agency said.
RDM-300 is capable of recording more than 500 flight parameters per second within its solid-state memory and weighs less than two pounds. Airframe manufacturers can also configure the module to collect cockpit voice recorder or image data as well.
On the software side of flight data monitoring, Appareo also introduced a major architectural upgrade to EnVision, the web-based application it provides to operators for access to past and current flight data and generation of detailed trend monitoring reports. In a May 18 press release, the company describes how the EnVision system previously only accepted flight data captured by the Apparel Vision 1000 cockpit recorder.
Under the update, the application can now accept flight data
from other devices provided by other companies. The technology analyzes data
uploaded to Appareo servers for analysis after being transferred from an
aircraft to a local computer using an SD card. That transmission can happen
instantaneously or it can be scheduled for a different time of day, based on
the user’s preferences.
“The scheduling feature was developed for our customers who
have operations in remote locations with limited internet bandwidth,”
Batcheller said. “They appreciate the ability to schedule their data file
transmission to take place during periods of low network activity.”
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