Aircraft


Elon Musk shows off prototype of Mars-bound rocket but says SpaceX to shed 10% of workforce

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES - SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has unveiled the first pictures of a retro-looking rocket that may one day carry people to the moon and Mars. Musk posted pictures on Twitter late Thursday of the Starship Hopper prototype, which awaits its first flight test in Texas in the coming weeks. "Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the @SpaceX Texas launch site. This is an actual picture, not a rendering," he wrote. The prototype built in Boca Chica, along the Gulf Coast of Texas, is 9 yards (8 meters) in diameter but is shorter than the future rocket will be.


New Approaches to Inverse Structural Modification Theory using Random Projections

arXiv.org Machine Learning

In many contexts the modal properties of a structure change, either due to the impact of a changing environment, fatigue, or due to the presence of structural damage. For example during flight, an aircraft's modal properties are known to change with both altitude and velocity. It is thus important to quantify these changes given only a truncated set of modal data, which is usually the case experimentally. This procedure is formally known as the generalised inverse eigenvalue problem. In this paper we experimentally show that first-order gradient-based methods that optimise objective functions defined over a modal are prohibitive due to the required small step sizes. This in turn leads to the justification of using a non-gradient, black box optimiser in the form of particle swarm optimisation. We further show how it is possible to solve such inverse eigenvalue problems in a lower dimensional space by the use of random projections, which in many cases reduces the total dimensionality of the optimisation problem by 80% to 99%. Two example problems are explored involving a ten-dimensional mass-stiffness toy problem, and a one-dimensional finite element mass-stiffness approximation for a Boeing 737-300 aircraft.


NYPD police officers will start using drones

Engadget

The New York Police Department has launched a new drone program, its first since it ended an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot program in 2011. The department says it will use its collection of drones -- 14 in all -- for search and rescue missions, crime scene documentation, hazmat incidents, large events like concerts and hostage situations. "As the largest municipal police department in the United States, the NYPD must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement. "Our new [Unmanned Aircraft System] program is part of this evolution -- it enables our highly-trained cops to be even more responsive to the people we serve, and to carry out the NYPD's critical work in ways that are more effective, efficient and safe for everyone." The NYPD currently has three types of drones.


Drop the Batteries--Diamonds and Lasers Could Power Your Drone

WIRED

Drones have arrived in US airspace, and now they are multiplying. By 2022, 700,000 of the little unmanned aircraft could be exploring American skies, according to the FAA, delivering packages, monitoring traffic, inspecting bridges, and filling other yet to be discovered niches. To do that work, every last one will need electricity to spin its rotors and run its sensors. Most will get it from batteries they take with them to work. Some might pull from the grid directly, using tethers.


Next-gen drones can ride wind currents like birds, researchers say - Manufacturers' Monthly

#artificialintelligence

The next generation of unmanned drones will act more like birds than machines, thanks to new study by researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne and ISAE-Supaéro in Toulouse. The study includes experiments with drones that can sense wind gusts and thermals, then use them to gain speed or altitude, just like birds do. Dr Abdulghani Mohamed, who leads a large research program into bio-inspired technology in RMIT's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research team, said the world-first project had exceeded expectations. "The results of our gust soaring system were remarkable and represent a big leap in energy harvesting for drones," Mohamed said. "This technology not only allows a drone to gain kinetic energy to fly faster but also means less work and more efficiency for the propulsion system, potentially enabling the next generation of drones to increase their flight time on limited resources."


China steps up drone race with stealth aircraft, AK-47-toting chopper drones

The Japan Times

ZHUHAI, CHINA – China is unleashing stealth drones and pilotless aircraft fitted with AK-47 rifles onto world markets, racing to catch up to U.S. technology and adding to a fleet that has already seen combat action in the Middle East. Combat drones were among the jet fighters, missiles and other military hardware shown off this past week at Airshow China, the country's biggest aerospace industry exhibition. A delta-winged stealth drone received much attention, highlighting China's growing production of sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles seeking to compete with the U.S. military's massive fleet. The CH-7 -- a charcoal-gray UAV unveiled at the air show -- is as long as a tennis court and has a 22-meter (72-feet) wingspan. It can fly at more than 800 kph (500 mph) and at an altitude of 13,000 meters (42,650 feet).


China unveils stealth combat drone in development, looks to sell abroad

The Japan Times

ZHUHAI, CHINA – A Chinese state-owned company says it is developing a stealth combat drone in the latest sign of the country's growing aerospace prowess. The CH-7 unmanned aerial vehicle also underscores China's growing competitiveness in the expanding global market for drones. China has won sales in the Middle East and elsewhere by offering drones at lower prices and without the political conditions attached by the U.S. The CH-7's chief designer, Shi Wen, says the aircraft can "fly long hours, scout and strike the target when necessary." "Very soon, I believe, in the next one to two years, (we) can see the CH-7 flying in the blue skies, gradually being a practical and usable product in the future," Shi told The Associated Press. Shi said manufacturer Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation plans to test fly the drone next year and begin mass production by 2022.


China releases propaganda video of its 'most powerful drone bomber'

Daily Mail

China has released a new propaganda video of its deadly unmanned fighter jet, which shows the aircraft striking still and moving targets. CH-5, also known as Rainbow-5, was unveiled in 2016 and is said to be China's largest and most powerful drone bomber. The aircraft can carry 16 missiles and strike targets while flying at an altitude of 6,000 metres (19,685 feet), Chinese media have claimed. It can fly up to 60 hours without refuelling with a maximum flight altitude of 8,000 metres (26,246 feet) and a maximum range of 10,000 kilometres (6,213 miles). CH-5, also known as Rainbow-5, is on display during the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in 2016.


Robotic Raven Gains Altitude

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Inspired by the beauty and flying ability of birds, Leonardo da Vinci strived centuries ago to create a human-powered flapping-wing flying machine. But his designs, which da Vinci explored in his Codex on the Flight of Birds, were never developed in any practical way. Even today, mimicking bird flight still presents challenges due to the physiological complexity of a bird's flapping wings. For years, researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering have been moving ever closer to faithfully imitating bird flight with Robo Raven, the first bird-inspired unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that has successfully flown with independent wing control. Robo Raven can also be programmed to perform any desired motion, enabling the UAV to perform aerobatic maneuvers.


Paul Allen's Stratolaunch, completes test days after his death

Daily Mail

The world's largest plane, Stratolaunch, has a completed a key taxi test ahead of taking to the skies for the first time. The gigantic plane, which is the vision of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is believed to be close to its first flight after reaching a record-breaking 90mph during medium-speed taxi testing at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Allen died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, aged 65. The massive plane has a wingspan longer than a football field and comes equipped with two cockpits, 28 wheels and six engines normally used to power 747 jumbo jets. Eventually it will be used to transport rockets carrying satellites and even a newly revealed manned space plane into the Earth's upper atmosphere, where they will blast off into space.