“As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
No prizes, but can you identify this aircraft? Please send your answers to me and not to other African Pilot e-mail addresses – Thank you: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of all those that identified the aircraft correctly in the Thursday edition of APAnews.
Where in the Law will we find “Airworthiness Standards” applicable to home built aircraft?
The doors to the most anticipated edition of the Dubai Airshow finally opened on Sunday 14 November and is set to run for five days until Thursday 18 November. Packed with everything you would expect to see at a global airshow and more, this year’s edition features 20+ country pavilions along with a stunning aircraft display of over 160 commercial, military and private jets including the latest Boeing 777x, Bombardier’s Global 7500 and many more.
Fighter jets and freighters in focus at the first major air show since the Covid pandemic. Nearly two years after the travel and airline industries came to a near standstill, the market is picking up again.
Dubai’s show is sure to see plenty of discussions on industry recovery, as well as ways that aviation has become safer and more hygienic due to the pandemic. Supply chain challenges, cargo and sustainability will all be themes at this year’s airshow. African Pilot will be featuring highlights of the Dubai Air Show in the December 2021 edition.
Congratulations to our winner of the Emthunzini hats competition, Rex Tweedie.
African Pilot’s November 2021 edition
The November edition featuring African Airlines, Gifts for Pilots and Aircraft Leasing is complete and has been fully distributed. This 336-page contains a 108-page feature devoted to the 94 African Airlines. The Gifts for Pilots feature has been planned for the pilot shops and on-line companies to market their merchandise with direct clicks on the product they are marketing (another first). Finally, Aircraft Leasing is a sector of the aviation industry that is often neglected and this feature presented an opportunity for leasing companies to present their business profiles. The November edition is certainly the largest aviation magazine we have ever produced and is larger than all the other November South African aviation magazines collectively.
African Pilot’s December 2021 edition
The December edition will feature Drones, UAVs and Urban Mobility. Over several years African Pilot has consistently covered the exciting developments within the drone and urban mobility industry since these developments will change everything we know in aviation’s future. Although there are some people who say ‘flying cars’ will not be with us for decades, my belief is that they are just around the corner and like the drone industry, regulators all over the world need to start preparing for the explosion of aerial vehicles in our cities. African Pilot is the ‘only aviation magazine’ that provides its advertisers with coverage within a well-designed publication that has South African, African and International reach.
Videos of the week
EAA Sun n Fun held at Brits on 5-7 November 2021
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of October and November. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
View and download African Pilot’s last three (3) 2021 editions.
Click on the covers below.
Wouter Botes new TV series Plane Wreck Hunter
Aero Club coffee table Centenary Yearbook
The AeCSA Centenary Yearbook is now available to purchase from the online shop. Please visit www.aeroclub.org.za/shop.
Aero Club support
What happened in aviation over the past week?
SAPFA Landing Championships
The South African Power Flying Association staged its annual landing championships simultaneously at Brits and Stellenbosch airfields on Saturday 13 November. The combined results from both venues were as follows:
|5||Thys van der Merwe||Stellenbosch||560|
|7||Christiaan du Plessis||Stellenbosch||616|
A full report with further pictures will be featured in the December edition of African Pilot.
What is scheduled for the next few months?
African Pilot’s 2021 calendar
We will publish the aviation calendar within APAnews three months ahead, but you can always visit African Pilot’s website: www.africanpilot.co.za if you would like to obtain the full calendar for the entire year.
14 to 18 November
Dubai Airshow DWC, Airshow Site, Dubai, UAE
Krugersdorp Flying Club fly-in at Jack Taylor airfield
Contact E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 577 8894
SAPFA Springs Speed Rally at Springs Airfield
Contact David Le Roux E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 073 338 5200
Sports Aerobatics Club Western Cape regionals at Stellenbosch airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual via Zoom
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 674 5674
2 & 3 December
Security Drone Conference at Emperors Palace Convention Centre
Contact Tawanda Mandaza E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 063 580 6400
Aero Club of South Africa annual awards venue TBA
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 7032
Cancelled due to very few international events
Sports Aerobatics Club ACE of Base Baragwaneth Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
Steady Climb fly-in and expo at Rhino Park airfield
Contact David Le Roux Cell: 073 338 5200
2022 Aviation calendar
I have started compiling the 2022 aviation calendar, so if you would like to reserve a specific date even if this is provisional, please send the details to me. What I require is the date, venue, contact person(s) and contact details such as Cell number and e-mail. Thank you.
NTSB updates MD-87 runway excursion investigation
The NTSB issued an update into the 19 October incident at Houston Executive Airport involving an MD-87 that overran the runway following a rejected take-off. New information may have confirmed some concerns about the elevator linkage, with reports that the actuating cranks for the elevator’s geared tabs were bent outboard, with their links bent. Both the actuating cranks and links were found locked in an over enter position beyond their normal range of travel. The similarity in the tail jamming phenomenon has been noted to a similar MD-83 rejected take-off and elevator jam that occurred in 2017.
The charter flight was leaving Texas for Boston after being taken out of 10 months’ storage before the accident. Prior to take-off, the elevators on both sides were jammed in a down position, unresponsive even after rotation speed was reached. The aircraft reached a maximum speed of 158 knots before the crew began decelerating. The aircraft continued past the end of the runway, catching on power lines and fence line before coming to rest. The passengers were able to clear the plane in time, with only minor injuries, before a significant fire consumed the majority of the aircraft. The NTSB states that the tail was left mostly intact, a fortunate turn for evaluating the cause of the accident.
The elevators were found to be jammed with their trailing edge down, somewhat similar to a 2017 accident in Ypsilanti, Michigan involving an MD-83. In that case, a take-off was rejected, as well as an elevator jammed, with similar inspection results. In that case, extensive wind simulations found that the aircraft type had been originally certified for a ground gust limit load around 52 knots, later revised to 65 knots in 1997.
Similarly, the actuating mechanism of the right elevator had been forced beyond its normal range and become locked in an over center position. This was later attributed to eddy flows, gusts and turbulence incurred while taxiing that exceeded the limit of the control linkages. Elevators on MD-83 are primarily moved indirectly by action of the control column on the control tabs, with no direct link between the movement of the column and elevator position, leading the final report in that incident to bemoan the difficulty in assessing elevator movement in the pre-take-off ‘Free and Clear’ control checks.
In addition, the aircraft lacked built-in gust locks for parked protection, leaving crews with little method to evaluate functionality until they get to speed. Further developments are expected, with more lessons learned from the incident. Owners and operators of MD-series aircraft may note with interest the recommendations of the 2019 final report of the previous overrun incident and beware of the possible effects of ground gusts on elevator function.
Space tourist, Glen de Vries, passes away
Glen de Vries, a passenger on the same Blue Origin flight that took screen legend William Shatner into low orbit, has tragically passed in an apparent accident that took place in a possible training flight Hampton New Jersey. De Vries was accompanied by Tom Fischer, a certified flight instructor and owner of Fischer Aviation, a flight school in Essex County in a Cessna 172 that was declared missing around 15h00 on 11 November. The aircraft was found about an hour later in a densely wooded area in Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area. Current cause is unknown.
De Vries was a passionate aviator, one who obtained his private pilot license in 2016 with Fischer before purchasing a Diamond single in 2020. He was the president and co-founder of Medidata Solutions, which won him a Carnegie Mellon Alumni Achievement Award for his work building cloud platforms for life sciences research. His work enabled easier collaboration between researchers and physicians working on complex, multi-site studies in an effort to streamline the development of medical research. De Vries was a participant in the WINGS programme, reportedly demonstrating his successful completion on his social media account.
Tom Fischer was a fixture of the local aviation scene, making headlines when he landed an engine-out Cessna in a parking lot at Rockaway Townsquare Mall with a student aboard. That accident was the result of a seized engine and oil leak and contrary to some reports, was not the same aircraft involved in the incident. Fischer was the instructor in a series of articles for Popular Mechanics documenting the work involved in learning to fly, gaining him a small measure of notoriety in the region.
Blue Origin responded to the loss of their comrade, saying “We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries. He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”
Garmin accepts the Robert J. Collier trophy for autoland
On 4 October, Garmin was presented the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy in Arlington, Virginia, designing, developing and fielding Emergency Autoland, the world’s first certified autonomous system that activates during an emergency to control and land an aircraft without human interaction. The award is for the year 2020, since its value must be thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year. Autoland was awarded FAA type certification as standard equipment in three Garmin G3000-equipped airframes, including the Piper M600, Cirrus SF-50 Vision Jet (as Safe Return) and the Daher TBM940 (as HomeSafe). There over 300 Garmin Autoland-equipped aircraft in service.
“We all know that it’s not a matter of if Autoland will be called upon, but when it will be called upon,” said Garmin’s Phil Straub after accepting the trophy on behalf of the company. To date there have been no Autoland activations outside of flight demonstrations. Still, all three aircraft OEMs report brisk sales of Autoland-equipped aircraft given its safety backstop, particularly among older buyers and their families. The system is not yet available in the aftermarket for retrofit.
In addition to being an aviator, humanitarian and sportsman, Robert Collier was a prominent publisher whose family created the Colliers Weekly. Robert Collier commissioned the trophy with an intent to encourage the American aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautical development. Robert J. Collier died in 1918 after completing his military service in World War I.
The Collier Trophy, which dates back to 1911, is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association for the greatest achievements in aeronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, safety and efficiency of air or space vehicles. Garmin joins NASA, Neil A. Armstrong, William P. Lear, Howard Hughes, Glenn H. Curtiss and Orville Wright (to name just a few) to receive the award. The 525-pound bronze trophy resides at the National Air and Space Museum and was brought to the ceremony in Arlington, which was attended by Garmin senior leadership and engineers, select members of the general aviation OEM community, aviation journalists and political figures. The trophy, commissioned by Baltimore sculptor Ernest Wise Keyser is said to represent ‘the genius of Man (chief figure), which having conquered Gravity (male figure) and Contrary Winds (female figure) and having touched the bird and found its secrets and soars from earth a conqueror.’
Spanish Ministry of Defence signs order for three Airbus A330 MRTT
Under the agreement, the handover of the first aircraft in transport configuration is scheduled in the coming days, followed by its conversion to MRTT in 2024. The handover of the first fully converted aircraft is scheduled in 2023 and the third and final unit in 2025. The contract covers associated support such as spares, ground support equipment, training and in-service support until the end of the contract.
The aircraft, acquired from Iberia, will be converted into military tanker transport at Airbus’ Spanish headquarters in Getafe, Spain. It will be equipped with a state-of-the-art hose and drogue refuelling system and a specific Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) kit. The A330 MRTT fleet will be operated by the Spanish Air Force 45 Wing, based in Torrejón Air Base (Madrid).
Thanks to its wide-body fuselage, the A330 MRTT can also be used as a dedicated transport aircraft able to carry up to 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes / 99,000 lbs. It can also easily be converted to accommodate light and intensive care stations for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC). With more than 250,000 flight hours achieved, the A330 MRTT counts 51 deliveries to 13 customers.
AEA reports more than $1.7 billion in avionics sales in 2021
Before the Aircraft Electronics Association debuted its first Avionics Market Report in 2012, the true scope of this market remained a bit of a mystery. But anyone who has owned a General Aviation aircraft or operated one for business understands the amount of change we have seen in the front office over the history of personal flying. AEA released its report update for the third quarter of 2021 and it demonstrates the health of the overall market for GA aircraft, as well as the market for avionics upgrades and new OEM-installed equipment in particular. In the first nine months of the year, worldwide business and general aviation avionics sales totalled more than $1.7 billion, as reported by the companies that participate in the report, according to AEA.
The amounts represent an increase of 5.4 percent against the first nine months of 2020, not a big surprise and a 1.8 percent increase over the second quarter of 2021. In fact, the totals marked the fifth consecutive quarter of increasing sales. The third-quarter sales alone were 15.8 percent higher than the third quarter of 2020. The split between retrofit and forward-fit has remained stable over the past year, with 53.7 percent in retrofit sales and 46.3 percent in forward-fit dollars.
BAE Systems’ air sector business boosted by Typhoon contract wins
BAE Systems’ air sector business is growing this year, boosted by new Typhoon contract awards, the defence company said on 8 November 2021. In a trading update, the defence group highlighted higher Eurofighter Typhoon production revenues with the first jets for Qatar well into final assembly, along with higher Typhoon upgrade and support activity. The Typhoon is already in service for Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia and production orders are underway for Germany, Kuwait and Qatar.
In recent months, BAE has won a contract from the Ministry of Defence worth approximately £220 million to deliver advanced synthetic training, including 10 simulators, for pilots training to fly the Typhoon at the Royal Air Force. It also won a contract for some £135 million to improve the Typhoon’s weapons capability from Eurofighter, the consortium representing the industrial partners of the program’s core nations. BAE added that it is “moving towards” full-rate levels on F-35 rear fuselage assemblies, in keeping with its long-term planning assumptions of 150+ sets per year.
The company also noted increased defence spending from some of its major markets, including the United States and said the AUKUS announcement of cooperation between the US, Australia and the UK would be ‘strategically significant’ for its business. BAE stuck to its financial targets for 2021, citing ‘good operational performance’ and saying it had managed to mitigate supply chain pressures so far.
Passengers vanish in Palma de Mallorca after unscheduled landing
On the evening of 5 November 2021, the Air Arabia Maroc Airbus A320 was carrying out flight 437 from Casablanca (CMN) to Istanbul (SAW). But as it was flying near the Mallorca island, which is situated off the Spanish coast, an emergency was declared on board after a passenger reported suffering a diabetic episode. Thus, the flight diverted to Palma de Mallorca (PMI), so the traveller could receive medical attention. However, during the deplaning of the supposedly ill passenger and around 20 people took the opportunity to abscond from the plane on the tarmac. The police began searching the airport, which resulted in operations being interrupted for more than four hours. As a consequence, 13 planes bound for Palma were rerouted to other airports, whilst 16 departing flights were delayed.
On 6 November 2021 Aina Cavlo, a representative of the Spanish government said 12 people have been arrested, whilst 12 are still at large. The Moroccan man, who had complained of discomfort, was taken to hospital where it was declared that he was in perfect health. He was arrested by the police on suspicion of having ‘helped with illegal immigration’. The person accompanying him fled soon after reaching the hospital.
HBK vibration tests boost NASA’s electric aircraft project
To ensure NASA’s new X-57 ‘Maxwell’ electric aircraft would be energy efficient and safe for use, NASA carried out extensive ground vibration tests – simulating the stresses it would experience during a real flight – which were conducted by Hottinger Bruel & Kjær (HBK). With the increasing demand for electric-powered ground transportation, NASA wanted to prove that an aircraft could also be electrically powered. The result is the X-57 ‘Maxwell’ airplane, which instead of the usual gasoline-powered motors it has two, all-electric motors powered by traction batteries.
To ensure the new design meets the criteria for energy efficiency and airworthiness, NASA’s experimental aircraft underwent multiple vibration tests and data from the accelerometers around the motor was collected on a LAN-XI data acquisition system and analyser platform, provided by test and measurement expert, Hottinger Brüel & Kjær (HBK). Following this, NASA’s engineers used HBK’s BK Connect software to test and analyse data from 191 test runs, with 14 different test configurations. The ground vibration test results gave NASA a much better understanding of the modal characteristics of the X-57, currently in the Mod II configuration. Work on the new aircraft will continue, with the X-57 project team updating the model now they have the necessary data.
Airbus completes first 100% SAF helicopter flight
As the aviation industry around the world looks to upcoming emissions, sustainability and environmental targets, manufacturers are preparing for alternative fuels to take the stage from traditional petrochemical fuels. Airbus has launched a user group dedicated to the evaluation and integration of SAF into the rotary-wing community. It has been a banner year for sustainable fuel, with rotorcraft competitor Bell Canada announcing the use of blended SAF in its training, transit and customer delivery operations, with efforts to move to 100% SAF in the near future. Changing fuels is never an entirely simple process in aircraft, as safety and reliability are paramount, but stakeholders are confident it is the way forward for the industry. Airbus specifically publicised its use of the unadulterated fuel, no small feat when the currently approved SAF blend is capped at 50%.
The flight campaign successfully flew with an unblended SAF, provided by TotalEnergies, derived from used cooking oil. The H225 test helicopter apparently functioned well and boasted a 90% CO2 reduction compared to regular jet fuel. Continued use and testing will prove what effects a longer-term flight regime has on the aircraft, but Airbus chief technical officer Stefan Thome, sounds optimistic. “While all Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with up to a 50% blend of SAF mixed with kerosene, it is our Company’s ambition to have its helicopters certified to fly with 100% SAF within the decade. Today’s flight is an important first step towards this goal”, said Thome.
ALSIM AL250 for Air Munich Aviation in Germany
The AL250 simulator addresses initial phase training needs (PPL, CPL, IR/ME) and is SEP/MEP re-configurable simulator certified as an EASA FNPT II. In addition, it offers both classic and glass cockpit instrumentation for each flight model at the simple flick of a switch. This device has been extremely well received since its creation and more than 65 of these have already been installed and are in successful operation worldwide.
“Under new direction since few years, we have been noticeably growing, expanding our fleet as well as our staff’s size. With 14 aircraft and increasing demand, we decided to step-up and acquire a flight simulator. Beyond quality, our main requirements for a flight simulator were versatility and simplicity of the certification process. The reputation of ALSIM, the capacities and specifications of the AL250 were determining in our choice.” according to Manuel Ringler, Head of Training/CEO of Air Munich Aviation.
Honeywell launches new inertial navigation systems
Honeywell has launched a fresh update to an older navigational standby, the Inertial Navigation System, as a resilient, robust, GPS-independent system for aircraft in areas bereft of satellite nav service. In the last few years of uncertainty and confidence-shaking events in traditionally always-on systems, operators may find comfort knowing their navigation remains even when flying through areas of GNSS-challenged or denied environments.
The Honeywell Compact Inertial Navigation System and Radar Velocity System were released to function with partner company InfiniDome’s Anti-Jamming system, GPDdome, for commercial and military customers needing reliable navigation solutions that are small, light and powerful. Unlike previous generations of similar equipment, the new additions can support not only smaller aircraft, but also unmanned vehicles, especially those flying BLOS. Adding a fleet capability to maintain accurate, consistent navigation while unsupported by external navaids is a powerful tool, increasing the capability of aircraft even in civilian use. Honeywell’s systems track critical navigation and timing information, backing up its results through a resilient combination of signal anti-jamming, inertial navigation and alternative navigation systems.
Honeywell’s Compact Inertial Navigation System is about the size of a deck of cards, owing to its compact inertial sensors to track position information in flight. Much lighter and reliable than past units of aerospace yore, the system can be installed even in smaller aircraft. Honeywell touts performance in urban canyons where signal availability is intermittent or jamming situations that overmatch the aircraft’s anti-jamming capability.
Its second release, the Honeywell Radar Velocity System, is another small, lightweight, low-power radar-based navigation-aiding system. When used together, it adds a third layer of resiliency for long distance navigation during GNSS outage. Future developments will continue to iterate and improve the technology, Honeywell says. “The industry is demanding a rapid solution to address issues like jamming and spoofing that cause disruptions,” said Matt Picchetti, vice president, Navigation and Sensors, Honeywell Aerospace. “We are confident that with the launch of our new industry-leading navigation systems, our commercial and military customers will finally have access to a system that allows continued operations even in GNSS disrupted or denied environments.”
Man voyages 13,000 feet up astride hot air balloon
French balloonist Remi Ouvrard made his mark on hot air balloon history, when he rode standing atop a balloon envelope to a new record altitude. Launched from Chatellerault, France, Ouvrard made the feat to promote the 35th AFM Téléthon for the French Muscular Dystrophy Association. The target altitude, 3,637 meters, coincided with the Telethon campaign number, but the lift reached a maximum of 4,016 meters (13,176 feet) at its height. Dressed in a spacesuit costume, tethered to a small platform where he was equipped with a small, folding camp chair, he held up the telethon phone number for the photo op.
The 28-year-old Frenchman hitched a ride aboard his father’s balloon in his most recent feat. In a previous attempt in 2020, he balanced atop the balloon envelope almost 4,000 feet above sea level. When asked how he felt after he returned to earth, he told reporters that he felt “calmness mixed with the excitement of the performance. When we passed 3,500 meters, I knew that we could get the 4,000. We had to beat the iron when it was still hot,” he said. Ouvrard cannot wait to try for another one. “I told my father about it three days ago,” he said.
The AFM Telethon supports patients and their families affected by genetic, rare and progressive neuromuscular diseases that create difficult living conditions. Laurence Tiennot-Herment, President of AFM-Telethon, considered this 35th Telethon to be crucial, saying prior to the event: “Genetic diseases destroyed the lives of our children and families. We had nothing to combat them: no means, no treatments. Resigning ourselves was unthinkable, so we created the Telethon. We wanted to bring research to life. We wanted to revolutionise medicine. Year after year, your loyal support has helped us achieve our goal. Tomorrow, with support from everyone, the Telethon can keep on changing everything! We have led and innovated; we must now strengthen our efforts so we can tell new parents who feel hopeless about a diagnosis: ‘We have a treatment for your child’.
Virgin Orbit and ANA sign agreement for 20 flights
Virgin orbit and ANA Holdings, the largest airline in Japan, have agreed to a memorandum of understanding that will result in 20 flights of Virgin’s LauncherOne from Oita, Japan. Included in the deal is a requirement for ANA and industry partners to fund the creation of a new set of mobile ground support equipment to support the LauncherOne system for take-off from a pre-existing runway, with the eventual goal of making Oita a spaceport, ideally by the end of 2022.
To date, Japan’s satellite technology has been bound to fixed launch sites, a weakness they aim to rectify with the inclusion of Virgin’s mobile launch equipment. If successful in their projects, Virgin Orbit is set to bring air-launches into being for the first time in the Eastern Hemisphere. Under current plans, the rocket will use a customised Boeing 747 as a combination launch pad, control room and reusable first stage. The system yields benefits when compared to a standard terrestrial launch, like the shorter distance to the target when launched from altitude, increased weather resilience and direct-inject orbital flexibility that has yet to be introduced to the Asian market.
Once in service, ANA will have a unique position as the only air-launch satellite delivery service in Asia, beating recent space start-ups to market, increasing the level of professional expertise and employment in the area and bringing in contracts for payload carriage. Demand for satellite launches in Japan and the greater Asian region is growing quickly, according to Koji Shibata, executive vice president at ANA Group.
NASA’s Crew-3 mission
NASA’s Crew-3 successfully launched, heading to rendezvous with the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Spacecraft Endurance. “What a beautiful evening for a launch. It was another great experience seeing those four astronauts take-off into space on top of that Falcon 9 on that Dragon,” said NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. “It is a huge challenge to safely get humans to and from low-Earth orbit and the partnerships that we have with our international partners and our commercial crew partners has enabled this space economy that we have right now. What a great time to be part of America’s space programme.”
The successful launch was another victory for the commercial crew programme, integrating NASA oversight, command and control and externally developed and supported space ware. Endurance’s flight is a milestone for the Crew Dragon type, being the first time, a nosecone has returned to space. Future reuse is an important aspect of the system, vital to rein in costs in the expensive prospect of frequent space travel.
The Crew is scheduled for a long duration stay aboard the station, to return to Earth some time in 2022. The astronauts will join the Expedition 66 crew already aboard the station while they complete a series of tests, experiments and maintenance aboard. One physiology experiment will gauge the impacts of a changed spaceflight diet on astronaut health, another, the evaluation of new LED beacons for the Astrobee free-flying robots and a varied human research programme that will collect a range of measurements related to astronaut health. The crew is the first flight for three of the four astronauts, being Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer’s premier in space. The experienced Tom Marshburn had flown aboard STS-127 and Expeditions 34 and 35. NASA will stream the docking sequence and preparation of Endurance, with a welcoming ceremony to be held once the hatch opens.
Type certificate issued for Japanese ‘flying car’
Japan has issued a type certificate for the Skydrive crewed octocopter and the company says it plans to have an air taxi service using a larger aircraft by 2025. It’s the first type certificate for a so-called ‘flying car’ and was issued for the SD-03. The project is backed by Toyota. It is a single-seat vehicle that looks like a cross between a drone and a helicopter. It can go 30 MPH and only flies for about 10 minutes. This is a stepping stone to bigger things, said SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa. “We are very pleased that our application for type certification has been accepted and we will continue to work in close partnership with the government and MLIT to complete our development of a wholly safe and reliable flying car,” Fukuzawa said in a statement. The air taxi service will operate in the densely populated Osaka Bay area. The company already operates a commercial drone service that flies payloads of up to 75 pounds to remote worksites in mountainous areas.
First US domestic drone attack documented
Three national security agencies have issued a joint intelligence bulletin documenting what they claim is the first attempt at terrorism by drone in the US. ABC News got hold of the internal bulletin written jointly by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and National Counterterrorism Center concerning the discovery of a drone that crashed short of its target but had been modified to try to take out part of Pennsylvania’s power grid. “This is the first known instance of a modified UAS (unmanned aerial system) likely being used in the United States to specifically target energy infrastructure,” ABC reported the bulletin as saying. “We assess that a UAS recovered near an electrical substation was likely intended to disrupt operations by creating a short circuit to cause damage to transformers or distribution lines, based on the design and recovery location.” The drone, a widely available DJI Mavic 2, was rigged with two pieces of rope holding each end of a thick piece of copper wire. The intent was apparently to fly the drone to bridge two of the high voltage conductors in a power substation. The drone crashed on the roof of a building adjacent to the substation. Whoever was behind the plot had stripped all means of identification, including its onboard camera, from the drone and that might have led to the crash.
DARPA successfully tests Gremlin drone
On 29 October 2021, a pair of Gremlins were launched and managed to fly autonomously in a formation before one was recovered by a C-130 mothership aircraft. “This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery,” Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, manager for Gremlins programme, said in a DARPA press release. It was the fourth attempt to conduct such a test, with three previous attempts only managing to achieve partial success. During the last two occasions, the Gremlins demonstrated the ability of autonomous flight formation, but could not be successfully recovered and were forced to land on their own with the help of a parachute. While the last test demonstrated the possibility of successful recovery, it still resulted in some unfortunate mishaps.
According to Breaking Defence, Tim Keeter, Gremlins program manager for Dynetics, revealed that one of the drones tested in October actually crashed. It has experienced a power failure and could not be recovered via parachute, Keeter said. Furthermore, when DARPA attempted to repeat the recapture on 31 October using the same drone that has already been recovered, it was unable to do so. Once again, the drone had to land with a parachute. In the press release, Calhoun said: “Airborne recovery is complex,” which adequately sums up the last several years of the programme.
Gremlins is a collaboration between DARPA and Dynetics. It is aimed at producing a technology demonstrator for recoverable, reusable swarming drones. Such vehicles could be launched in large packs, attack their target and return to a mothership to be refuelled and rearmed. The programme was launched in 2016 and the first technology demonstrator conducted its maiden flight in 2019.
DARPA Gremlins programme demonstrates airborne recovery
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