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NASA, Google Award $1.35M For Ultra-Efficient Electric Aircraft

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the earning-green-by-being-green dept.

Transportation 89

coondoggie writes "NASA today awarded what it called the largest prize in aviation history to a company that flew their aircraft 200 miles in less than two hours on less than one gallon of fuel or electric equivalent. Their aircraft is the Taurus G4 by Pipistrel-USA.com. The twin fuselage motor glider features a 145 kW electric motor, lithium-ion batteries, and retractable landing gear."

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fristy pross (-1, Offtopic)

The123king (2395060) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594176)

frosty piss

Mars? Maybe? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594194)

Could such an aircraft be configured for mapping the surface of Mars?

Re:Mars? Maybe? (2)

DataDiddler (1994180) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594226)

If I remember correctly, the Martian atmosphere is about 1% as dense as ours, so I'm guessing airfoil technology wouldn't work as well there.

Re:Mars? Maybe? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597638)

But that is not to say that it couldn't be done, given enough thrust:

Ares martian rocket glider [nasa.gov] , as presented by Joel Levine [ted.com] .

Re:Mars? Maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599012)

So if it's less dense, doesn't it also cause less drag and the plane can fly faster with same power?

Re:Mars? Maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599796)

Flying is like swimming. Can you swim faster through water vapour?

Re:Mars? Maybe? (4, Informative)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594390)

Could such an aircraft be configured for mapping the surface of Mars?

Try it and see. X-Plane [x-plane.com] lets you fly on Mars [x-plane.com] . Yes, there's a Linux version too, and you can find a bunch of electric (and/or rocket) aircraft for Mars on X-Plane.org [x-plane.org] .

Re:Mars? Maybe? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594434)

Yes. [nasa.gov] Link is to a flight test on Earth in as-close-as-we-can-get Mars-like atmospheric/gravitational tradeoff conditions of a prototype Mars aircraft. In fact, that is probably what NASA intends this design to be used for.

Re:Mars? Maybe? (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37602392)

Thank you, that's awesome.

What does this have to do with Australia? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594198)

Why aren't all the stories about Australia? Isn't that the new rule?

Re:What does this have to do with Australia? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594274)

No the rule is that there must be at least one 'story' about Australia every day. There can be many more than that (and there usually are) but not ALL stories have to be about Australia. So long as the Aussie egos are stroked they are satisfied with at least one story from or about their homeland. Of course that will change and they'll go all Rupert Murdoch and Slashdot.org will become Slashdot.org.au and the byline will be 'News for Aussies. Shit No One Else Cares About.' But by then the rest of the world will have long abandoned the site anyway.

Re:What does this have to do with Australia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594634)

Just because our economy still works doesn't make it our fault interesting stuff happens here.

Re:What does this have to do with Australia? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595032)

Like what?

Deeed a deeeeeeeeeengo steeeeeeaaaal a baayyyybeee deedgeereedoo?

Strewth.

Re:What does this have to do with Australia? (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596416)

Shut up you insensitive bastard, a woman lost her baby its no laughing matter.

Re:What does this have to do with Australia? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595358)

Mate, our economy is a fantasy teetering on the brink of collapse.

It's only the fact that China has been buying most of the raw materials as fast as they've been pulled from our mines that has allowed us to believe that we're economically bullet-proof.

Just look at the current Australian property bubble: it makes the US one look like a mere baby.

Aussie houses are horrifically overpriced, and only the blindness and greed and ignorance built on recent Chinese investment has allowed the market to get that way.

If - when - China scales back its Aussie buying sprees our economy will implode in a way that will make the collapses in other countries look utterly trivial.

Trickle up vs down (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594216)

I wonder where most of the technology is driven, by large scale commercial operations like Boeing etc, or the smaller scale university departments and independent efforts. Most of the new Dreamliner "concepts" like the composite materials are something sport gliders have been pioneering for decades. Hopefully we'll see some trickle-up from this, or at least encourage some good engineering.

Re:Trickle up vs down (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594298)

There are probably a lot of parallel paths. Composite technology was well-known, but was until recently not able to support the requirements for aircraft weighing and transporting several tons. While I don't expect this kind of electric technology to replace the jet turbines of commercial airliners (it'd be like running a cruise ship off of a bank of batteries), there might be some things that migrate up into the regional propeller aircraft.

Composites used for decades in military aircraft (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594392)

Composite aircraft components have been used in military aircraft for quite some time. I believe the AV-8 Harrier of the 1980s is one example. While these aircraft may not have the mass of a commercial airliner keep in mind their high G maneuvering. The loads/stresses on these smaller aircraft may be comparable or greater than those on a commercial airliner.

Civilian spacecraft answer this question (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594414)

I'd also look at the various civilian spacecraft efforts going on. They seem more innovative than the traditional aerospace companies. Of course to be fair these traditional aerospace behemoths have been working to NASA specs and have not done anything on their own like the little guys out at Mohave and elsewhere.

Innovation. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595806)

I recall reading that Blue Origin had made some startling advances in achieving "smoking crater".

Maybe NASA is funding these projects is to show that it isn't that easy.

Re:Innovation. (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37602450)

To me it's really worth it to help out Blue Origin a bit just to know if their approach can be done right now because it would be a game changer. Smoking craters are to be expected and don't bother me.

Re:Trickle up vs down (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594720)

I wonder where most of the technology is driven, by large scale commercial operations like Boeing etc, or the smaller scale university departments and independent efforts. Most of the new Dreamliner "concepts" like the composite materials are something sport gliders have been pioneering for decades.

You've forgotten (if you in fact knew) that composites have been used for missile motor cases (starting with the Polaris A-2), and for aircraft flight control surfaces and stabilizers, and other such applications for decades too. Then there's the F-117 (1981) and B-2 (1989) which both made extensive use of composites.

Re:Trickle up vs down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595698)

Yeah, they even tried to make the turbine *blades* out of composites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls-Royce_RB211 [wikipedia.org]

"in May 1970 the new Hyfil (a Carbon (fiber) composite) fan stage, after passing every other test, shattered into pieces when a chicken was fired into it at high speed.[6]"

It's not like this stuff is new. That's why I always laugh when Space Nutters wildly oversestimate what materials can do and honestly think space elevators are just a tiny extrapolation away from racing bicycles. I laugh even more when they earnestly believe space is just a kind of Wal Mart full of stuff just waiting to be plucked out of the sky.

Re:Trickle up vs down (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37613628)

Repeating the same failed arguments over and over does not make them true. There are tons of minerals in space, and many things space are entirely possible. Space elevators are possible if we can scale up carbon nanotubes, which is something which has been progressing very nicely recently. However, space elevators aren't the best way to do it, a launch loop is perfectly doable right now, it just requires the investment to get off the ground.

Re:Trickle up vs down (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686652)

You're right, because there have been no advances in material technology since 1970.

If you can explain to me the difference between the fan and a turbine on a jet engine, I'll be glad to lay some knowledge on you. Otherwise, you are just wrong about the state of the art of composite structures.

Re:Trickle up vs down (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597708)

The cost to build and repair composites had outweighed the weight benefits that composites gave for commercial vehicles. Lots of structural research of composites has been done in many unrelated fields (boats, cars, helmets, bullet proof vests,...) a small fraction of that knowledge came from gliders. Composites have been around for a long time the sr-71 used them. Gliders are more of a proving ground for composites.

Re:Trickle up vs down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37598392)

The cost to build and repair composites had outweighed the weight benefits that composites gave for commercial vehicles

Too true. The creator of Cirrus Aircraft [cirrusaircraft.com] , who create composite aircraft, is on record stating if he had to do it over again, he would have used aluminum rather than composite. Most aluminum mistakes can be easily fixed to factory specifications by a couple of man hours. Many composites, on the other hand, result in an entire molded product being discarded and frequently its not discovered until after dozens or even hundreds of hours have been invested. Then, field repairs becomes extremely expensive and time consuming.

With advancements in alloys, specifically aluminum and steel, there is little reason to use composites for the majority of light aircraft. Hell, some composite aircraft [diamondaircraft.com] can not take off if it gets too hot outside for fear the composite will delaminate midair. Composites are good for a lot of things but sometimes old fashion materials like aluminum and steel are superior in many ways.

Largest Aviation prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594236)

What about the 10 million dollar X-Prize handed out a few years ago? Not sure how that was not an aviation prize, since it didn't award based on doing anything space, just getting there (which ensured >98% of the activity was done in the atmosphere and required appropriate licensing by the Federal AVIATION Administration).

Re:Largest Aviation prize? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594454)

Perhaps they are referring to a gov't sponsored competition. I believe the X-Prize competition was sponsored by a private organization.

Re:Largest Aviation prize? (0)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595224)

The X-Prize was for going into space. According to NASA, space doesn't exist anymore, so aviation only includes the blue sky. Its like those companies or governments that ignore predecessors when they claim they are the first to do something because it sounds better that way and people forget anyways.

celestial existentialism. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595856)

Space never existed; thats the whole point. If it exists, it isn't space.

Also, although NASA haven't noted it, There is no dark side of the Moon, really. Matter of fact, its all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the Sun.

Re:celestial existentialism. (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37602582)

Newton-fucious say, there is no pulling, only pushing. There is no cold, only lack of heat.

I'm not impressed, try a Cri-Cri (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594266)

Cri-Cri electric plane [inhabitat.com] ;-)

Re:I'm not impressed, try a Cri-Cri (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594326)

From the link

30 minutes of autonomous cruise flight at 110km/h

Hardly comes close to the 200 miles at 100+ MPH. That's about Two Hours at 160kph (if I read it and did my math right).

Re:I'm not impressed, try a Cri-Cri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594358)

I'm not putting four in that thing!

Re:I'm not impressed, try a Cri-Cri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594368)

Or the Quickie from 1978. The original used 18hp to put one person 100 mph at 100 mpg. And it was no bulky glider; you could disconnect the tail section and put it on a modest trailer behind a compact car. Kit was $3000. You had to buy your own 18hp generator engine from Onan.

It was designed by some guy called Burt Rutan. Perhaps you've heard of him?

I don't mean to be snotty, but I don't see how this specialty motor-glider is /that/ big a deal. (Yet. I'm still reading up.) Cool, yes. Just not Huge Prize worthy.

Lithium Ion (0, Troll)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594348)

So instead of paying for fuel you end up paying about the same in 'wear' on your battery pack. You might think "but it's good for the carbon footprint, environment, reducing the peak oil problem, etc" but it isn't.

The money you spend on the battery pack goes to fund the fuel for the large diesel engines used to help get the raw materials out of the ground in Bolivia, shipping and so on. End of life Li-Ion batteries cannot be easily recycled into new Li-Ion batteries either. So really they'd be better off making a plane that runs off ethanol (but not corn ethanol, production of this stuff is woefully inefficient), ordinary petrol or not bothering with building the plane until a more sustainable form of battery or capacitor is on the market.

Re:Lithium Ion (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594364)

or not bothering with building the plane until a more sustainable form of battery or capacitor is on the market.

I wonder, wonder, wonder if having more electric vehicles will result in more research for better batteries and capacitors compared to not having electric vehicles.

I wonder, wonder, wonder.

Re:Lithium Ion (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596980)

It won't. Everyone is already very aware of how much the world needs better battery technology, and how valuable such technology would be.

Re:Lithium Ion (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597876)

So cell phones, laptops, cordless tools, wheel chairs, or medical equipment wouldn't benefit from better batteries and wouldn't pay handsomely for the technology. Electric vehicles are a drop in the bucket of all the applications that would benefit from a better battery. The answer to your wonder is NO this technology is moving at a quick pace but the constraints of quick recharge, longevity, mass production considerations, and costs of the raw materials all contribute to making this problem a very difficult one to solve.

Re:Lithium Ion (4, Insightful)

Adriax (746043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594416)

Electric vehicles can benefit from upgrades in battery tech even if it's a radically different electricity storage medium (say a supercapacitor). Electrons are electrons, motors don't care if the wattage comes from a LiPo, LiAir, Supercap, NiMH, NiCad, or even lead acid...
Besides, in 3-4 years we'll have Mr Fusions and our electric planes and cars will be ready for a drop-in replacement. Combustion vehicles will require a major retrofit.

Combustion vehicles would generally need an entirely new engine if someone discovered a more energy dense fuel.

Re:Lithium Ion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594976)

Besides, in 3-4 years we'll have Mr Fusions

Are you moving at 0.95c?

Re:Lithium Ion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594432)

But when the battery technology improves this it one problem that will already have a solution.
Your argument is kinda like saying GM isn't going to research new engine technology because they don't know how to make effecient headlights.

Re:Lithium Ion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594514)

Don't forget fuel is "ablative" in that the weight decreases, where batteries stay heavy.

Re:Lithium Ion (2)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594658)

While the initial 'cost' of a lithium battery is higher than the initial 'cost' of an internal combustion engine, the overall or "lifecycle" cost of a lithium battery is lower than that of an internal combustion engine. [cars21.com]

Re:Lithium Ion (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596040)

and how many tonnes of fuel do you think goes through a car over its lifetime? a lithium ion battery you only need to make once.

Cheating (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594374)

on less than one gallon of fuel or electric equivalent

This is obviously neglecting the energy required for the initial charge of the batteries. A jet would fare much better if you didn't count the fuel in it's tank when it took off.

Re:Cheating (3, Informative)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594408)

on less than one gallon of fuel or electric equivalent

This is obviously neglecting the energy required for the initial charge of the batteries. A jet would fare much better if you didn't count the fuel in it's tank when it took off.

Without checking, I'll just assume that the contest was designed with an enormous and obvious loophole, that way I can criticize it more easily.

Re:Cheating (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594420)

on less than one gallon of fuel or electric equivalent

This is obviously neglecting the energy required for the initial charge of the batteries. A jet would fare much better if you didn't count the fuel in it's tank when it took off.

Re:Cheating (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594456)

But you're obviously neglecting the energy required to refine the jet fuel. And the fuel required for all the employees at the refinery to get to work. And the fuel required at the farms that produced the cereal for those workers' breakfasts. And the fuel required to power the turtles all the way down.

Or maybe the original metric made the most sense for head-to-head comparisons, and you won't be as nit-picky in the future. Though that's a lot to ask of slashdotters.

Easy goal (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594378)

All of those metrics would have been met by the Rutan Voyager in 1984. They flew 26,366 miles on 1080 gallons of fuel and flew at an average speed of 116mph.

Re:Easy goal (4, Funny)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594386)

Damn it, nevermind I'm an idiot, 26mpg is obviously less than 200.

Re:Easy goal (3, Funny)

rleibman (622895) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594742)

By admitting you were wrong, you, sir, have won the internets today.

Re:Easy goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37598614)

it's actually less than 25mpg :)

Re:Easy goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600428)

The Rutan Voyager would have a rating of 52, not 26--it's per passenger.

Interesting as a crowdsourcing experiment (3, Interesting)

ace37 (2302468) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594402)

Interesting to see how many NASA and DoD contracts they've identified that are essentially trying to crowdsource innovative, cost-effective solutions that improve the aerospace performance envelope.

Big budgets and high-caliber engineering skill and equipment are great for developing a concept, but unfortunately, innovation isn't a skill we teach well in school yet, and the need for innovative approaches are at the core of these problems. I really hope these programs have success!

Re:Interesting as a crowdsourcing experiment (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594840)

This is a fundemental problem, often erroneously addressed as an education problem.

Hear me out here:

The training an engineer gets revolves around already known points of data. Things like the shear of a sheet of 2025, or the total energy in 1 liter of octane, etc. This is what an education gets you.

Using this already known information to produce provably airworthy craft with minimal risks and unknowns is the staple of commercial avionics.

The application of what is already known, to devise new and untested approaches to old problems (and as such, the extension of knowledge) has 2 homes: the high priced university, which has a financial motive to patent encumber all new knowledge to improve their financial standing, and the garage tinkerer, who has to operate under the sword of damoclese held aloft by established commerical and government interests.

Sending kids to school to become engineers will greatly increase your engineering talent pool, but that alone will not propell you to the forefront of innovation. Trained is not the same as inspired.

The reason why the US is stagnating on the engineering frontier, and losing relevence as an industrial innovator is because the leadership of the US has enacted policies and foriegn trade deals which have the active consequence of stifiling that very characteristic, and does so at nearly all levels.

1) a poor educational system that emphasizes social welfare and political correctness over such obviously less important things as science and math, which creates future generations who lack the fundemental educational backgrounds to even attempt such innovation even with government and industrial blessings. When you diminish the number of minds properly trained, you exponentially diminish the number of truly inspired people who could push the state of the art ahead. (Eg, imagine if einstien had ended up working a dead end job at McDonalds, due to a substandard education.)

2) lobbyist activity has managed to dupe the government into believing that private industry is the source of innovation, and has scored such private industry some very powerful tools to actively suppress the true sources of innovation. Such tools include draconian intellectual property laws, and revolving door politics.

3) falling standards of living and base levels of education have forced institutions of higher learning to continually raise the costs of tuition (due both to greed, and due to increasing base costs to meet minimum student performance ratings to maintain accredation), which reduces the available resources with which student researchers would be able to perform said research, leading to subpar and marginally effective research projects, and a vicious cycle of cuthroat academic politics as said researchers gouge each other's eyes out to scramble and claw for every scrap of funding they can get.

3) indulging in modern McCarthyism, such that anything out of the ordinary being created in a garage is treated as a potential terrorist plot if reported by ignorant people, complete with all the life changing consequences of such social abberation such as being blacklisted in one's chosen vocation, or even jail time.

4) the implied and over-reaching threat of corporate litigation over silly things (like making a device with rounded corners), or of government smackdowns and red tape for failure to secure "proper permits", where the bureaucratic maze to obtain such permits is byzantine and intractible.

Taken together, the pace of innovation has basically ground to a screeching halt in favor of milking the status quo, and attempts at stifling real innovation in competing countries as they take advantage of the laxity of the current US leadership. The inspired individuals who envision radical new technologies and materials are dis-incentivized at every turn, if not outright victimized by the currently established players. (In the words of Edison, when referring to why he prevented rapid adoption of FM radios, "You don't sell AM radios that way." Essentially GM does not actually profit from increased fuel efficiency vehicles, or from flex fuel engines, when they can get away with selling internal combustion engines that have not changed in any radical fashion in over 70 years, and can do so with minimal RnD costs, etc.) Major players like the RIAA and MPAA actively attempt to suppress more efficient distribution systems of audio and video content, and religious organizations actively attempt to suppress the spread of scientific knowledge and inquiry.

This is not some grand conspiracy theory, as no grand conspiracy to create this situation exists. It is merely the resulting perfect storm created by ignorant, short sighted, and incompetent leadership and economic policies.

If the US wants to recover its image as a world innovator, and get rid of its image as a world violator, it needs to do the following:

1) scrap the current primary education system, neuter the teacher's union (not destroy, I said neuter, as in limit the power of), and reinstitute competency based teaching practices with emphasis in real academic subjects, rather than testing based teaching practices aimed at inflating test scores to retain funding.

2) stop drinking the industry koolaid by reducing terms of patent protection, copyright terms and increasing stringency of patent application novelty for acceptance. Forbid the use of tax sheltering, and the practice of offshoring environmentally destructive processes.

3) promote home innovators by streamlining the processes of gaining appropriate research permits, and granting government extended immunity against deleterious industry litigation.

4) stop engaging in backroom politics and revolving door sweetheart deals, and instead actually represent their respective voting constituencies.

I know this is wishful thinking on my part, but as far as I can tell, unless the US enacts such radical policy changes, it will be left behind as more agile and enlightened world governments continue to become center stage for the source of technological superiority and prosperity.

 

Company is Pipistrel USA, not Pipistrel-usa.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594406)

Your mother's a whore, subby.

Peregrine Falcon (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594448)

Peregrine falcons can reach over 200 MPH in a dive.
They get their own fuel.
They are self replicating and have amazing eyesight.
They can be trained.
While they're not naturally distance fliers, then can convert their insane dive speed to distance.

Why spend millions developing fragile, limited, little planes?
Spend tens of thousands training a bunch of birds, and strap a camera to them.
They last for years, are undetectable by radar, and are unremarkable when actually detected.

Or at least take a clue from birds - why spend lots of energy flying non stop? Build an ultralight with the ability to perch and take off from a perched stance. Give it solar panels so it can recharge while perched. Hell - give it some probes so it can siphon juice from power lines.

If the goal is automation and size, we need to stop with the fixed wing bullshit.
If the goal is speed and flight duration, we've got larger, high-altitude craft that already fit the bill.

If the goal is all four, then until there's a major materials-related breakthrough, training birds is probably the best bet.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594640)

sending them to mars might be a problem.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595736)

WHAT IS THIS FUCKING OBSSESSION WITH MARS!? It's a cold, deadly, empty radiation-blasted rock in a vacuum. It's a useless rock.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599970)

It's good practice for when we find something to care about.

If we can't even explore our back-yard, what hope do we have of ever getting out of here before the lights burn out?

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37602682)

Ok how about Titan. We should build (train?) a Peregrine Falcon ship big enough to fly down to Titan and scoop up a crap-ton of hydrocarbons. Then fly it back to Earth and park it at a refinery and profit! I think it should take only about 900,000 falcons plus a few thousand for attrition.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594644)

You should get to work on breeding falcons that can carry 4 people, and let us know how it goes. Since aircraft in the competition were allotted the equivalent of one gallon of fuel per passenger per 200 miles, a vehicle that carries no passengers would be allotted no fuel.

If the goal is automation and size, we need to stop with the fixed wing bullshit.
If the goal is speed and flight duration, we've got larger, high-altitude craft that already fit the bill.

Not every competition is about war and spying. This contest is designed to improve fuel efficiency in passenger aircraft. Not automation, not size, not speed, not duration. Efficiency.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594934)

well how much do you thing a falcon can carry? now how many do i need to life my 200LBS ass, and my 40LBS of gear 200 miles in 2 hours from a standing start on the ground?

I somewhat agree with your for the drone/UAV market and if this article had been about that and I had mod points i may have given you a few.

As a note flexible/flapping wing planes are under development, but it turns out they are hard to control. Perching UAVs are as well, with both solar and peristic recharging methods.

I wonder how far a goose/crane/swan/arctic turn flys per "leg"? I'm betting it's a damn long way.

well how much do you thing a falcon can carry? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595894)

African or European? Either way, I bet they can carry a couple of coconuts.

Re:well how much do you thing a falcon can carry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37597980)

Don't they just need to carry *one* laser with enough juice to take out (or at least disarm) a damn shark?

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686838)

I'm sorry. I don't understand what performance similarities a three pound bird has to an airplane that can carry four people a few hundred miles in a couple hours. Maybe you could help me understand.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37696998)

I don't understand why we need new planes to carry people when we already have existing planes that do it faster, more stealthily, with more armaments, etc.

The point is that they're pouring millions into shit we already have answers for.

We have unmanned high altitude surveillance craft that basically float for months on end.
We have little drones that go in under radar and bomb people.
We have planes of various sizes to carry people.

What we don't have are inconspicuous drones that can fly fast and act autonomously for more than 30 minutes - 4 hours.
And to develop such a drone we have to take cues from birds, particularly with regards to foldable, flappable wings instead of fixed wings.
And until there's a materials breakthrough, we may as well just fucking train birds.

Re:Peregrine Falcon (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 2 years ago | (#37697530)

You're not making any sense. This competition is about small, efficient, electric airplanes. So your babbling about micro-air vehicles just doesn't have anything to do with that solution space.

If you can train the birds, guarantee you can get a DARPA contract. I also guarantee that you can't train the birds.

Made in Europe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594450)

I do not believe that Pipistrel-usa does any building. I think that it is all over in Europe.

Dear Google, (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594498)

You do realize that a camera and wireless card would significantly reduce this plane's efficiency, right?

More than one gallon to go 200 miles (3, Informative)

jamesl (106902) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594516)

The test is to deliver 200 passenger miles per gallon. The winner had four seats so it was allowed to use up to four gallons (equivalent) of fuel to cover the 200 mile distance.

Re:More than one gallon to go 200 miles (2)

ArrogantLemming (1957210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594676)

At the same time the article states that they achieved >400 passenger miles per gallon. Additionally, if you check the rules, they were also required to carry 200 lbs per seat in the plane. (17 http://cafefoundation.org/v2/pdf_GFC/GFC.TA.07.28.09.pdf [cafefoundation.org] ) I'm actually more impressed that they were able to pull this off with a decent carrying capacity.

Re:More than one gallon to go 200 miles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37596336)

Decent carrying capacity is how they were able to accomplish this. See: Square-Cube Law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square-cube_law

The drag inducing surface area increases as a square while the volume of battery capacity increases as a cube.

Same reason why airliners keep making bigger passenger planes. Larger return on investment per gallon of Jet fuel(read:$ human payload $).

Re:More than one gallon to go 200 miles (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594876)

I was wondering how one defines "passenger"? Are the pilot and co-pilot considered passengers? If they had stated occupants this issue would not exist.

Remarkable (1)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594952)

Not only is the fuel consumption impressive it is even more so as the craft exceeded a 100 MPH speed average, or speed comparable to real world aviation. The fuel used would not be impressive if it was a super slow aircraft.

Subsidy for the US aviation industry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37596234)

You can bet that if this was an award granted by the EU, a certain large US company called Boeing would be whining to the WTO about "unfair subsidies".

100% Slovenian company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37596392)

Yap, and this Pipistrel is 100% Slovenian company... (Pipistrel-USA IS just branch office)...
http://www.pipistrel.si/
http://www.slovenia.info/?lng=2

congratulations from Slovenia

Re:100% Slovenian company (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596592)

congrats indeed, from neighbouring Hungary :)

Re:100% Slovenian company (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596606)

indeed, congrats from neighbouring Hungary! :)

and the winner is... a European company! :) (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596580)

funny how they seem to hide the fact that the winner is a small glider company from Slovenia, EU, called Pipistrel, see here: http://www.pipistrel.si/news/pipistrel-won-the-nasa-green-flight-challenge-for-the-third- [pipistrel.si]

and they have been winning this challenge for 3 years in a row now!

Airlines get cheaper (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596676)

Airport taxes get higher. Freedom suffers.

If you could use your time off to live in Thailand for two weeks on $200 wouldn't you? Even if it took 22 hours to fly there?

350 Prizes = 1 Solyndra (1)

WileyC (188236) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597850)

Subject line says it all: the government is notoriously stupid when it comes to picking winning technologies (Helo Solyndra! Hello corn subsidies for ethanol fuels!) but prizes like this always work because they ONLY pay for success. Even if you sweetened the pot to $10M, you could still have around 50 X-prize type competitions instead of a single Solyndra fiasco.

Here's how it works when you don't have the USA Credit Card to use: 1) announce a prize and set a goal that has to be met. 2) researchers/industry/investors get excited because an X-prize winner will almost certainly attract more investment. 3) VCs, universities, businesses invest their own money into research. 4) Eventually a winner meets the stated goal and they (probably including the losers!) now have new technologies to play with.

Minimal expense. Maximum use of the competitors' creativity and drive. Maximum reward. Why do we need to let the feds pay off their campaign contributors with our money?

the company is from slovenia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37636912)

the company is from slovenia, a nation of only 2 million people. Search pipistrel on Google

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