Hackaday Links: November 25, 2018

Bad Obsession Motorsport have been stuffing the engine and suspension from a 4WD Celica into an old Mini since forever. It is a wonderful homage to Police Squad and some of the best machining and fabrication you’ll see on YouTube. The latest episode tackled the electrical system and how to drive an alternator in an extremely cramped engine bay. The solution was a strange flex-shaft confabulation, and now the Bad Obsession Motorsport guys have a video on how they attached an alternator to a car where no alternator should go. It’s forty minutes of machining, go watch it.

Last Friday was Black Friday, and that means it’s time to CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME. Tindie’s having a sale right now, so check that out.

I’m the future of autonomous flight! This week, I got a market research survey in my email from Uber, wanting me to give my thoughts on autonomous ridesharing VTOL aircraft. Uber’s current plan for ridesharing small aircraft involves buying whatever Embraer comes up with (Uber is not developing their own aircraft), not having pilots (this will never get past the FAA), and turning a random parking lot in LA into the busiest airport in the world (by aircraft movements, which again is something that will never get past the FAA). Needless to say, this is criminally dumb, and I’m more than happy to give my thoughts. Below are the relevant screencaps of the survey:

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The crux of this survey is basic market research; how much would I pay for a VTOL ride sharing service versus buying a new (autonomous) car versus using an autonomous Uber. You’ve also got a Likert scale thingy asking me if I’m comfortable flying in a battery-powered aircraft. Protip: I highly doubt anyone given this survey has flown in a battery-powered aircraft. Proprotip: the easiest way to screw up the scoring for a Likert scale is to answer ‘1’ for the first question, ‘2’ for the second, etc., and wrap back around to ‘1’ for the sixth question.

Don’t worry, though: I answered all the questions truthfully, but Uber Air will never happen. The FAA won’t let this one fly, and no company will ever carry passengers without a licensed pilot on board.

20 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: November 25, 2018

  1. For small craft flying visual it is not that hard to get a pilots licence; so while the survey indicates no pilot I could easily see them finding licenced pilots for VFR not that unobtainable.

        1. Additionally, since an VTOL craft implies vertical/hover operation, it might be required to have both a fixed wing and helicopter CPL (they are separate and not directly convertible) And since a VTOL will undoubtedly be a multi-engine craft this is another rating that needs to be added. Since there is already a worldwide shortage of pilots I doubt Uber would be able to find enough people capable of getting a multi-engine (helicopter and fixed wing) CPL that would be willing to work for Uber rates

          1. More like there is a world wide shortage of pilots willing to pay +150k to get the license and type’s for commercial airliners, along with paying for the required amount of flight hours and then working for 24k/year.

    1. I just finished my Commercial with my multi-engine, instrument, and rotary-wing endorsements. I did a lot of practice on simulators, so cut down on the hours I needed in an aircraft, but I still walked out of there $50,000 lighter. I doubt any competent pilot is going to be willing to put down that kind of cash just to work for Uber, especially when there are so many other jobs that they do to earn their 1500.

      Since this will be flying near major cities, and thus near a lot of very sensitive areas, particularly stadiums and other pubic gatherings, they are going to need to implement TSA security checkpoints as well as baggage inspection. Also, the aircraft will require a separate, secure cargo hold for carrying restricted baggage.

      The FAA is also considering amending part 135 rules governing Air Taxi operations to require that at least one of the two required pilots holds an ATP and has performed at least 250 flight hours int he aircraft as the PIC. Pilot Error is the leading cause of deaths among air passengers, especially among air taxi services; second only to freshly minted private pilots celebrating by renting 6+ place aircraft (That they are unfamiliar with), then flying their friends and family to an airport they are also unfamiliar with, then ignoring all advice and flying into marginal weather (This exact scenario alone accounts for almost half the total air accident related deaths each year).

      Plus, no company would ever insure them to do anything like this.

  2. “Uber Air will never happen. The FAA won’t let this one fly, and no company will ever carry passengers without a licensed pilot on board.”
    Not an evidence but it may happen: pilots are increasingly dangerous https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_by_pilot as the rest of air transport is extremely safe. Serious people, not Uber, are studying Urban Air Mobility : https://www.nasa.gov/uamgc https://www.airbus.com/innovation/urban-air-mobility.html https://eu-smartcities.eu/initiatives/840/description or maybe China will do it first http://www.ehang.com/ehang184
    And there is a strong incentive: UBS estimates pilots cost $35Bn/year. https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2017-08-09/ubs-pilotless-airplanes-represent-35b-opportunity
    Freighters may lead the way, and maybe having a “safety pilot” would reassure anxious passengers at first. A CPL is cheap and many wannabees would be happy to accumulate hours for minimum wage.

  3. Anyone know if you can just buy said flexishafts pre-made in single qty from somewhere? (10s of Nm of torque, 10-20cm length)
    All I could find were made to order, which I have no doubt in will be very expensive.
    The rest are either too wimpy (shafts for tiny grinders and other attachments) or way too long (submersible pumps and such)…

  4. I wouldn’t say that passengers will NEVER fly in a pilot-less aircraft, but it is certainly a long time away. Because even once it is definitively proven to be safer, government bureaucracy, corruption, and lobbyists from the pilot’s union and other affected parties will stall it for years and years and years. Sigh.

    1. If you’re going to make the case for corruption there’s more chance of seeing pilot-less aircraft. Legal entities with the resources to corrupt rarely care too much for the safety of others.

  5. I’m afraid you’re wrong on this one. This is actually already happening. I would do more research on this than blasting out an opinion based off an email survey you got. But then again, that’s why the term “late adopters” exists.

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