Is There A Simpler Aircraft Than This Electric Paramotor?

The dream of taking to the air has probably ensnared more than a few of us, but for most it remains elusive as the safety, regulatory, and training frameworks surrounding powered flight make it not an endeavour for the faint-hearted. [Justine Haupt] has probably delivered the simplest possible powered aircraft with her Blimp Drive, a twin-prop electric add-on for her paragliding rig that allows her to self-launch, and to sustain her flights while soaring.

It takes the form of a carbon-fibre tube with large drone motors and props U-bolted to each end, and a set of brackets in the centre of laid carbon fibre over 3D-printed forms to which the battery and paraglider harness are attached. The whole thing is lightweight and quiet, and because of the two contra-rotating propellers it also doesn’t possess the torque issues that would affect a single propeller craft.

We’re not fliers or paragliders here at Hackaday, so our impression of the craft in use doesn’t come from the perspective of a pilot. But its simplicity and ease of getting into the air looks to be unmatched by anything else, and we have to admit a tinge of envy as in the video below the break she flies over the beach that’s her test site.

If you recognise Justine from past Hackaday articles, you’re on the right track. Probably most memorable is her rotary cellphone.

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New Engines Could Propel The B-52 Beyond Its 100th Birthday

First taking to the skies in April 1952, and introduced into the US Air Force in 1955, the B-52 Stratofortress has since become a mainstay of American air power. Originally developed as a nuclear bomber to carry out the critical deterrence role, changing realities saw it delivering solely conventional munitions in actual operations.

Of 744 B-52s originally built, 76 remain in service with the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. This fleet is set to go on flying beyond the type’s 100th birthday, into 2050 and beyond. To reach that milestone, a new engine package will be key to keeping these birds in the air.

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Quiet Wings, With Shape Memory Alloy

It’s a fact of operating an aircraft, that the make noise. If you’re an aviator you might want to quiet your craft to avoid annoying people nearby, or you might even want to operate in stealth mode. It turns out that there are different sources of noise on a plane depending upon the phase of flight. A NASA study found that when landing, a gap between the wing and leading edge slats causes air to cavitate causing unnecessary noise. Blocking that hole would allow for quieter landings, but there was no material suitable for both normal flight and the landing. That is, until Texas A&M researchers devised a way to use a shape memory alloy to do it.

In addition to two different shape memory alloy configurations, the study looks at a more conventional fiberglass composite, although this would only work for a limited number of wing configurations.

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Aircraft Compass Teardown

We didn’t know what a C-2400 LP was before we saw [David’s] video below, but it turned out to be pretty interesting. The device is an aircraft compass and after replacing it, he decided to take it apart for us. Turns out, that like a nautical compass, these devices need adjustment for all the metal around them. But while a ship’s compass has huge steel balls for that purpose, the tiny and lightweight aviation compass has to be a bit more parsimonious.

The little device that stands in for a binnacle’s compensators — often called Kelvin’s balls — is almost like a mechanical watch. Tiny gears and ratchets, all in brass. Apparently, the device is pretty reliable since the date on this one is 1966.

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Flight Of The Pterothopter: A Jurassic-Inspired Ornithopter

Ornithopters look silly. They look like something that shouldn’t work. An airplane with no propeller and wings that go flappy-flappy? No way that thing is going to fly. There are, however, a multitude of hobbyists, researchers, and birds who would heartily disagree with that sentiment, because ornithopters do fly. And they are almost mesmerizing to watch when they do it, which is just one reason we love [Hobi Cerdas]’s build of the Pterothopter, a rubber band-powered ornithopter modeled after a pterodactyl.

All joking aside, the science and research behind ornithopters and, relatedly, how living organisms fly is fascinating in itself — which is why [Lewin Day] wrote that article about how bees manage to become airborne. We can lose hours reading about this stuff and watching videos of prototypes. While most models we can currently build are not as efficient as their propeller-powered counterparts, the potential of evolutionarily-perfected flying mechanisms is endlessly intriguing. That alone is enough to fuel builds like this for years to come.

As you can see in the video below, [Hobi Cerdas] went through his own research and development process as he got his Pterothopter to soar. The model proved too nose-heavy in its maiden flight, but that’s nothing a little raising of the tail section and a quick field decapitation couldn’t resolve. After a more successful second flight, he swapped in a thinner rubber band and modified the wing’s leading edge for more thrust. This allowed the tiny balsa dinosaur to really take off, flying long enough to have some very close encounters with buildings and trees.

For those of you already itching to build your own Pterothopter, the plans come from the Summer 2017 issue of Flapping Wings, the official newsletter of the Ornithopter Society (an organization we’re so happy to learn about today). You can also find more in-depth ornithopter build logs to help you get started. And, honestly, there’s no reason to limit yourself to uncontrolled flight; we’ve come across some very impressive RC ornithopters in the past.

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Lost A Lightweight Quadcopter? Here Are The Best Ways To Find It

Lost aircraft are harder to find when they are physically small to begin with. Not only are they harder to see, but the smaller units lack features like GPS tracking; it’s not normally possible to add it to a tiny aircraft that can’t handle much more than its own weight in the first place. As a result, little lost quads tend to be trickier to recover in general.

Fluorescent tape adds negligible weight, and will glow brightly at night under a UV light.

The good news is that [Eric Brasseur] has shared some concise tips on how to more easily locate and recover lost aircraft, especially lightweight ones. Recovering aircraft is something every aircraft hobbyist has had to deal with in one way or another, but [Eric] really has gathered an impressive list of tricks and techniques, and some of them go into some really useful additional detail. It occurs to us that a lot of these tips could apply equally well to outdoor robots, or rovers.

Even simple techniques can be refined. For example, using bright colors on an aircraft is an obvious way to increase visibility, but some colors are better choices than others. Bright orange, white, and red are good choices because they are easily detected by the human eye while still being uncommon in nature. Violet, blue, and even cyan on the other hand may seem to be good choices when viewed indoors on a workbench, but if the quad is stuck in dark bushes, those colors will no longer stand out. Another good tip is to consider also adding a few patches of fluorescent tape to the aircraft. If all else fails, return at night with a UV lamp; those patches will glow brightly, and be easily seen from tens of meters.

Some of the tips are used while the device still has power, while others don’t depend on batteries holding out. [Eric] does a great job of summing up those and many more, so take a look. They might come in handy when test flying quadcopters that are little more than an 18650 cell, motors, and a 3D-printable frame.

The V-Bomber Ejector Seat Controversy

Once upon a time, bailing out of a plane involved popping open the roof or door, and hopping out with your parachute, hoping that you’d maintained enough altitude to slow down before you hit the ground. As flying speeds increased and aircraft designs changed, such escape became largely impossible.

Ejector seats were the solution to this problem, with the first models entering service in the late 1940s. Around this time, the United Kingdom began development of a new fleet of bombers, intended to deliver its nuclear deterrent threat over the coming decades. The Vickers Valiant, the Handley Page Victor, and the Avro Vulcan were all selected to make up the force, entering service in 1955 through 1957 respectively. Each bomber featured ejector seats for the pilot and co-pilot, who sat at the front of the aircraft. The remaining three crew members who sat further back in the fuselage were provided with an escape hatch in the rear section of the aircraft with which to bail out in the event of an emergency.

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