SpaceX just concluded 2017 by launching 10 Iridium NEXT satellites. A footnote on the launch was the “hosted payload” on board each of the satellites: a small box of equipment from Aireon. They will track every aircraft around the world in real-time, something that has been technically possible but nobody claimed they could do it economically until now.
Challenge one: avoid adding cost to aircraft. Instead of using expensive satcom or adding dedicated gear, Aireon listen to ADS-B equipment already installed as part of international air traffic control modernization. But since ADS-B was designed for aircraft-to-aircraft and aircraft-to-ground, Aireon had some challenges to overcome. Like the fact ADS-B antenna is commonly mounted on the belly of an aircraft blocking direct path to satellite.
Challenge two: hear ADS-B everywhere and do it for less. Today we can track aircraft when they are flying over land, but out in the middle of the ocean, there are no receivers in range except possibly other aircraft. Aireon needed a lot of low-orbit satellites to ensure you are in range no matter where you are. Piggybacking on Iridium gives them coverage at a fraction of the cost of building their own satellites.
Continue reading “Aireon Hitchhikes on Iridium to Track Airplanes”
Anyone who’s into retro aviation gear falls in love with those mysterious displays, dials, keypads, banks of knife switches. There’s a lot of sexy in those devices, built with high standards in a time when a lot of it was assembled by hand.
[Jeremy Gilbert] bought a 747-200’s Control Display Unit (CDU)– the interface with the late ’70s in-flight computer–and is bringing it back to life in a Hackaday.io project. His goal is to get it to light up and operate just as if it were installed in a 747.
Of particular interest is the display, which turned out to consist of a series of 5×7 matrices (seen on the right) controlled by chips no one uses any more. However, [Jeremy] found a blog post where someone had hacked out Arduino code for a cousin of the chip, saving him a lot of time. However, he’s got a lot more sleuthing yet to do.
If you’re into retro displays, we’ve mentioned a number of good ones, including the legendary Apollo DSKY and an awesome retrocomputer.
Parts, tools, and components for aviation and aerospace are sold in ‘Aviation Monetary Units’ (AMU). Right now, the conversion factor from USD to AMU is about 1000 to 1. This stuff is expensive, but there is a small portion of the flying community that prides itself on not breaking the bank every time something needs to be replaced. Theses are often the microlight, ultralight, and experimental aircraft enthusiasts. Steam gauges are becoming obsolete and expensive to repair, and you’re not going to throw a 15 AMU Garmin G500 in an ultralight that only costs 10 AMU.
To solve this problem, [Rene] is turning to sensors, displays, and microcontrollers that are cheap and readily available to build modular aviation instruments.
As with all aviation gear, the first question that springs to mind is, ‘what will the FAA think about this?’. [Rene] is in South Africa, so the answer is, ‘nothing’. If a few American pilots decide to build one of these, that’ll fly too; these are instruments designed for non-type-certified aircraft. That’s not to say there are no rules for what goes into these aircraft, but the paperwork is much easier.
Right now, the design goals for [Rene]’s instruments is under 0.1 AMU per module, robust, RF shielded, with engine monitoring, fuel management, heading, air and ground speed, altitude, attitude, and all the other gauges that make flying easy. He’s using a CAN bus for all of these modules, and in the process slowly dragging the state of the art of ultralight aviation into the 1990s. It’s fantastic work, and we can’t wait to see some of these modules in the air.
The history of aviation is a fascinating one, spanning more than two thousand years starting from kites and tower jumping. Many hackers are also aviation fans, and the name of Alberto Santos Dumont may be familiar, but if not, here we talk about his role and accomplishments in the field. Santos Dumont is one of the few aviation pioneers that made contributions in both balloons, airships and heavier-than-air aircraft.
Continue reading “Santos Dumont and the Origins of Aviation”
Every hobby needs to have a few people who take it just a little too far. In particular, the aviation hobbies – Radio control flying, FPV multicopter racing, and the like – seem to inspire more than their fair share of hard-core builds. In witness whereof we present this over-the-top home-brew flight simulator.
His wife and friends think he’s crazy, and we agree. But [XPilotSimPro] is that special kind of crazy that it takes to advance the state of the art, and we applaud him for that. A long-time fan of flight simulator games, he was lucky enough to log some time in a real 737 simulator. That seems to be where he caught the DIY bug. The video after the break is a whirlwind tour of the main part of his build, which does not seek to faithfully reproduce any particular cockpit as much as create a plausibly awesome one. Built on a PVC pipe frame with plywood panels, the cockpit is bristling with LCD panels, flight instruments, and bays of avionics that look like they came out of a cockpit. The simulator sits facing a wall with an overhead LCD projector providing views of the outside world. An overhead panel sporting yet more LCD panels and instruments was a recent addition. The whole thing is powered by a hefty looking gaming rig running X-Plane, allowing [XPilotSimPro] to take on any aviation challenge, including landing an Embraer 109 on the deck of the USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier.
What could be next for [XPilotSimPro]’s simulator? How about adding a little motion control with pneumatics? Or better still, how about using a real 737 cockpit as a simulator?
Continue reading “A Next-Level Home-Built Flight Simulator”
Ever looked up in the sky and wondered where all of those planes above you were going? [Daniel Eichhorn] no longer has to, thanks to his ESP8266-based Planespotter.
He built this nifty device to grab the details of the flights he sees taking off from Zurich airport. It’s a neat build, running on an ESP8266 that receives ADS-B data from ADS-B Exchange. This service allows you to query the ADS-B data with a specific location.
[Daniel]’s plane tracker sends a query to ADS-B exchange for flights in his location and below a certain height (so he sees ones that are just taking off), then displays the received information on the OLED screen. [Daniel] says that a display-only version will cost you about $20, while the full version that also receives and shares data with the ADS-B Exchange will cost you about $50. That’s a lot cheaper than a plane ticket…
It’s tough times for 3D-printing. Stratasys got burned on Makerbot, trustful backers got burned on the Peachy Printer meltdown, I burned my finger on a brand new hotend just yesterday, and that’s only the more recent events. In recent years more than a few startups embarked on the challenge of developing a piece of 3D printing technology that would make a difference. More colors, more materials, more reliable, bigger, faster, cheaper, easier to use. There was even a metal 3D printing startup, MatterFab, which pulled off a functional prototype of a low-cost metal-powder-laser-melting 3D printer, securing $13M in funding, and disappearing silently, poof.
This is just the children’s corner of the mall, and the grown-ups have really just begun pulling out their titanium credit cards. General Electric is on track to introduce 3D printed, FAA-approved fuel nozzles into its aircraft jet engines, Airbus is heading for 3D-printed, lightweight components and interior, and SpaceX has already sent rockets with 3D printed Main Oxidizer Valves (MOV) into orbit, aiming to make the SuperDraco the first fully 3D printed rocket engine. Direct metal 3D printing is transitioning from the experimental research phase to production, and it’s interesting to see how and why large industries, well, disrupt themselves.
Continue reading “It’s Time For Direct Metal 3D-Printing”