Seeing airplanes fly in formation is an exciting experience at something like an air show, where demonstrations of a pilot’s skill and aircraft technology are on full display. But there are other reasons for aircraft to fly in formation as well. [Peter] has been exploring the idea that formation flight can also improve efficiency, and has been looking specifically at things like formation flight of UAVs or drones with this flight planning algorithm.
Aircraft flying in formation create vortices around the wing tips, which cause drag. However, another aircraft flying through those vortices will experience less drag and more efficient flight. This is the reason birds instinctively fly in formation as well. By planning paths for drones which will leave from different locations, meet up at some point to fly in a more efficient formation, and then split up close to their destinations, a significant amount of energy can potentially be saved. Continue reading “Formation Flying Does More Than Look Good”
Flying a glider, or similarly piloting a paraglider or hang glider, can all be pathways into aviation with a lower barrier of entry than powered flight. Sacrificing one’s engine does generate a few complexities, but can be rewarding as the pilot searches for various means of increasing altitude like ridge soaring or thermaling. You’ll need a special instrument called a variometer to know just how much altitude you’re gaining though, like this one which is built into commercially-available handheld GPS units.
These GPS units are normally intended for use on terra firma only, but [Oganisyan] has figured out a clever way to add this flight instrumentation to these units to help when operating a paraglider. An ATmega328 paired with a pressure sensor is added to the inside of the GPS units and communicates with an available serial interface within the units. To complete the modification, a patched firmware must be installed which adds the variometer function to the display. This upgrade is compatible with a handful of GPS units as well such as the BikePilot2+ or Falk Tiger.
For those who already own one of these GPS units, this could be a cost-effective way of obtaining a variometer, especially since commercially-available variometers tailored for this sort of application can cost around $200 to $500. It is an activity sensitive to cost, though, as it offers a much more affordable option for taking to the skies than any powered craft could, with an exception made for this powered paraglider which offers the ability for powered take off and flight extension using electric-powered props.
Thanks to [MartinO] for the tip!
In the automotive world, batteries are quickly becoming the energy source of the future. For heavier-duty tasks, though, they simply don’t cut the mustard. Their energy density, being a small fraction of that of liquid fuels, just can’t get the job done. In areas like these, hydrogen holds some promise as a cleaner fuel of the future.
Universal Hydrogen hopes that hydrogen will do for aviation what batteries can’t. The company has been developing flight-ready fuel cells for this exact purpose, and has begun test flights towards that very goal.
Continue reading “Largest Ever Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plane Takes Flight”
FPV can be a daunting hobby to get into. Screens, cameras, and other equipment can be expensive, and there’s a huge range of hardware to choose from. [JP Gleyzes] has been involved with RC vehicles for many years, and decided to leverage that experience to do FPV on a budget.
Early experiments involved building a headset on the cheap by using a smartphone combined with a set of simple headset magnifiers. With some simple modifications to off-the-shelf hardware, [JP] was able to build a serviceable headset with a smartphone serving as the display. Further work relied upon 3D printed blinds added on to a augmented-reality setup for even better results. [JP] also developed methods to use a joystick to fly a real RC aircraft. This was achieved by using an Android phone or ESP32 to interface with a joystick, and then spit out data to a board that produces PPM signals for broadcast by regular RC hardware.
[JP] put the rig to good use, using it to pilot a Parrot Disco flying wing drone. The result is a cheap method of flying FPV with added realism. The first-person view and realistic controls create a more authentic feeling of being “inside” the RC aircraft.
It goes to show that FPV rigs don’t have to break the bank if you’re willing to get creative. We’ve seen some great FPV cockpit builds before, too.
Continue reading “2022 FPV Contest: A Poor Man’s Journey Into FPV”
There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.
In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.
It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.
Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.
Continue reading “24 Hours Of Le Airplanes”
Fossil fuels are making news for all the wrong reasons of late. Whether it’s their contribution to global climate change or the fact that the price and supply hinges on violent geopolitics, there are more reasons than ever to shift to cleaner energy sources.
In the world of aviation, that means finding a cleaner source of fuel. A test earlier this year took place in pursuit of that very goal, where an Airbus A380 airliner was flown solely on fuel derived from cooking oil.
Continue reading “Airbus A380 Completes Flight Powered By Cooking Oil”
Often, when we think of long-endurance flights, our first thoughts jump to military operations. Big planes with highly-trained crew will fly for long periods, using air-to-air refuelling to stay aloft for extended periods.
However, many of the longest duration flights have been undertaken as entirely civilian operations. The longest of all happened to be undertaken by that most humble of aircraft, the Cessna 172. From December 1958 to February 1959, Bob Timm and John Cook set out to make history. The duo remained aloft for a full 64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes, setting a record that stands to this day.
A Test of Endurance
One might expect that such an effort was undertaken to push the envelope or to strike new ground in the world of aerospace engineering. However, the real truth is that Bob Timm was a slot machine mechanic and former bomber pilot who worked at the Hacienda casino in Las Vegas. Proprietor Doc Bailey was always on the hunt for promotional ideas, and Timm pitched his boss that a record attempt in a plane bearing the casino’s branding would be a good way to go. Bailey agreed, and committed $100,000 to the effort.
Modifications to prepare the aircraft for the stunt took the best part of a year. The pint-sized Cessna was fitted with a 95-gallon belly tank, paired with a electric pump that could transfer fuel to the main wing tanks as needed. Special plumbing was also added that would allow the engine oil and filters to be changed while the engine was still running.
Continue reading “The Longest Ever Flight Was Over 64 Days In A Cessna 172”