When the United States’ military stealth tech bomber was rumored and then when it made a public debut, it was the first-time advanced stealth technology was a reality instead of something out of a science fiction novel.
Even as the US was working on the tech to hide the profile of the bomber, work was underway on how to detect it. Since unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now an internal part of the world’s major militaries, stealth tech is integral to these aircraft. Again, the US is leading the pack, but China, France and Great Britain are also making major strides with China closing the gap rapidly.
Where concealment is concerned with military matters the top things that must be hidden are:
- Signals: radio, electrical or laser
Staying as quiet as possible is critical as next generation long-wave infrared search-and-track sensors worries some analysts about the engine and propeller noise. Anyone who’s ever heard a small civilian drone knows the buzz. Helicopter pilots say they do not fly but beat the air into submission and create a lot of noise at the same time. Prop and jet-driven UAVs are sound machines.
The private sector is making strides in killing propellor noise. While the Rowe brothers creation, a shroud around the prop, is designed for drones in the movie industry, the sound-killing tech can easily translate across to UAV applications with a few tweaks. Another company has tweaked the propeller blade to get a noise reduction.
Silencing the jets on UAV may also take a page from the civilian world. Georgia Tech and Lockheed Martin are tackling the jet noise issue on several fronts. NASA is investing heavily into a new generation of supersonic passenger planes that promise “60 to 65 decibels per boom (at least as heard from the ground).” A normal conversation is 60-70 decibels at 3-5 feet.
Heating Things Up in Military Stealth Tech
Combustion is hot. Electrical motors cut way back on the heat produced, but batteries add weight which reduces flight time. One solution being explored by some is a combination UAV. It runs off a fueled engine until it closes in on a target, then switches to battery operation. This cuts the heat signature and the noise when noise-reduction measures are also included. Mission accomplished, it eases away and restarts the engine to either recharge the batteries for another run or the ride home.
It may appear that sacrificing stealth to move is a trade-off that must happen. Not precisely. A UAV must fly, but it the body of the UAV does not have to change shape. In a conventional aircraft, ailerons move. These dictate how a plane turns, climbs and descends by changing the shape of the wind foil (wing or rudder). The blades on a stealth helicopter are often a giveaway.A new military stealth tech drone from BAE Systems in MAGMA in-flight trials has no moving external parts. As Popular Mechanics reports, ‘Control surfaces can also affect an airplane’s carefully shaped stealth profile, as the fin-like device moves upward or downward, momentarily making the aircraft slightly more visible to radar.”A slight advantage is all that’s needed to get a lock and take measures against the incoming craft.
See Me Now
Hiding by color is the oldest form of stealth around; think stripes on a tiger. Mirrors that reflect the surroundings are great for hiding, depending on the surroundings. But cloaking tech vis a vi Harry Potter invisibility cloak or a Klingon cloaking technology may not be as silly as it sounds. It is a step closer to reality. This kind of tech has the possibility of blocking everything but sound; muffling technology will take care of that.
Electrical and Radio
Hiding transmission signals is very difficult to do. Radio waves, even a tight beam, are going to spread. Using code, rapid frequency jumping and burst communications are ways around eavesdropping. Laser communication is the best we can do right now to avoid detection. Since lasers spread very little, intercepting means being in the direct line of transmission, which then becomes easy to detect because of signal degradation or transmission delays.
The arms race does not have a finish line. As soon as a new advancement comes online, someone is hard at work trying to defeat it. The South China Morning Post says the military there has a “T-ray,” terahertz radiation, radar that penetrates anti-detection coatings on manned and UAVs. This is not new tech, but a modification of existing technology. T-rays are used in industrial applications to spot defects in layered metals.
As Defence Aviation says, the key to defeating the military stealth tech may be as simple as incorporating a whole suite of detection systems into one array. While a UAV may beat one, two or three of the detection methods, that means it must compromise on something else. “The U.S. Navy and Lockheed are already working in these areas of stealth technology thereby creating the need to develop even more sophisticated sensors that cue radars about the invisible blackbirds that roam our skies,” the website says.Retired USAF officers Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett and Col. Mace Carpenter sought to answer in a report, “Survivability in the Digital Age: The Imperative for Stealth,” produced by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “Over the long run, the U.S. will engage opponents who field increasing numbers of powerful digital multi-band radars,” the authors wrote.
The Future in Military Stealth Tech
To see what tomorrow can bring, look to science fiction. What was pure speculation 50 years ago is now held in your hand, so you can watch funny cat videos downloaded from a server on the other side of the planet. The race for better military stealth tech can be in two camps.
Cloaking technologies which are already underway and anti-gravity. Conspiracy theory websites are full of stories of government work on anti-gravy devices but have little in the way of concrete proof of the claims.
So is anti-gravity going to be a thing? No one knows. But it is being researched. Get past the “how could it work” to “what could it do” and the implications are stunning. We already know gravity can bend light so using the tech to thwart detection systems should be even simpler.
However, making anti-gravity happen is many years off, if ever. Newer military stealth tech aircraft are on the horizon in the USAF B-21 and the Navy’s X-47B UAV.
Renewable jet fuels changed in 2016 when regular flight operations of United Airlines started using RjF. This marked the beginning of commercial-scale usage of the alternate jet fuel by aviation industry. As of today the commercial viability has been achieved for renewable jet fuels through demonstration of techno-economic feasibility for production path-ways (processes) namely HEFA (Hydro-processed Esters and Fatty Acids) technology and FT (Fischer-Tropsch) technology.
Next in the line is DSHC (Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbons) which is currently undergoing pilot projects for demonstration of its viability. Similarly, development work is under way for renewable jet fuels production through other technologies like HDCJ (Hydro-treated Depolymerized Cellulosic Jet), ATJ (Alcohol to Jet) and APR (Aqueous Phase Reforming).
Renewable Jet Fuels Development
Such development projects are now receiving funds from the governments and additional support may be forthcoming in the form of government incentives regarding tax breaks and mandatory use obligations) essentially required for reducing the production-cost-differential of renewable jet fuels and petroleum jet fuel for commercial aviation and aerospace by the EPA has established procedures for analyzing submitted petitions for life cycle GHG emissions associated with new fuel pathways.
Specifications for jet fuels are defined under ASTM D1655 and they mainly focus on performance properties like heat content (BTUs per lb), combustion properties, freezing point, viscosity, thermal stability, material compatibility and related safety hazards.
For standardizing purposes ASTM D7566 is the standard for certification of Synthetic Fuels, which also include renewable jet fuels, in consultation with ASTM D4054 for guidance related to testing as jet fuel alternative RJF. The drop-in RJF need to be additionally certified for equivalence in specification to jet fuels under the ASTM D1655 for direct mixing in aircrafts with being separately tracked for approval.
RJF is now available as a “drop-in” alternate fuel with performance and safety specifications equivalent to petroleum jet fuels. As such, RJF use does not require any modification in jet engines and this provides an opportunity window for the aviation industry to contribute towards reducing emission of greenhouse gases.
After proving its technical viability, the remaining major obstacle for viability of renewable jet fuels is related to production and consumption “scale-up”. This is expected to be overcome soon as commercial airlines start making medium to long-term fuel supply contracts with commercial producers of renewable jet fuels.
Commercial use of RJF will also get a boast as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has agreed global market based measures (GMBM): “Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to address any annual increase in total CO2 emissions from international civil aviation (i.e. civil aviation flights that depart in one country and arrive in a different country) above the 2020 levels, taking into account special circumstances and respective capabilities.”
Investments in Renewable Jet Fuels
Blending is another area where RJF power generation producers are actively engaged with RSB (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels) for certifying blended fuels which are a mix of petroleum fuel and biofuels from special crops grown for the purpose. In South Africa Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant Solaris is an example of producing RJF through blending of biofuels with petroleum Jet-A fuel.
Such efforts will standardize the production and use of blended RJF while ensuring economic, environmental and social concerns of the society. The biofuel industry is targeting to achieve a 50% reduction in GHG emissions over the life-cycle through use of blended RJF in a ratio of 30% biofuel mixed with 70% of petroleum fuel.
An innovative approach to achieve the economy of scale and to reduce the financial costs in production of RJF is manifested by equity investment by United Airlines and Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific in Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., Nevada, California.
Both the airlines, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines, in addition to equity investment have long term renewable jet fuels RJF supply contracts with Fulcrum BioEnergy. The Nevada based production facility having a capacity to produce 11 million gallons of fuel is expected to be operational in 2018. It is evident that aviation industry is gearing itself to implement the GMBM by the year 2020 for which renewable jet fuels is the light on the horizon.
Ai impacts aerospace power management in the way it can collect data and make decisions on conversion, generation, and distribution. In our modern technological society, controlling the flow of electricity is necessary to powering buildings, maintaining efficient computer systems, and providing energy to vehicle accessories. And it is critical to operating systems on airplanes and spacecraft. Engineers are turning to efficient design to conserve and control power by looking to how Ai impacts aerospace power management systems for smart solutions.
Perhaps the best example of this quest for improved aerospace technology through Ai is being done at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2015, The Boeing Company joined with the university to establish the Boeing/Carnegie Mellon Aerospace Data Analytics Lab. Boeing’s CIO called it “a unique aerospace partnership”. And the company sank $7.5 million into the project.
Boeing studies Ai impacts Aerospace Power Management
“The goal is to find ways to use artificial intelligence and big data to capitalize on the enormous amount of data generated in the design, construction and operation of modern aircraft,” according to a Carnegie Mellon news release. The author Byron Spice writes that aircraft are constantly generating data. He calls aeronautics “one of the most data-intensive industries”.
In coverage of this partnership, Wired Magazine proclaimed: “And now, Ai invades the skies.” James Carbonell, project leader and a computer scientist at the university, sees great promise in this endeavor. “We’re working to develop algorithms that can process all that, understand it, and create a unified way of analyzing information,” he said.
The implementation of Ai impacts aerospace power management systems on airplanes and space ships extends to all areas and subsystems. Just as car makers have entrusted much of the decision-making to onboard computers, the aerospace industry is installing smart technology into air and space vehicles. In fact, the European Space Agency (ESA) is developing space applications for the same Controller Area Network (CAN) technology being used in automobiles. In the ESA paper “Artificial Intelligence for Space Applications”, the authors identify the subsystems of a spacecraft, all of which may be guided by Ai:
Where Ai Impacts Aerospace Power Management
- attitude determination and control
- telemetry tracking and command
- command and data handling
- thermal structures and mechanisms
- guidance and navigation
Load Shedding and Ai
So, what can artificial intelligence do to improve the power subsystem, both in planes and spacecraft? Perhaps the most important task in learning how Ai impacts aerospace power management is making sure you’ve got enough to get home safely. And to do that, sometimes you must turn off everything except the most critical of systems. In aviation — as well as in the electric power industry — that process is called “load shedding”.
That’s how NASA brought the Apollo 13 crew home. Smart people used intelligent methods to limit the power consumption in the spacecraft to direct energy to where it was most needed. Many people credit the contracting firm Kepner-Tregoe and their problem analysis method for saving the astronauts. And who hasn’t seen the movie “Apollo 13” directed by Ron Howard?
In dramatic fashion, astronauts in a mock lunar module simulated actions required to control the use of onboard power. What if a computer system could make all those calculations and decisions for you? That’s the principle behind AI-based load shedding. One aviation blog defines load shedding as “reducing demands on the aircraft’s electrical system when part of that system fails”.
The author gives us three principles that apply to the process (which he believes will also work in load shedding our personal workload):
- Know when to load-shed
- Know what to load-shed
- Know how to load-shed
The journal Air Facts says that using AI in the cockpit is nothing new. “In fact,” writes author John Zimmerman, “many pilots have been flying with very primitive forms of Ai for years, even if they didn’t realize it: autopilots, FADEC, and load-shedding electrical systems all use computer power to make intelligent decisions.”
Smart controllers/ smart software
Making aircraft and spacecraft smarter requires advancements in both hardware and software. Just as innovations in drones and unmanned vehicles are making strides, innovations for manned and unmanned aircraft continue to get show promise.
A power controller from Data Device Corp offers smart system management. A company spokesman says, “DDC’s new high-power density SSPC offers a reliable and efficient solution, optimized for aircraft mission systems that can benefit from the functionality provided by smart aerospace power management,”
Space News writer Debra Warner tells how NASA is putting artificial intelligence into everything. In the article ”Beyond HAL: How artificial intelligence is changing space systems”, she quotes NASA scientist Kelly Fong: “Work we are doing today focuses not so much on general intelligence but on trying to allow systems to be more independent, more self-reliant, more autonomous.”
Current Ai impact on aerospace power management systems may not be as smart as the HAL 9000 unit in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the smart software being developed and used today is still capable of predictive analytics that could help prevent future disasters like those experienced in the Apollo and Challenger space programs.
Of course, how AI impacts aerospace power management systems in other ways besides load shedding. Just as the electric smart grid keeps the lights on, intelligent power systems on planes and space ships can keep pilots, astronauts, and passengers moving toward the completion of their journey. Whether it’s improved power distribution, error control, load shedding, or guarding against disaster, artificial intelligence shows great promise for continued advancement in aerospace system control. It seems that we are just getting started.
IFEC profit margins for business jets and commercial airlines is of vital importance. In the not too distant past, airlines depended on essentially the same technology for IFEC, aka In-Flight Entertainment Connectivity, as in most any movie theater.
A film was shot directly onto a screen using a projector, and customers could listen to the film via proprietary headsets or listen through in-cabin speakers. For many passengers, this was not an ideal situation.
This has changed and changed drastically in a very positive way for all parties involved. The main reason for going to this new system is the same as any reason a business makes changes – to increase IFEC profit margins and satisfy shareholders. It all comes down to weight on the plane. Weight is a major issue on flights. Some airlines have removed the seat back screens from their airlines, cutting weight by 1,200 lbs. A lighter plane means less fuel; less fuel means a better profit.
People have not seemed to mind this change for IFEC. The main reason is the advent of newer and newer technologies as gone are the bulky, heavy laptops of old (remember that weight issue) requiring lots of storage space. Touchpads, smartphones, and the like have changed computing in a way like Bill Gates did with Windows 3.1. Research already points to handheld devices reaching over 2 billion this year based on previous information from 2014.
Weight is Equal to IFEC Profit Margins
This is a welcome change for airlines, where again, weight is equal to profits. IFEC has certainly gone through its own growing pains from silent films to bulky 8mm, grainy machines to DVD’s and projectors. Along the way, passengers have been kept happy, entertained, and not as concerned about long delays, waits and unforeseen circumstances that kept a plane grounded for an indeterminate amount of time.
Jump forward several years, and now we have streaming video, movies and more coming in over wireless and data from cellular providers. For the airline industry, this is an absolute goldmine in IFEC profit margins.
Gone will be the days of the same film showing for all passengers, young and old. Finding a movie suitable to keep all passengers entertained for a flight can be virtually impossible.
Instead, passengers will be able to use personal devices to log into the plane’s on-board wi-fi system.
Watching personal devices for Netflix, Hulu and YouTube is obviously a preferred method of IFEC over a single, one-size-must-fit-all movie.
Power of Choice will Increase IFEC Profit Margins
A customer, or in this case a passenger, who has some degree of choice in a situation is likely to be much happier and willing to accept certain situations and possible additional fees for the trade-off of continued in-flight entertainment. Families traveling with young children certainly understand the value and power of a portable DVD or gaming system to entertain, and adults benefit just as much when left in a similar situation. In other words, on a plane, everyone is a child wanting to know, “Are we there yet?”
The early Internet was certainly filled with its share of mistakes, drops and vicious lag that kept most everyone more annoyed than anything. Companies who provided Internet needed vast storage often kept at temperatures where a jacket or coat would be necessary due to the enormous amounts of heat generated by the systems. Today is a completely different story. Adding a server and the wiring for a completely wireless system in an airplane is almost no different from wiring a new business and networking computers and printers. The chief difference is the use of the Internet for pleasure over business, but one can realistically expect business to be happening as well during flights with free Internet as essential for IFEC profit margins.
While many would like to think of the wireless as free, nothing is free. Passengers interested in using the on-board wireless may have to listen to the occasional commercial interruption or pause during their movies or videos, but it is a small price to pay for the absolute convenience this offers. Consider this: many of the YouTube channels that are run by commercial entities often preview their own videos with a brief commercial often about their own product. An airline would do quite well with this content marketing strategy, particularly when they have a captive audience of sorts.
Future of IFEC Profit Margins
There is and will be plenty of room to grow from this point with IFEC profit margins. Commercial lines still must balance their customer needs and wants with shareholder expectations and desires. Wireless connectivity and IFEC on an airplane, however, is quickly advancing like the ideal window seat.