Tag Archives: aerospace

FAA proposes $1.9 million fine for company flying drones in New York and Chicago

The Federal Aviation Administration finally laid down the legal groundwork for the operation of small drones in February, but as the governmental body showed this week, those laws don’t mean you can just fly unpiloted craft wherever you like. The FAA has proposed its biggest fine ever — $1.9 million — to be levied against aerial photography company SkyPan International for illegal drone flights in the busy airspace above New York and Chicago.

The FAA says that SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized drone flights over urban areas between March 21st, 2012 and December 15th, 2014. The drones involved allegedly lacked a two-way radio, transponder, altitude-reporting equipment, airworthiness certificates and effective registration, while SkyPan itself failed to get a valid Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the flights. The FAA says that of the 65 flights, 43 of those flights reportedly took place in New York’s tightly restricted Class B airspace, and took off without receiving air traffic control clearance to do so.

The FAA criticized irresponsible drone use in August, noting that pilots had already reported more than 650 close calls with small uncrewed craft in the first eight months of 2015 alone — more than double the 238 reports it filed in 2014. But SkyPan has defended its record, telling the National Journal that it has been conducting aer­i­al pho­to­graphy in urb­an areas for 27 years “in full compliance with published FAA regulations,” and that it was “fully in­sured and proud of its impeccable record of protecting the pub­lic’s safety, security and privacy.” The company now has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

In a statement released on its website, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said that “flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous.” Huerta noted that the US has “the safest airspace in the world,” but said that “everyone who uses it must understand and observe our comprehensive set of rules and regulations.”

But SkyPan could argue those rules are far from comprehensive. Congress set a date of September 30th for the FAA to pull together blanket rules that would legalize the use of small drones, but after putting out proposed regulations in February, the aviation administration missed the deadline. It said that it may need until 2017 — or even later — to reach a consensus of opinion. Until then, the FAA has approved more than a thousand individual flights, but the US is still without federal regulations, frustrating both hobbyist drone operators and companies such as Amazon who plan to use drones to deliver items to customers.

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NASA May Move Microsatellites Magnetically

NASA earlier this month entered an agreement with Arx Pax to use its Magnetic Field Architecture technology in hardware that will let astronauts move tiny satellites without touching them.

The Space Act Agreement marks a major milestone for Arx Pax, CEO Greg Henderson said. “It’s exciting to work hand in hand with NASA’s brilliant team of scientists and engineers. We’re thrilled about the potential impact we can make together.”

Henderson and his wife, Jill Henderson, last year launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund development of a functional hoverboard based on the technology.

Magnets in Space?

NASA has been seeking to create a magnetic tether that can be used to couple and uncouple microsatellites called “CubeSats.”

It’s interested in exploring whether this tech can be used in a space environment, said Luke Murchison, a project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center.

NASA in the near term will work to identify the constraints of the magnetic tether technology with regard to its applications in low-Earth orbit, he said.

“In the long term, we are interested in developing technology to allow the autonomous assembly of small modular satellites,” Murchison told TechNewsWorld. “That would let us create entirely new satellite architectures.”

Building Blocks

CubeSats are a small form factor for satellites, said Alex Saunders, a student working at the CubeSat Lab at California Polytechnic State University.

“They come in small 10-by-10-centimeter cubes, and they can be used for a variety of things,” he told TechNewsWorld. “A lot of them are used for tech demos in space.”

A tech firm will reach out to CubeSat researchers to test prototypes of their products in space, said Saunders. They’ll put them on a CubeSat, “and we’ll get data back to them so that they can say they tested it in space.”

Along with launching tech demos into space, CubeSats also are used to conduct scientific experiments in space.

“One of the projects we’ve worked on here at Cal Poly is ExoCubes, where we put a small mass spectrometer in space and are reading ions and neutral data for certain particles at a certain level in our atmosphere,” noted Saunders.

Coupling and uncoupling CubeSats using Magnetic Field Architecture would make a good tech demo and could serve as an important step to scaling up, he said.

Building It Out

Someday, larger satellites even could use magnetic tethering to dock or undock with space stations, Langley’s Murchison suggested. This just the start of MFA’s use in space. NASA plans to iterate on the tech through its alliance with Arx Pax.

“We are currently developing a number of prototypes over the next one to two years,” he added, “and will be exploring alternative designs with this technology.”

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America’s first next-gen aircraft carrier takes high tech to sea

The USS Gerald R. Ford has been under construction for years. Today, the first-of-its-class carrier will be christened, ushering in an era of high-tech aircraft carriers.

The world’s most-advanced aircraft carrier should be meeting a bottle of champagne today. Head on.

The USS Gerald R. Ford will be christened during a ceremony in Newport News, Va., an event that will usher in the next generation of aircraft carriers. The Gerald R. Ford is the first of its class — the Ford class. And over the last few years, the shipbuilders at Newport News Shipbuilding have been putting together a vessel that is intended to move the aircraft carrier technology needle forward significantly.

I had a chance to visit the shipyard during Road Trip 2010, and see the Gerald R. Ford at a much earlier stage in its development. But now the carrier has reached the point where its dry dock will be flooded and it’s time to start conducting the tests that precede its official deployment by the U.S. Navy, likely in 2016.

The new class of carriers were designed with a wide range of new technologies. They include the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, which replaces traditional steam catapults, and Advanced Jet Blast deflectors. Those two systems together will more efficiently launch aircraft. There will also be “Pit stop” fueling stations, designed to more quickly get planes ready to launch. The ship also features a series of green technologies, such as the so-called Plasma Arc Waste Disposal System, which is meant to cut on-board waste; an all-new propulsion plant; an improved structural design; and more.

The Gerald R. Ford has two newly designed reactors, as well as 250 percent more electrical capacity than previous carriers, which should allow the carrier to load weapons and launch aircraft faster than ever before. As well, the ship’s flight command center, known as the island, has been totally redesigned and now features the Navy’s most advanced flat panel array radar systems and dual band radar.

Another big design change is that the flight deck has been fully rearranged and redesigned. That means a boost of 25 percent in the ability to launch and recover aircraft missions. That required installing three aircraft elevators rather than four, and positioning the island 140 feet further aft than in the past.

Finally, the Ford class is the world’s first aircraft carrier class built from designs first made using a 3D collaborative visualization tool known as ROVR.

That software is helpful to the Navy and its shipbuilder partners because it allows every stakeholder in the carrier’s construction — the Navy, the shipbuilder, welders, pipefitters, contractors, and others — to see the plans in 3D before construction. That means many design inefficiencies can be eliminated prior to construction.

The Gerald R. Ford is a big ship. It is 1,080 feet long, 100 feet high, its flight deck is 250 feet wide, and it will be 134 feet wide at the water line. All told, it features 47,000 tons of steel.


Now that it is being christened, it will next be put through a long series of tests. This is the first new aircraft carrier class since the USS Nimitz in 1968, and America’s first new carrier of any kind since the USS George H.W. Bush was completed in 2003.

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