In the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370’s disappearance, airlines will by 2018 have to equip aircraft to report their position every 15 min. Aireon has teamed with FlightAware to offer flight tracking at 1-min. intervals—the 2021 requirement —using the same Iridium NEXT satellites as its space-based automatic dependent surveillance- broadcast service, to be available in 2018.
To run by the end of 2017, General Electric’s Advanced Turboprop (ATP) will use more additively manufactured parts than any previous production engine—12 3-D-printed components replacing 855 conventionally manufactured parts, reducing weight 5% and fuel consumption 1%. To be built in the Czech Republic, the 1,240-shp ATP will power Cessna’s single-turboprop Denali.
Safran Aircraft Engines
Open-rotor engines were a response to the 1970s oil crises and faded away when fuel prices fell. Europe is looking at the concept again, to meet the efficiency and emissions targets expected by the 2030s, and Safran is running a counter-rotating open rotor on the ground under Europe’s Clean Sky program. An Airbus-led decision on whether to proceed to flight testing is expected in 2017.
Natural laminar flow reduces aerodynamic drag, but can the ultra-smooth wings it requires be manufactured and operated economically? Europe’s Clean Sky research program will find out in 2017 when it flies an A340-300 modified by Airbus with laminar outboard sections manufactured by GKN and Saab, using two different manufacturing concepts, and assembled by Aernnova.
With more than 30,000 commercial drones already registered in the U.S., finding a way to manage low-altitude airspace safely is becoming urgent. NASA is developing capabilities for UAS traffic management enabling drone operators to “file and fly” under 400 ft. The FAA hopes to demonstrate initial capabilities by the end of
2017 under a pilot project.
Boom Technology Concept
Will 2017 see the return of supersonic travel take off? Lockheed Martin will complete preliminary design of a low-boom demonstrator, but whether NASA has the money to build the X-plane is uncertain. Boom Technology plans to fly a one-third-scale model of its Mach 2.2 airliner by the end of 2016, and Aerion hopes to begin certification of its Mach 1.6 business jet in 2017.
FLEX SYSTEMS INC.
Winglet specialist Aviation Partners and joint venture partner FlexSys are working with an undisclosed customer to retrofit an aircraft with the first commercial morphing, variable-camber wing using a compliant composite structure. Tamarack Aerospace has certified a load-alleviating “active winglet” that allows the drag-saving wingtips to be fitted to existing aircraft.
Safety and efficiency remain at the forefrontin commercial aviation technology development, but research must now extend to embrace unmanned aircraft.
Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.