Chip Yates is a bit of a rock star in the world of electric vehicles. He started out as an engineer for McLaren Automotive before becoming a professional motorcycle racer at the World Superbike level at the age of 36. A broken pelvis sustained in a crash brought an end to his racing career and into the field of electric vehicles. Chip gathered some of his friends and spent his savings building a motorcycle for a new electric racing series forming in California. His new bike proved so fast that it was banned from the series before it even started. Undaunted, Yates entered the bike in a race against traditional gas combustion powered motorcycles where he nabbed two podium finishes. Chip continued to push the boundaries of electric motorcycle performance with a land speed record at Bonneville and a record for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Check out this interview that Chip did with Motor Trend where he tells the stories of his start and success in the electric vehicle world. There’s even footage from the electric airplane he built by putting the UQM motor from his electric motorcycle in an old Burt Rutan VariEze home-built kit plane. He burned up his battery pack setting the world speed record for electric airplanes before having to make an emergency landing.
X-Games Skysurfing gold medalist and professional aerial stuntman Troy Hartman has created his own take on powered human flight. We still don’t have the technology to do a direct propulsion jetpack like The Rocketeer, but microturbines are now good enough for aerodynamic lift. Swiss pilot Yves Rossy decided to attack the problem with a rigid wing that he strapped to his back. Rossy’s goal was to be able to use his body as the control surface to steer his version of the jetpack. Hartman’s approach uses a traditional skydiving parachute for lift and steering while wearing two turbines on his back for power. Where Rossy is a human airplane, Hartman’s design is more akin to a human ultralight. Footage from Hartman’s phase 2 testing looks pretty promising. His design looks like it would be cheaper, safer and more intuitive to use for the average person who doesn’t have years of experience as a pilot.
This is a little promo video for NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California. Their slogan is “We turn ideas into reality.” The video shows a highlight reel of some of the research projects that their scientists and engineers have given the gift of flight. These are the things that human ingenuity has brought the world.
It’s generally a safe assumption that when a person chooses a career as a pilot that he or she loves to fly. Yves Rossy is a pilot for a Swiss airline and he loves to fly. The thing that makes Yves special is that one day he decided that flying planes was not enough. He wanted to fly like a bird. That’s when the Jetman project was born. The idea was to build a rigid carbon fiber wing that Rossy could wear on his back. It would also house four high-end remote control airplane turbines that burned kerosene to produce 22 pounds of thrust each. The fuel tank inside the wing holds enough fuel for 8 minutes of flight time. Yves purposely left control surfaces out of his design. His body would act like the wing’s fuselage so that he could use his head, arms and legs to control his flight. Jetman is very literal name for his project. So far Rossy has flown across the English Channel, raced a rally car on Top Gear and flown in the Grand Canyon among many other successful flights. His future ambitions for the Jetman project are to train another pilot for some formation flying and to be able to take off from the ground.
Here is more evidence that science and art are not mutually exclusive. It’s a supercomputer model of the shockwave formed when an aircraft hits Mach 3 which is three times the speed of sound. Aerodynamics is still one of the most complicated things that we try to model. Air is a compressible fluid with many codependent variables. Its temperature and pressure can affect that amount of water vapor it can hold which in turn effect its density. Combinations of these variables can actually change how fast sound can travel through air. Unlike the speed of light, the speed of sound (Mach number) is something that has to be calculated based on air conditions. All of these things get even more complicated when we study how air moves. That’s what makes this model of a Mach 3 shockwave made by Swiss scientists using the latest in computer technology so remarkable. The model has two layers: density changes followed by the vorticity magnitude. I’m making an educated guess here, but I think vorticity magnitude is how chaotic the turbulence in the shockwave is. The two models are then broken down in more detail and overlaid on each other. Most of the science is way over my head, but I think the remarkable thing to pay attention to is the formation of the vortex ring.