Advances For New Flight Technologies
Electric powerplants and autonomous systems continue to make progress, with reports this week of first flights and new designs. In China, the two-seat RX1E-A, an advanced version of the RX1E, designed by Shenyang Aerospace University, flew for the first time this week and proved it can now fly for up to two hours on a single charge, an improvement over the 45-minute endurance of the previous model, which has been in production since last year. The new version of the airplane also has a new parachute. Zou Haining, an official at the Liaoning General Aviation Academy, told Xinhua the extended endurance of the airplane should boost sales in the U.S. and Europe. Also this week in China, it was reported that the AT-200, an autonomous cargo plane with a payload of about 1.5 tons, completed its first test flight.
The AT-200 took off from Neifu Airport in Pucheng on Oct. 26, flew for 26 minutes and landed, all autonomously. The drone, which is based on a P750XL Pacific Aerospace utility aircraft, is being developed by JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce retailer, working with a consortium of research institutes and other companies. They intend to use the drone to deliver packages to customers in rural areas. In the U.S. this week, Aurora Flight Sciences received an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate for its optionally piloted Bell Helicopter UH-1H, to be used as a military research aircraft. The FAA certificate permits optionally piloted aircraft operations, with a safety pilot to monitor the controls. Aurora also announced this week they will be working with NASA to develop a turboelectric aircraft concept. The subsonic commercial aircraft will have conventional underwing gas-turbine engines, plus a ducted, boundary-layer-ingesting tailcone propulsor driven by a turboelectric propulsion system, Aurora said.