Friday, January 29, 2016

NASA to Fund "Sideways" Flying

2016 has already been generous to NASA, with congressional approval of a 10 percent increase in its overall budget. While this infusion of $1.6 billion could be used for many ideas both existing and new, many experts are hoping the agency spends a portion of it on a concept that could eventually revolutionize air travel as we know it: the bidirectional plane.
Rendering of Futuristic Bidirectional Plane
Although the concept has been around forever, 2012 marks the year when actual capital began fueling the idea for real-world use. Ge-Cheng Zha, an aerospace engineer at the University of Miami, introduced a flying wing design back then that resembled a ninja star, and would turn 90 degrees after reaching optimal altitude. Having used its broad wings to achieve the right amount of lift needed for take-off, the smaller wings enable the plane to achieve supersonic speeds that would cut a trip from New York to Tokyo down to four hours from 15.

Zha's proposal received over $100,000 in grant research money from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. A successful demonstration of feasibility in various tests such as wind tunnel performance and mathematic models will open up an additional $500,000. With NASA's additional budget funding, one can only hope even more money is devoted to this specific concept.

A bidirectional plane not only solves the eternal aeronautic quandary of achieving speed without sacrificing stability, but it will revolutionize both military and private air travel, cutting distance time exponentially.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, January 22, 2016

US Army Invests In Vehicles Powered By Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Despite a decade of interest, vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are nowhere near available on a mass scale to the commercial automotive industry. There are multiple reasons for this, ranging from a lack of hydrogen fuel infrastructure to high costs per vehicle. But proponents of the technology may have finally found a market that can not only be a sustainable buyer, but may prove to the rest of the world how superior hydrogen fueled cars could be.

Chevy Colorado selected by military to test effectiveness 
of hydrogen fuel cells
The US military will begin field test runs of GM's hydrogen fuel line truck: the Chevrolet Colorado,  for scouting and reconnaissance divisions. Through the US Army's Tank Automotive Research and Engineering Center, (TARDEC) the Chevy truck will be used in a variety of situations that call for its advantages. Hydrogen fueled vehicles are dead silent, do not need daily refueling, and make water as a by-product (which could be handy in a number of ways in many desert combat scenarios)Hydrogen vehicles also have a high low-end torque power, enabling them to carry more of a heavy load.

As TARDEC Director Paul Rogers stated, "The potential capabilities hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can bring to the war fighter are extraordinary, and our engineers and scientists are excited about the opportunity to exercise the limits of this demonstrator."

With already over 3 million miles run by this previous summer, the Army, who collaborated with NASA in developing the technology years ago, clearly believes in hydrogen fuel cells as a reliable alternative to fossil fuel engines. While this should naturally be considered a sign that commercialization is not far behind, the lack of freeing up substantial government or private subsidies for building hydrogen fuel storage infrastructures all over the nation has proven to be a considerable obstacle. This could be for a variety of reasons, some of them as legitimate as a real worry over the dangers of individual vehicles powered by hydrogen on public roads, some of them as unfortunate as the technology not having a personality such as Elon Musk to devote resources and media appearances touting its benefits.

Yet, the US military's continual fidelity prove hydrogen fuel cells are not fading into obscurity anytime soon. And in a time where there is growing consensus that the status quo of fuel resources must change, the climate for vehicles like the Chevy Colorado to garner appeal is real.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mexico City's Pod Proposal

Los Angeles and New York get a lot of national grief over their respectively nightmarish traffic experiences. Indeed both could use improvements in how to address issues of congestion and bottle-necking. Despite all the bad press lower Manhattan and the 405 get, however, neither towns can begin to compare with the insanity that is being a commuter in Mexico City.

Number two in TomTom's traffic index behind Istanbul, Mexico City's residents are trapped in traffic between and home and work that makes their trips 55 percent longer than average. This is not merely a problem centering around the automobile, as 61 percent of residents take public transportation already, and only 16 percent drive individual vehicles. Clearly, the sheer number of population means no one transportation method can fix this, and even a combined network needs to consider alternatives that think outside traditional infrastructure models.

The city's transportation department- Seciti- seems to have arrived upon a consensus on one possibility: gondolas. Lightweight, considerably cheaper to install and maintain than more subway systems, gondolas would actually directly serve the majority populace that does not drive while also providing a rather enjoyable commuter experience. Each pod would hold two people, and move on tracks over traffic routes, hovering over already existing gridlock. Even more innovative, passengers can program a direct path to a destination platform. This may pose certain issues of bunching (one would think tourist-heavy stops would demand more individual pod queues than others), but a carefully analyzed map could create "exhaust valve" routes to bypass any potential crowding risks, just like added lines on existing metro systems.

Seciti's recent proposal was unveiled at a press conference, complete with an animated video (above) showing how the concept will be applied. Although funding still needs to be sought after from both private and public sources, the ecological, locally-manufactured project could serve as a template for the growing global city of the 21st century.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.