Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, promised a far-reaching goal for his firm.

Today, we’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.

Facebook drones would be interconnected in the sky and to the ground

Facebook drones would be interconnected in the sky and to the ground

”Our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.”

We reported on this activity almost a year ago, and provided technical details that are coming to fruition with the first flight of the Aquila drone, a large flying wing that looks a great deal like the Prandtl-D research vehicle designed by Al Bowers and a group of graduate students.  A primary difference – Facebook’s machine has winglets or tip rudders to assist in directional control.

The Facebook video shows the highlights, but the following video from the BBC gives more detail and insights from Jay Parikh, head of global engineering for Facebook.

Note that the launch vehicle has additional motors and propellers to assist acceleration on takeoff.   As a side note, the motors on the aircraft appear to be Joby types.

If Zuckerberg’s dream for the future comes true, a virtually-interconnected world becomes a real possibility.  Such stratospheric persistence will be a good deal less expensive to launch and maintain than traditional space satellites.  As noted before, the introduction of cell phones in the developing world allowed remote villages to find useful news, weather reports, and even markets for their products.  For those areas of the world without an electric grid, the possibilities of local solar power coupled with communications links from the skies could make all the difference between poverty and prosperity.

Zuckerberg and the leaders at Google (with their competing balloon approach to such connectivity) could expand the reach of shared knowledge and commerce in new and exciting ways.

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Honda Doesn’t Like Its Motors Rare (Earth)

Martyn Williams, writing for CIO.com, asserted that Honda’s announcement of its new electric motor, “…Is a big deal, not just in terms of technology but of geopolitics, too.”  The motor is the world’s first for hybrid cars “that doesn’t use heavy rare-earth metals – a major step forward in the development of motors that are free from the political whims of the Chinese government.”

This is a big deal in that China is the primary source for heavy rare earth metals, controlling as much as 80-percent of those materials used in electronics and motors*.  China has blocked access to the materials in the past, stopping Japan from receiving exports for two months over a territorial dispute.  That caused Honda and other Japanese companies to find ways to replace rare earth metals in their products. 

Traditionally, the neodymium magnets used in hybrid and electric car motors included one or both of the rare earth metals dysprosium and terbium. They were added to ensure very high heat resistance.

Rotor for Honda

Rotor for Honda i-DCD drive motor, formed from a Daido Steel-supplied neodymium material that uses no heavy rare metals

But Daido Steel, a Japanese steel maker, came up with an alternative production method that produces a magnet with even greater heat resistance properties without requiring the rare earth metals.

Honda worked with Daido on perfecting the magnet and designed a new motor for use in hybrid vehicles. Daido Steel will begin mass production of the motor in August, and Honda plans to use it in the “Freed,” a new min MVP (multi-purpose vehicle) the company will launch in Japan later this year.

Rare Earth Elements, Minerals and Metals

Gareth Hatch, writing in the Technology Metal Research web site, explains “Rare-Earth Terminology – A Quick Refresher On The Basics,” which helps sort out the differences between rare earth minerals, rare earth metals and rare earth elements.

He explains what he calls a “contentious” difference of opinion used to describe the specific sub-groups of rare earth elements (REEs) known as light (LREE), medium (MREE) and heavy REEs (HREEs), illustrating the breakdown in the chart below.

Honda Designs the Motor, Daido Provides a Special Steel

According to Green Car Congress, Daido Electronics Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Daido Steel, “produces neodymium magnets using the hot deformation method, which differs from the typical sintering production method for neodymium magnets.”

Rare earth elements

Rare earth elements, arrranged from light to heavy.  Nd (Neodymium), Eu (Europium), Tb (Terbium), Dy (Dysprosium), and Y (Yttrium) are particularly important to the creation of sustainable energy sources

The technique aligns nanometer-scale crystal grains into a fine crystal grain structure approximately ten times smaller than that of a sintered magnet, producing magnets with greater heat resistance properties.

Daido Steel and Honda have worked together to make a new drive motor using that material, the first “practical application of a neodymium magnet which contains absolutely no heavy rare earth,” but with the heat resistance and high performance necessary for electric vehicle use.  This may also open new lines of motor development in which rare earth elements do not play a part.

The freedom from supply inconstancies is important in continuing production of motors and electronic devices that otherwise rely on materials for which supply lines could be cut on a whim.

In a closing of a circle broken decades ago, Daido Steel now procures its powders for forming these magnets from Magnequench International Inc. (located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), and will work with Magnequench “to develop new types of raw magnetic powders for the purpose of realizing enhanced magnetic properties.”

*See David Cay Johnston’s 2007 book Free Lunch (ISBN 978-1-59184-191-3), chapter 4, concerning how the United States shut down its only neodymium mine in 1996 and allowed control of Magnaquench, a General Motors startup, to be ceded to China.  Magnaquench is back in North America, but is now a Canadian company.

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Kreisel Brothers – Austrian Entrepreneurs

We keep hoping for the long-awaited 10X, or even 5X battery that would make electric aviation “pop” in a significant way.  The Kreisel brothers in Austria are not developing new batteries or chemistries, but through careful design and manufacturing techniques, manage to reduce weight in their battery packages – one example being the two “ultra-lightweight battery units” they supply for PC-Aero’s Elektra One.  With a total weight of “just 64 kilograms,” (140.8 pounds), the packs “provide [an] efficient and reliable energy supply for a range of 400 kilometers (248 miles)… a flight duration of three hours [and a] speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99.2 mph).”

Each pack stores 5.8 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy, or 5.52 kw-hr./kg.  That’s roughly an eight-percent savings over the Teslas’s battery, if all else is equal.  It might be a harder number to achieve in a small package, there probably being a certain irreducible minimum of things that weigh down the small package disproportionately more than a larger battery system.

Tesla’s 90 kilowatt battery, according to Battery University, weighs 1,200 (1,188 multiplying 540 time 2.2) pounds (540 kilograms), storing 6 kilowatt-hours per kilogram.  Other electric vehicles fare less well.  A Chevy Volt, for instance, has a 16 kilowatt-hour battery that weighs 181 kilograms (398.2 pounds), weighing 11.3 kilograms per kilowatt.  Kreisel’s does well with existing cells.

Planned expansion with photovoltaic roofs to provide building's energy

Planned expansion with photovoltaic roofs to provide building’s energy

Kreisel Electric is expanding its facilities – not quite a gigafactory, but a high-level kilofactory capable of producing 800,000 kWh per year.  According to the company, the 6,276 square meter (67,554 square feet) facility will include a fully automated production line.  The new building, divided into three equal-sized parts, will also be used to craft prototypes and small batch production runs; and contain software, engineering development and business offices.

Similar to Pipistrel in Slovenia, the factory roof will be covered by a photovoltaic system with a 200 kW peak output, the energy stored in 1,000 kWh Kreisel batteries for powering the building and production equipment.  Heat recovered from production machinery helps heat the facility.

Greater than Eight Percent

Dei Welt reports that the three brothers, Johann Centrifugal (also translated as “Gyro”), Jr.; Markus Kreisel, and Phillip Centrifugal, started with an early electric Renault and essentially began “hacking” its systems to improve performance.  In a short time, they have graduated to the point where their claims seem almost boastful, but have auto executives coming to their enterprise to check them out.

The Brothers have electrified a Porsche 911 and Panamera, a Mercedes Sprinter van, and a Skoda SUV.  Green Car Congress reports the Brothers Volkswagen Golf seems to have caught Wolfsburg’s attention though.  “Kreisel has also swapped out VW’s 24.2 kWh battery pack in an e-Golf and replaced it with a 55.7 kWh Kreisel pack, with the weight (330 kg) remaining identical. The range improves from 190 to more than 430 km—i.e., from 120 to 267 miles.”

These weight and range claims are obviously far removed from the production processes that allow an eight-percent advantage over Tesla’s battery system.  One questions how their modest factory will be able to further expand beyond the 8,000 vehicles they anticipate producing per year.  Certainly, it’s a story admired in America – the garage-born breakthrough that challenges the best in the industry.  We wish the Brothers every success.

One Fast Go-Cart

At about the 5:50 mark, you can see the Kreisel’s electric go-cart and its 2014 record run from 0-100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 3.1 seconds.

A lecture in German with Pictures in English (for those who want to know more and have a modicum of patience)

The video is a good overview of what the Kreisels are doing that is capturing a great deal of attention.  At about 2:20 the PowerPoint slides show up – all in English.

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Eric Raymond: Skyping from the Sky

Eric Raymond and his wife Irena fly their Sunseeker Duo from the Aeroporto Voghera Rivanazzano near their home in Voghera, Italy.  The Provincia di Pavia provides wonderful architectural and scenic backdrops for their flights, something captured briefly in a video they filmed last year for Skype and Microsoft.  To Eric’s surprise, the commercial was finally released this month.

The Raymonds and their collaborators are part of a larger advertising campaign for Skype and Microsoft, with their high-tech offerings complementing the wireless communications tools and the ad’s graphics.

Eric and Irena, John Lynch, and Jason Rohr perform well for the cameras, but Eric had an extra challenge in the aerial filming.  “I was flying in formation with a Phantom drone!”

Microsoft also featured the team in a tutorial showing how to set up Skype meetings.

Eric explained that, “John Lynch is one of my CAD designers, and master machinist.  He made my nose gear, and is a specialist for propeller molds.

“Jason Rohr is an expert render artist and animator, and another important member of our team,“ who is ”busy with other work also.”

With an authoritative British voice-over, expert filming, and editing, Solar Flight gets a significant media boost.  Congratulations to all.

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Alan Soule’ and His Tesla in China

Phileas Fogg used the most advanced means available to a contemporary traveler in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days.  That restricted him to steamships and railroads, except for a brief trudge across the Indian jungles on an elephant – the only alternative to fighting one’s way through on foot.  It still took audacious levels of creativity (and the International Dateline) for Fogg and his butler Passepartout to reach the Explorer’s Club in London in the 80 day time limit – thus winning a £20,000 wager with another Club member (about $1.6 million in today’s funds).

Visiting the mothership. Aound the World in 80 eDays teams stop by the factory

Visiting the mothership. Aound the World in 80 eDays teams stop by the factory

John Palmerlee of the CAFE Foundation board reports that a modern-day explorer from Santa Rosa, California is in the 28th day of his race to circumnavigate the globe in his Tesla Model S sedan.  Alan Soule’ has been driving across Spain, flying over the Atlantic, and traversing the North American continent from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Los Angeles, California in an attempt to equal Fogg’s voyage by electric car (and an occasional airlift).

John Palmerlee, another CAFE Board member, reports on Alan’s passage through the bay area on his way to dropping his car off in Los Angeles to have it air freighted to China.  “We saw Alan in Sebastopol when he arrived. There was quite a Chinese news show (haven’t seen it) filmed of him and the Chinese team in the Tahoe area. He is in china now – Guangzhou. I think he is waiting to connect with his car.”

Another type of luminary visits the Hollywood sign. Alan's team meets up with him at various points on his world tour, assists with driving and other tasks

Another type of luminary visits the Hollywood sign. Alan’s team meets up with him at various points on his world tour, assists with driving and other tasks

Indeed, the attempt to reconnect driver and Tesla affected all the teams, and proved that China’s equivalent of the DMV would have driven Phileas Fogg dotty.  Before Chinese officials would release the cars to the teams who had been waiting in Gungzhou, each person had to pass an eye exam, sit through a video on safe driving practices, and fill out enough forms to satisfy any bureaucrat.

Just like home. DMV in China looks just like its American equivalent

Just like home. DMV in China looks just like its American equivalent

With 50 of the 80 days to go, it’s probably understandable that any paperwork delays would be almost excruciating.

Alan’s blog helps to fill in details and provides an exciting travelogue of these modern-day globe-girdlers.

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Solar Impulse Word of the Day – Penultimate

Headlines all over the world are sharing the word of the day – penultimate, meaning the next to the last* – in this case the next to last flight for Solar Impulse 2.

The Guardian newspaper explained, “After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at around 7.10am (5.10am GMT).

Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles.” Which brings up a question – why are the guys on foot outrunning the guys on the expensive electric bicycles?

Certainly, the flight led to some spectacular photo opportunities. Passing over the Gemasolar plant shortly after takeoff from Seville, Andre’ Borschberg looked down on “The first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology,” as described by its builder, Torresol Energy.

Solar Impulse over Gemasolar plant outside Seville, Spain

Solar Impulse over Gemasolar plant outside Seville, Spain

With a rated electrical power of 19.9 megawatts, and an expected net electrical production of 110 gigawatt-hours per year, the 185 hectare (457 acre) site formed a spectacular backdrop for the passage of Solar Impulse 2. Net electrical production from its 2,650 heliostats is expected to be 110 GWh per year. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed.

solar impulse 747

The Guardian compared the Solar Impulse to a Boeing 747, with figures suggesting how efficient the jetliner is as a people carrier. Each of the 524 passengers on the 747 requires only .294 of a ton (587 pounds) to carry him or her to a destination – about equivalent to an early Piper Cub or a modern Light Sport Aircraft. Solar Impulse 2 uses its entire 2.3 ton heft to take its pilot on a very slow sightseeing voyage.

Solar Impulse 2 uses no CO2 in generating its power, while the 747, according to The Guardian, adds 101 kilograms (222.2 pounds) of the greenhouse gas to the airshed for every 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) traveled per passenger. Speed differences are noteworthy, though.

SI2's passage over pyramids at Giza drew worldwide admiration. One writer compared the flight to Napoleon's conquest of the country, neglecting to mention that Napoleon's troops had blown the nose off the Sphinx

SI2’s passage over pyramids at Giza drew worldwide admiration. One writer compared the flight to Napoleon’s conquest of the country, neglecting to mention that Napoleon’s troops had blown the nose off the Sphinx

Its passage over the pyramids at Giza drew poetic utterances from around the world, and the landing in Cairo marked the end of Andre’ Borschberg’s last flight on this magic carpet.

*English lesson: (Your editor is an ex-teacher of English.) “Late 17th century: from Latin paenultimus, from paene ‘almost’ + ultimus ‘last,’ on the pattern of ultimate.”  Many people mistakenly think the word is a superlative form of ultimate, as in “the most ultimate.”

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Alta Devices has been trading places with the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) in holding world record efficiencies for single- and dual-junction solar cells at one sun (not concentrated).  Their gallium-arsenide technology includes a layer of indium gallium phosphide (InGaPh), which the firm says utilizes photons more efficiently.

According to Alta Devices, “Alta has achieved this breakthrough by modifying its basic ‘single-junction’ gallium arsenide (GaAs) material. The company’s dual junction technology builds on the basic GaAs approach, but implements a second junction (or layer) with Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP). Because InGaP uses high-energy photons more efficiently, the new dual-junction cell generates more electricity from the same amount of light than a single-junction device. With this breakthrough, Alta currently holds both the dual-junction and single-junction records at 31.6% and 28.8%, respectively.”

Alta claims, that for a typical HALE (high altitude long endurance) UAV aircraft, their solar material requires less than half of the surface area and weighs one-fourth as much while providing the same amount of power as competing thin film technologies.  Alta explains this greater “payload functionality” can be used to obtain higher aircraft speeds or longer range.  (These numbers seem a bit optimistic to your editor, as the 31-percent efficiency is 43 to 31 percent greater than the 22 or 24 percent for the cells used on Solar Impulse or Eric Raymond’s SunSeekers.

Regardless, these numbers work well in unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs), with the company showing an Aerovironment RQ-12A Puma decked out in Alta Devices thin-film solar cells.

Aerovironment RQ-12A Puma UAV being hand launched. Alta Devices solar cells raised endurance from 2-1/2 hours to over 9 hours

Aerovironment RQ-12A Puma UAV being hand launched. Alta Devices solar cells raised endurance from 2-1/2 hours to over 9 hours

Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), reported following the first successful tests in 2013 that past solar solutions for powering small UAS were either too heavy or did not produce enough power for long-range flight – or both.  “However, the solar Puma AE technology can produce enough power, while adding negligible weight, so that endurance is no longer an issue for most customer missions.”  Initial tests extended the endurance of the Puma from about 2-1/2 hours on batteries alone to a demonstrated nine hours, 11 minutes and 45 seconds.

Alta Devices’ Parent Company Announces Four Solar Cars

Part of the Hanergy Holding Group, Ltd., a Chinese company, Alta Devices shares its solar film on a series of four solar-powered cars being developed in China.  From Hanergy’s press release:

Three of four solar-powered cars announced by Hanergy in Beijing on July 2. Note large roof area for solar cells

Three of four solar-powered cars announced by Hanergy in Beijing on July 2. Note large roof areas for solar cells

“According to Dr. Gao Weimin, Vice President of Hanergy Holding Group and CEO of its Solar Vehicle Business Division, the four full solar power vehicles are integrated with flexible GaAs thin-film solar cells, covering 3.5 to 7.5 square meters respectively. With five to six hours of sunlight, the thin-film solar cells on the vehicle are able to generate eight to ten kilowatt-hours of power a day, allowing it to travel about 80 km, equivalent to over 20,000 km annually, which satisfies the need of driving in a city under normal circumstances. With this disruptive innovation, the full solar power vehicles no longer need to rely on charging posts like traditional electric vehicles.

“Under the mode of routine-day use, the vehicles are able to charge themselves with clean solar energy while traveling, making “zero charging” possible. It alters our inherent concept of ‘distance per charge’ of an electric vehicle. In the cases of weak sunlight or long-distance travel, the lithium batteries equipped in the vehicles can also get power from charging posts, enabling them to travel a maximum of 350 km per charge.”

The practical applications of this technology could be significant in developing longer-range electric aircraft.  The larger-scale automotive use gives hope that the economies of scale will bring costs down for all users.  The possibilities seem boundless.

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Siemens Motors announced the first public flight of their SP260D motor in an Extra 330LE aerobatic aircraft – although the motor had made its maiden, but not so public, flight on June 24.  Putting out 260 kilowatts (348.5 horsepower) in near silence according to Siemens, the motor will certainly be capable of putting the Extra through its paces.

The motor weighs only 50 kilograms (110 pounds), and with its Siemens inverter adds little weight to the nose of the Extra.  Pipistrel-designed battery packs grouped behind it push the power-pack weight toward the center of gravity, which should enhance handling qualities.

A high power-to-weight ratio is welcome in aerobatics. Note lack of exhaust pipes, oil stains on bellow of Extra 330 LE

A high power-to-weight ratio is welcome in aerobatics. Note lack of exhaust pipes, oil stains on bellow of Extra 330 LE

As Electronics Weekly reports, “Support structures have been on a finite element analysis diet. The aluminum ‘end shield’, for example, which supports the motor end bearing and takes all the propeller forces, went from 10.5 (23.1 pounds) to 4.9kg 10.8 pounds) .”  This presentation shows the process on page 12.

Bearing went on a digital diet, trimming several pounds from unit that keeps propeller on during stressful maneuvers

Bearing went on a digital diet, trimming several pounds from unit that keeps propeller on during stressful maneuvers

A finite element analysis program, NX Nastran, removed bits that were “barely subject to stress and therefore dispensable,” according to Siemens.  The resulting structure met safety, stiffness and stability requirements.  A subsequent iteration is said to have further reduced the part’s weight to 4.1 kilograms, and a prototype carbon-fiber end shield weighs just 2.3 kilograms (5.06 pounds).  Considering the pounding such a bearing takes in aerobatic maneuvers, this is a real breakthrough.  Parenthetically, your editor saw a propeller snap the end from a Lycoming engine’s crankshaft after the Pitts Special to which it was attached attempted a series of Lomcevaks.

Next47

Siemens has announced a new endeavor, Next47, an expansion into new technology that will take the company to its 200th anniversary in 2047.  Having powered the first electric aerial vehicle, the Tissandier Brothers aerostat of 1883, Siemens says it is working in five areas that will help define its future: decentralized electrification, artificial intelligence, autonomous machines, connected (e) mobility, and blockchain applications – a digital log of transactions between business partners.

Projects like the SP260D will be one of several motor and airframe combinations that will be part of the E-Mobility program, with many more to follow.  The possibilities seem boundless.

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Despite having a wing, horizontal tail, and fuselage top full of solar cells, Solar Impulse 2 needs long days and short nights to make it through the dark periods between recharging.  Even Eric and Irena Raymond’s SunSeeker Duo, a more practical machine, performs only day-long flights so far.

Part of this is the nature of sunlight and solar cells, both of which are limited in small areas.  Despite the fact that every hour, each square meter of the upper atmosphere receives 1.367kWh of solar energy, and National Geographic claims that “Every hour the sun beams onto Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year,” it’s hard to harness that energy on a relatively small surface area.

Solar cells at their best convert only a small percentage of the energy beamed onto them into usable current.  On Solar Impulse 1, this was about 22.7 percent, according to Sunpower, the cell’s maker.  Newer cells are reported to be as efficient as 24.1 percent.  A square meter of such solar cells would generate 329 Watt-hours per hour.

That would depend, though, on the solar cells being perpendicular to the sun.  Any “off-angle” between the cells and the light source would reduce the amount of current flowing from the cells.  Finding ways to align more of the airplane’s surface to be at or close to perpendicular to the sun has prompted some clever approaches, including that of Aurora Flight Sciences eight years ago.

Boeing thinks, as others have with high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) attempts, that capturing and storing energy wisely will enable an airplane to stay up for years at a time.

While Aerovironment’s long-wing, multi-motor flying wings posited using hydrogen generation to enable overnight flight, Boeing’s unpiloted aircraft is designed to stay in the air with sunlight alone.

Its long wings, with perpendicular winglets to capture sunlight even when solar energy is radiated from low on the horizon, should be able to have the “persistence” needed for communications systems using radio signals, mobile signals, microwave transmissions, broadcast television and even Internet.  It can also be fitted with an atmospheric sensor system for calculating the wind, temperature, humidity, gases present, and sunlight, among others.

The company filed for a patent, the application noting several potential uses for a solar-powered craft that can maintain a fixed position:

The patent applications acts as something of a confessional, showing that a Boeing 747 equipped with perfectly efficient solar cells on its entire upper wing surface would receive at most approximately 600 kilowatts, or about 800 horsepower from the solar cells, far short of the 100,000 horsepower required for the 747 to maintain cruising speed and altitude.

Solar power can provide only 0.8-percent of the needed power to a conventional 747; even good cells of 0.3-percent efficiency would produce only 0.3% of the needed power to a 747.  At least for the time being, big wings, slow speeds and light weights are a reasonable way to accommodate solar power.

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The following press release was distributed by Dr. Birgit Weißenbach, wife of Calin Gologan and press representative for PC-Aero GmbH:

“Many press releases and articles were published in the whole world relating the Aircraft flown by Luminati Aerospace LLC in NY named Substrata V0 and the Solar Electric airplane from PC-Aero/Elektra UAS named Elektra One Solar.

“In order to avoid misunderstandings PC-Aero/Elektra UAS GmbH publish[es] the following press release:

“In October 2015 PC-Aero/Elektra UAS, the designer and manufacturer of the electric-solar airplane Elektra One Solar, and Luminati Aerospace signed a Manufacturing License Agreement for ONE UNIT aircraft based on the Elektra One Solar documentation provided by PC-Aero/Elektra UAS. PC-Aero/Elektra UAS also provided [a] ONE UNIT manufacturing license agreement to CarbonWacker GmbH for this aircraft. CarbonWacker GmbH is the long-term partner of PC-Aero/Elektra UAS for the manufacturing of all their Solar Electric Aircraft.

Calin Gologan giving thumbs up and shaking hands with Luminati test pilot Bob Lutz. Lutz praised the handling characteristic of the little craft

Calin Gologan giving thumbs up and shaking hands with Luminati test pilot Bob Lutz. Lutz praised the handling characteristic of the little craft

“For the aircraft delivered to Luminati the following changes were done by PC-Aero: aileron span was increased, wing flaps were excluded, the rudder chord was slightly increased.

“One of the goals of Luminati was to test with this aircraft their own concept of “wind-energy harvesting algorithms” in order to gain energy from wind turbulence. For this, Luminati and their ‘Dream Team’ developed a unique autopilot system which was adapted to the aircraft.

“The aircraft was built under the control of PC-Aero / Elektra UAS and Luminati then finally tested in flight by PC-Aero in Germany with a German UL Registration (D-MELO).

“Then the aircraft was delivered by PC-Aero to Luminati in NY.

Luminati V0 showing lack of flaps and longer ailerons

Luminati Substrata V0 showing lack of flaps and longer ailerons

“After delivery the aircraft was registered by Luminati in [the] US in the experimental class and flown successfully by Luminati.”

As noted by Dr. Weißenbach, the first flight of a shorter-wing version of Elektra One took place in Germany in 2011.  It flew at Oshkosh in July, 2011 and won the Lindbergh Prize.  In 2015, a long-wing version of the airplane flew across the Alps in both directions and used only 18 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the complete trip.

There will more than enough credit to go around, though.  If Luminati’s wind energy harvesting algorithms add to the endurance of the craft, this would be a big accomplishment and make electric aviation even more attractive and practical.

We wish all concerned a grand success.

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