The DARPA Tactical Technology Office is soliciting proposals on the design, development and demonstration of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft (X-Plane) with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight
Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the focus of DARPA’s new VTOL X-Plane. The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft make them ideal for a host of military operations.
Helicopters are slower — leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.
However, “for the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex,” saidAshish Bagai, DARPA program manager.
“To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity.”
“We have not made this easy,” he continued. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results.”
One day after a thruster-system glitch caused a holdup in a commercial cargo capsule's scheduled rendezvous with the International Space Station, NASA and the SpaceX rocket venture said they were ready for an orbital hookup on Sunday.
NASA and the SpaceX rocket venture said the maneuvers for the rendezvous would begin overnight, setting up SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship to be grappled with the space station's robotic arm at 6:01 a.m. ET Sunday. It would take at least an hour more for the Dragon to be brought in for its berthing at the station's Harmony module, SpaceX said.
NASA TV's live video coverage of the rendezvous is set to start at 3 a.m. ET.
The future of urban runabouts will be ultra lightweight, electrically powered and 3D-printed... if Jim Kor has his way.
Picture an assembly line not that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.
If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo.
Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction – something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile. As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects.
Jim Kor is the engineering brains behind the Urbee. He’s designed tractors, buses, even commercial swimming pools. Between teaching classes, he heads Kor Ecologic, the firm responsible for the 3-D printed creation.
“We thought long and hard about doing a second one,” he says of the Urbee. “It’s been the right move.”
Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object. The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as “lights out” construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walk away, shut off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car – which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours.
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