Friday, October 13, 2006

Video: RuBot II - The Rubik's cube solving robot

"This is the new version of RuBot by Pete Redmond from Dublin, Ireland. It's very different to the prototype but it has to be the coolest looking robot solver ever. There are cameras in the eyes of the head that scan the cube before the pneumatic arms solve it. It usually solves the Cube in a max of about 50 seconds (not including the scan) no matter how much it is mixed up.

The solving algorithm is taken care of by Herbert Kociemba's Cube Explorer software and usually solves the cube in a maximum of about 20 moves. In this video, the cube wasn't mixed up too hard so RuBot was able to find the optimum solution." [via] - Link.

Bell-Boeing Quadtiltrotor Completes First Wind Tunnel Testing

Bell-Boeing Quadtiltrotor Completes First Wind Tunnel Testing
Defense Daily 10/13/2006

The Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT]- Boeing [BA] quadtiltrotor (QTR), the heavy lift variant of the team's V-22 Osprey, completed its initial wind tunnel testing last month to demonstrate the impact of the front rotor and weight on the rear rotors, a Bell official said.

The test was conducted using a one-fifth scale model of the QTR, Alan Ewing, QTR program manager for Bell, told reporters during a briefing Tuesday at the annual Association of U.S. Army conference in Washington D.C.

"Testing showed those loads from that vortex on the rear rotor [are the] same as the loads we see on the front [rotors]," he said.

Aeroelastic stability of the wing looks exactly the same as the conventional tiltrotor, Ewing added.

The Bell-Boeing team is providing the government with a lot of data on the QTR, he said.

In the current test, Bell-Boeing used a variant with a three-blade rotor. Ewing said in the next phase of tests they will use a four-blade rotor.

"We expect to see the same results," he added.

Bell-Boeing hopes to get to a first flight of the QTR in the 2012 time frame, Ewing noted.

He also told reporters that the Systems Design and Development phase for a Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) aircraft could take place around 2013 with low-rate initial production (Milestone C) occurring in 2020.

The team is also working on eight variations, or excursion designs, of the QTR that includes a sea basing variant.

A primary accomplishment in the last year for Bell-Boeing was the completion of the baseline aircraft and finishing seven of the eight excursion designs, Ewing added.

The nominal payloads span from 16 tons to 26 tons and the mission radius ranges from 210 nautical miles (nmi) to 500 nmi, he said.

Bell-Boeing is working under an 18-month, $3.4 million government funded effort to develop a QTR for JHL. The current effort ends in March '07, Ewing said.

Under the effort, everything that falls under the parameters of the fuselage belongs to Boeing. For example, avionics, crew cabin, crew station design and the landing gear. Bell is in charge of everything having to do with the wings, from engines to gear boxes, rotors, as well as total system integration, Ewing added.

The QTR's rear wings' size is determined by the clearance distance between the rotor diameter and the fuselage. There is 18 inches of clearance at the closest point, Ewing said. The rear wings are also set higher than the front wings to help minimize the effect from the front wing and rotor, he added.
The overall length of the fuselage is set by a desire to keep a minimum of 36 inches of separation between the front to rear rotors, Ewing said.

On the baseline QTR, the proprotor has a 50-foot diameter compared to 38 feet on the V-22.

The baseline version also has an aerial refueling probe. The probe is fully retractable, Ewing noted. "We saved a couple of square feet in drag by making it retractable."

Fuel will be stored in both the forward and rear wings. However, the front wing fuel tanks will be filled first and then the rear tanks to balance out the aircraft. Ewing said.

The QTR also is being designed with an interconnect drive system. That will provide the ability to power one proprotor from any engine. Ewing said the system will add a bit more weight, but the capability it brings is worth it.

"If, for some reason, you had two engines inoperative on a single wing, you could pull one entire engine's worth of power [from] your operating wing," he said.

The size of the proprotors also drives the length of the cargo bay, he added. "We did not constrain ourselves in terms of the amount of cargo floor we put in. We used as much as possible. The JHL minimum requires 600 inches. The QTR baseline has 747 inches. It's a much more useful cargo box.

"Because we exceed that JHL requirement by 25 percent, we can get eight 463L pallets on the floor and an additional one on the [cargo] ramp," he said.

If Bell-Boeing limited the fuselage to 600 inches, Ewing said, the QTR would have then been limited to carrying only six 463L pallets.

The QTR can also carry up to 110 paratroopers and their equipment, but that is without a comfort station. Adding a comfort station would require removing six seats, Ewing noted.

The aircraft can also carry 150 passengers, he added.

One of the excursion designs calls for a larger QTR, what Ewing referred to as the "Big Boy." The floor width is expanded by 22 inches taking up to a total of 157 inches. The fuselage length is also increased from 747 inches to 815 inches to enable the QTR to carry one additional 463L pallet, he added.

The larger QTR is capable of carrying an armored Stryker vehicle or notional Future Combat System (FCS) vehicles with Non-Line-of-Sight Cannons, Ewing said. "Anything that normally doesn't fit into a C-130."

The "Big Boy" configuration adds another five feet to proprotors, taking them up to 55 feet in diameter, the largest Bell makes, Ewing noted.

While there is a requirement for a shipboard capable aircraft, there are challenges with that, Ewing said.

"It is still in the works. We have two concepts right now," Ewing said.

Once Bell-Boeing finishes the rest of the excursions, they will complete the sea base variant, he added.

"It will be a little problematic. We don't particularly care to fold this aircraft," Ewing explained.

The QTR does not have folding wings or rotors, he said. "It was not a requirement."

Even if Bell-Boeing designed the QTR rotors to fold, it still wouldn't fit on an aircraft carrier's elevators, Ewing said.

Bell-Boeing did a geometric layout of an aircraft carrier and both the LHD and LHA amphibious vessels. The study showed there was no gain by having the QTR live on board any of those ships, Ewing said.

One issue with the LHA is that because of the size of the QTR, the aircraft would not be able to taxi past the vessel's island, he added.

That limited the number of QTRs to two on a LHA. And Bell-Boeing recommended no more than three QTRs on a LHD, Ewing said.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First movies shot in 1080p heading for Blu-ray, HD DVD

From Tomshardware:
Hollywood (CA) - In time for the holiday shopping season, movies that were shot in high-definition format are heading for both next-generation DVD formats. The Da Vinci Code and Miami Vice will set the groundwork for a library of high-definition movies with a 1080p resolution (1920x1080 progressive).

On 14 November, Sony Pictures movie The Da Vinci Code will be released on DVD and Blu-ray. The Blu-ray format will take advantage of the fact that it was one of the first major movies to be shot entirely in 1080p. This means that, especially for those with 1080p HDTVs, the film's resolution will be optimal for the high-definition disc format.

While HD DVD and Blu-ray media offer a native 1080p resolution, all of the motives available today were not created in that resolution. However, since these movies weren't recorded in such a resolution, the up converting process makes educated guesses as to what would be in the additional pixels. With 1080p recording, every single pixel is recorded when the film is shot.

This transition is also happening with the other new high-definition format, HD DVD. Today, at Digital Life 2006 in New York, Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced that Miami Vice, the 2006 movies based on the 1970s TV show, which was also shot in true 1080p format, will be released on HD DVD on 5 December.

The movie will take advantage of one of HD DVD's unique features, which is the ability to have an HD DVD encoding on one side of the disc and a regular DVD on the other side. The HD DVD release of the movie will have the true 1080p format of the unrated version of the movie on the HD DVD side and the R-rated, standard definition resolution of the movie on the DVD side.

The transition to true, native 1080p movies is reminiscent of the transformation from analog to digital media. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when audio cassettes were being replaced by CDs, it took a while for the complete and total transfer from analog to digital recording and editing. Now that virtually everything is digital, there are still paradigm leaps to take, such as the conversion of standard definition to high-definition.

Video: Comedian Electrocuted on stage - good save

Water tunnel shows smooth water leads to smooth flying

Dye-colored water reveals flow patterns around a Boeing 757 model as Aerodynamicist Pat Hayes examines flow fields from outside a water tunnel in Huntington Beach, Calif. The 757 model is being used to calibrate water tunnel instruments because of the model’s large existing database of dynamic flight characteristics. Flow visualization in the water tunnel provides detailed observation of the flow around a wide variety of configurations. The process uses a number of techniques, including dye flow through ports in the model, hydrogen bubble generation from strategic locations on the model, or laser light sheet illumination. The free-stream flow and the flow field dynamics are low speed, allowing real-time visual assessment of the flow patterns. (Anthony Romero photo)

By Bob Howard

Water tunnels have been used in one form or another to explore fluid mechanics and aerodynamic phenomena since the days of Leonardo da Vinci. Only in recent years, however, have water tunnels been recognized as highly useful facilities for critical evaluation of complex flow fields on modern vehicles, such as high-performance aircraft.

The water tunnel in Huntington Beach, Calif., is a one-of-a-kind test facility at Boeing. With movement like the slow, slow waters of a deep river, the tunnel produces a nearly perfect, undisturbed flowing column of water by taking out all flow distortions, currents and eddies before sending it through the glass tunnel.

Measuring 10 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet high (3 meters by 0.9 meters by 1.2 meters), the tunnel has been newly outfitted with sophisticated software and a sensitive, mechanical apparatus that aeronautical designers call a “force and moment balance” -- a device that essentially resembles a stick, but with miniature instruments inside. The apparatus holds the model, points it into the water flow and moves it to any flight orientation desired -- even upside down. Its sensors continuously read and record dynamic data of the physical forces the vehicle experiences every moment of the simulated flight.

The tunnel is now completing calibration tests and coming on line to test the next generation of air transports, fighters and X- vehicles, providing engineers with quick, low-cost assessments early in the design process and help them build a database of dynamic measurements.

“We will be helping our customers achieve higher quality earlier in the design cycle,” said Aerodynamicist Pat Hayes. “A quick check of the design early on greatly reduces risk, because issues are discovered and solved sooner when they are easier and less costly to address.”

Water tunnels are highly useful for seeing and evaluating complex flow fields dominated by vortices and vortex interactions. The free-stream water flow patterns created by a model’s particular design are made visible using dye flowed out through ports in the model itself.

The water tunnel is usable with a minimum of training, and its location enables engineers supporting proprietary and classified work to use it as well.

With a rapid check of the design, and with the dynamic data produced from simulated flight, the airframe designers are able to bring in the next team months earlier with high confidence they are on the right track. Guidance navigation and control designers can come on board with assurance that an early design is at a mature point for them to start. And, of course, the sooner they can get in the game the better.

“What could cost six months in effort at a vendor -- not to mention a very expensive model -- can be handled in Huntington Beach in one week using the Stereo Lithography Labs to build the model and the water tunnel for dynamic data testing,” Hayes said.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iowa State University scientist named Iowa Inventor of the Year

Lead-free solder royalties surpass $10 million mark

AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association has named Iver Anderson, a senior metallurgist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and an Iowa State University adjunct professor of Materials Science and Engineering, as its 2006 Inventor of the Year.

The award is given to an Iowa inventor who has made the most outstanding contribution to Iowa through his or her invention. The award will be presented Friday, October 13, at a banquet in Des Moines. “I am honored to receive this award from such a highly qualified organization of intellectual property experts,” said Anderson. “All really good things take a very long time to achieve, and this award is no exception.”

Anderson developed a lead-free solder alloy consisting of tin, silver and copper that was patented in the United States in 1996 and 2001. Solder is the shiny metallic “glue” that holds electronic components on computer and other circuit boards and bonds other electrical connections. By some estimates, about 3,000 tons of electronic waste is discarded daily just in the United States, creating a huge threat to the environment. Responding to this same threat, on July 1 of this year the European Union began strictly limiting the amount of lead and other hazardous materials used in the circuitry of any electronic appliance sold.

The European directive, as well as a similar commercial initiative in Japan, has prompted a dramatic increase in interest in Anderson’s lead-free solder.

Licensed to over 50 companies worldwide, lead-free solder has generated royalties to date in excess of $10 million according to Ken Kirkland, executive director of the ISU Research Foundation, who nominated Anderson for the Iowa Inventor of the Year Award. “The commercial success of the lead-free solder developed at Iowa State University is a direct reflection of our world-class scientists. This can only enhance our reputation. I expect the use of these products in global markets to increase over the next few years.” said Kirkland.

In addition to its environmental advantages, Anderson’s lead-free solder offers a lower melting temperature and greater strength than other lead-free solder alternatives. These properties are especially important in prolonged high-heat conditions, such as those found in computers and even cell phones. To combat brittleness caused by high-heat conditions, Anderson and his group have pursued additives to the tin-silver-copper formula, including iron, cobalt, silicon, titanium, chromium, manganese, nickel, zinc and germanium, which are covered primarily under the 2001 patent. Some of this work has been funded by ISURF. According to Anderson, cobalt and zinc appear to be the most attractive in terms of retained ductility and strength, and zinc also offers benefits in terms of solderability, ease of alloying and material cost. While the tin-silver-copper-zinc combination is covered under the original patent, additional testing will be needed to make the final selection.

“Iver Anderson’s work is a perfect example of the uniqueness a laboratory, such as the Ames Laboratory with its focus on materials research, can bring to bear on solving problems of national and international importance,” said Tom Barton, director of the Ames Laboratory. “I congratulate Iver for his important contribution to humankind.”

Anderson’s research initially was funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering Division. Ames Laboratory is operated for the Department of Energy by Iowa State University. The Lab conducts research into various areas of national concern, including energy resources, high-speed computer design, environmental cleanup and restoration, and the synthesis and study of new materials.

NEC makes dual Blu-ray HD-DVD chip

From The Inquirer:
By Nick Farrell: Wednesday 11 October 2006, 09:26

ELECTRONICS GIANT NEC has developed a chip that can play Blu-ray or HD-DVD formats.
If the chip is adopted, it could mean that the format wars between the two standards would be over, and people could start buying the next generation DVD machines.

Broadcom has had a similar go at making a dual-format chip, but that beast had both standards encoded within it.

According to ArsTechnica, the NEC chip is handles the drive's internal logic beyond media stream decoding. Plans seem to be to tie it to Ricoh's quadruple-mode laser optics that can handle both high-definition format disks.

Apparently DVD players that use the chip will be a bit more expensive than buying one player, but a hell of a lot cheaper than having to buy a Blu-ray and HD-DVD machine, not that anyone would do that.

Of course this is assuming that Sony backs down a bit and grants a few licences for dual mode boxes. So far there is little indication that the outfit is keen on doing that. More here. µ

AMD Unveils Barcelona Quad-Core Details

From Extremetech:
Processor architecture designs take years from initial conception to the first shipping CPU sliding out of the fab assembly. So it's clear that AMD's new CPU architecture has been in the works for some time. Whether that's a problem or not vis à vis the competition isn't yet known, since AMD isn't yet talking about performance details.

What is known is that Barcelona—as AMD has dubbed this first iteration—isn't so much a brand-new architecture as it is a highly refined, tweaked version of the existing AMD x86-64. Those tweaks are numerous and significant. It's probably fair to suggest that Barcelona is to the current Opterons as Intel's Core 2 is to the Pentium M—designed from the ground up, on a base of the old with a lot of new stuff rolled in.

The details of Barcelona discussed in this article were presented by Ben Sander, who led the performance modeling group for Barcelona. Sander's team cranked real-world application traces through iterations of the new processor—both simulated and real. Although he's uniquely positioned to discuss performance, Sander didn't really comment on performance yet. What he discussed instead were some of the enhancements built into Barcelona.

With these thoughts in mind, let's take a look at some of the shiny new features.

Speeding Up Floating Point

The first thing to realize is that Barcelona is the core of the next Opteron CPU, AMD's server and workstation product line. While it will also serve as the basis for AMD's next-generation desktop CPU, there will undoubtedly be some differences, though AMD isn't commenting on what those might be.

As such, the target markets for a quad-core Opteron are twofold:

High performance technical computing, including applications such as financial analysis, gas and oil exploration, and biological sciences.
Media encode and decode: HD-DVD authoring, video compression, and similar applications.

The key area of commonality between these two application spaces is high-performance floating-point processing. Software has been transitioning to SIMD-style floating point for the last decade, so AMD is substantially beefing up Barcelona's SSE unit, relative to previous Opterons. (SSE is actually an Intel term that stands for streaming SIMD enhancements.) Here's a list of the changes and enhancements.
In addition, SSE MOV instructions can be performed in the floating-point "store" pipe. Two SSE operations can be executed and one SSE move per cycle. There's also a capability now to support an unaligned load/execute mode, which can improve instruction packing and decoding efficiency.

These changes are fairly similar to what Intel has done with the Core 2 processor line, so it should be interesting to compare performance on SSE-heavy applications when the processor ships.

Something Old, Something New

Barcelona is not as radical a change to AMD's microarchitecture as Intel's Core was, relative to NetBurst. But the new quad-core CPU will offer substantial improvements to performance. Just how substantial the improvements will be isn't yet known.

AMD will be showing demos of Barcelona-based systems before the end of the year, with actual CPUs shipping by mid-2007. Until we can actually see a system in action, it's impossible to quantify performance. It will be faster than today's Opteron, to be sure. Will it be fast enough remain competitive? We'll have to see what both AMD and Intel will be offering next summer.

Desktop variants aren't scheduled to ship until the second half of 2007, giving Intel a solid 6 to 7 month lead to cement its reputation as the quad-core leader. AMD would argue that Kentsfield isn't a "true" quad-core, since the Intel processor is really two dual-core CPUs packaged together. But it's unclear whether consumers will really be concerned about the distinction.

Web-based word processing and spreadsheets From Google

From Cnet:
Google is diving further into the Web-based productivity-applications market by offering a new product that combines its online word-processing and spreadsheet programs.

The company launched on Wednesday a beta version of Google Docs & Spreadsheets. The free program lets people create, manage and share documents and spreadsheets on the Web.

The program enables people to collaborate online in real time, use a variety of file formats for importing and exporting, and publish documents and spreadsheets on a Web page or blog.

Google is not targeting the desktop productivity suite market place that Microsoft dominates with Office, despite speculation that it is, said Jonathan Rochelle, Google Docs & Spreadsheets product manager.

"It made sense to combine these products and people were asking for that," he said. "It doesn't change our strategy. This is complementary to desktop products...and lacks certain advanced features" of desktop products.

Starting with e-mail, Google has been launching Web-based services and software in a move seen by many as encroaching on Microsoft's turf. Microsoft has responded by revamping its business to focus on Web services under the Windows Live and Office Live monikers.

Google acquired the online word-processing application Writely in March and launched Google Spreadsheets in June. Google recently opened Writely up to the public.

Google also sells a product to corporations and organizations that they can offer their employees and members for free called Google Apps for Your Domain that ties together Web-based e-mail, calendar, chat and Web page publishing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Laser TV Technology: Plasma and LCD Killer?

Two companies blurted out some boisterous bluster today, saying they have laser TV technology that can smack down LCDs and plasma displays because their idea costs half the price, looks twice as good, is half the weight and thickness, and only uses a quarter of the electricity. Big talk.

Aussie company Arasor and its stateside partner from the Silicon Valley Novalux say their combination of a unique optoelectronic chip and a laser projection device will be available by Christmas, 2007 and placed inside TVs made by companies such as Mitsubishi and Samsung.

These are bold claims from this couple of companies, but don't expect everyone to be throwing away those brand-new LCDs and plasma displays just yet. A lot can happen between now and December, 2007.

Samsung Launches 10-Megapixel Camera Phone

Samsung today launched the SCH-B600 in the Korean market, world's first 10-megapixel mobile phone.

Samsung's 10-megapixel camera phone is 6 mm thinner and 10 g lighter than the 7-megapixel camera phone (SCH-V770) and sets itself apart from its previous megapixel camera phones by combining mobile TV capability in Satellite standard.

The B600 offers the same level of picture-taking sophistication that a 10-megapixel digital camera offers including functions such as 3x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. Also fitted with a LED autofocus feature which assists users to capture clear, crisp photos even in dark settings, the B600's LED autofocus automatically determines the distance and utilizes the appropriate focus setting for optimal photo shooting. The B600 also supports white balance, manual focus, continuous picture-taking, and interval picture-taking functions.

It also supports Bluetooth which enables users to send pictures wirelessly to other mobile phones, printers or to Bluetooth headsets.

The high-color reproduction TFT-LCD produces the highest possible display for its size. The photo-fine chromic LCD can reproduce 16 million colors, virtually any color found in nature, earning it the "True Color" appellation. Moving pictures can be recorded in QVGA resolution at 15-30 frames per second. Users can watch live TV in crisp picture through Satellite DMB function.

It also supports external memory (MMCmicro) in addition to its internal memory. The mobile phone supports a TV-out function where users can connect their phones to view still or motion pictures.

The B600 comes with a design reminiscent of a real digital camera. The front is designed as a bar-type mobile phone, while the back side is used as the digital camera.

Other advanced functions in the B600 include an MP3 player, business card reader, and 128 polyphonic sounds.

The price of B600 is around 900,000 won (about $900) in Korea.

Samsung SCH-B600 Specifications

- Standard: CDMA 2000 1X EVDO (800 MHz)
- Camera: 10-Megapixel Camera
- Display 2.2-inch 240 x 320 px 16 million color TFT LCD
- Features: Mobile TV (Satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting)
- Video Recording & Messaging (MPEG4 / H.264)
- MP3/ AAC / AAC+
- Dual Speaker / Anycall Band
- Bluetooth Technology / PictBridge / Voice Recognition
- Document Viewer / TV-output / BT Printing
- Memory: External memory (MMCmicro)

Teen Plays Videogame With Brain Signals

"A team of ECoG (ElectroCorticography) researchers from Washington University in St. Louis successfully wired a young man's brain up to a computer and began reading the neurological firings in his brain. After analyzing the action potentials created when a neuron fires, they were able to get two-dimensional control of a cursor. Taking the research one step further, they decided to connect an old Atari 2600 to the signal processing computer to see if the young man could control the videogame system."

Golen Years of Internet Video are over

By now, everyone knows that Google has bought Youtube. This is the end of the Golden Years of video on the internet.
I didn't think it would happen, but it did: Google has agreed to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The news comes after a cornucopia of press releases announcing Google and YouTube deals to distribute music videos from Universal, Sony, Warner Music, and CBS, paving the way for a relatively risk-free buyout from Google's perspective.
When Google bought Youtube they made deals with Universal, Sony, Warner Music, and CBS. That means that the copyright issues with video have been resolved. But what this means is the end of what was the great thing about Youtube. You can see clips from TV studios and watch music videos made by other people. But with Google going legit, all this will go away. Now we will see more Ads, more of the same stuff that is on TV and less of the focused/edited "meat and potatoes" content that can be found on the original Youtube which people went for in the first place. Now it will be the same "fluff" crap that is on TV.

Monday, October 09, 2006

First true hybrid manned/unmanned aircraft A/MH-6X helicopter takes to air

The newly designed A/MH-6X light-turbine helicopter has flown for the first time¸ marking a significant milestone in the continuing development of the versatile manned/unmanned military aircraft.

The newly designed A/MH-6X light-turbine helicopter has flown for the first time, marking a significant milestone in the continuing development of the versatile manned/unmanned military aircraft. The aircraft combines the proven performance of the A/MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) with the unmanned aerial vehicle technologies of the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F civil helicopter that has been in development since 2004.

“The A/MH-6X is the first true hybrid manned/unmanned aircraft, adding another mission capability to the combat-proven, multi-mission MELB helicopter,” said Dino Cerchie, Advanced Rotorcraft Systems Unmanned Little Bird program manager. “The A/MH-6X Little Bird offers exciting new possibilities for an already outstanding platform.”

The A/MH-6X lifted off Sept. 20 at the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems facility in Mesa, Ariz., and flew as a piloted aircraft for approximately 14 minutes before landing safely. Following the flight, Boeing test pilot Todd Brown reported, “The aircraft flew great. It is very responsive and delivers outstanding performance.”

Future testing will expand the manned and unmanned envelopes. Aircraft performance will be similar to the ULB Demonstrator with an additional 1,000 pounds of payload that can be used for increased range, endurance or mission hardware. Total payload for the ULB Demonstrator is greater than 2,400 pounds.

Boeing designed and developed the derivative helicopter for both military and civilian applications, including Homeland Defense. The helicopter’s external appearance and mechanical systems are similar to the operational A/MH-6M helicopter flown by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Boeing made the most significant modifications to the cockpit avionics and electrical systems. The A/MH-6X aircraft has a prototype “glass” cockpit that provides system redundancy and additional technologies in digital maps and data fusion. It also has many network-centric features like Ku-band communication, digital radios, Internet Protocol-addressable aircraft systems and on-board, high bandwidth data processing and storage.

“The unmanned hardware and capability developed in this program can be installed in any helicopter,” said Cerchie. “The A/MH-6X Little Bird aircraft provides exceptional performance, capability and reliability for manned or unmanned missions in a compact, highly transportable aircraft that can leverage many existing qualified aircraft systems.

“The demonstrator, which first flew just over two years ago, has logged nearly 500 manned and unmanned flight hours,” he added. “The first flight of this much more capable A/MH-6X was a logical extension of an outstanding developmental program. The team has made it look easy, but it has taken a lot of hard work by some very dedicated folks.”

Boeing is preparing the manned/unmanned aircraft variant for domestic and international markets. “The desire and need for an all-purpose compact workhorse is there, whether it’s manned or unmanned,” Cerchie added. “This aircraft is the low cost solution for urban or confined operational areas, where full mission capability and connectivity are required.”

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A 3D system for safer flights

Pilots learn to fly by looking out of the window, but what happens when the window is surrounded by fog or a sandstorm? They rely on computers to guide them, of course. But the navigation systems most pilots use today leave something to be desired.

Manufacturing giant Honeywell has developed a new safety system to show the pilot where the plane is in the sky when visibility is low and, more importantly, whether it's about to crash into anything. recently got to see the new system in action on a test flight in a private plane.
The black screen on the right shows the Remote Access Aviation System (RAAS) pilots currently use to fly in low-visibility conditions. It provides a 2D representation of the area surrounding the plane and, using a terrain database, alerts the pilot if the plane is too close to the ground or any obstacles. On the left is Honeywell's new 3D system, the Synthetic Vision System (SVS).

If the plane gets too close to the ground, or an obstacle appears, the landscape turns red, signaling imminent danger. This is akin to RAAS, which uses red and an audio alert sound to signal danger. You can see a color representation of the old system in the lower right-hand corner of the image here. SVS is not designed to replace the existing 2D system but to assist pilots when flying in zero-visibility conditions.
The runway was clearly visible as the plane touched down--the SVS is shown here running on a PC for our trial flight, though ultimately it will be integrated into the plane's computer systems. After initial skepticism, pilots who have tested the SVS are embracing the new technology and questioning how they ever survived without it, a Honeywell engineer said.

Gulfstream is the first airline to adopt SVS, and the product will be installed on its newest G450 aircraft in 2007. Upcoming features include the ability to display other nearby aircraft on the screen to prevent midair collisions--but that will have to wait on a mandate from the aviation industry to install GPS on every plane.