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    hybrid technology

    Technology for World’s First Electric Hybrid Aircraft Gets Funding From Boeing And JetBlue

    Technology / Backed by funding from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue’s technology venture arm, Zunum Aero has revealed its plans to create a hybrid electric aircraft designed for regional flights with plans to fly by 2020. The aircraft would have a range of around 700 miles at launch, and the plan is to get that up to over 1,000 miles by 2030, which means it could potentially service many popular commuter routes in the United States.

    hybrid technology

    The Zunum Aero plane is designed around the idea that by routing more traffic to regional hub airports, and providing much lower operating costs for smaller craft with between 10 and 50 seats that do short-haul trips, between locations like Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, air travel can become much more efficient and convenient for commuters. Zunum says that air travel between hubs as an alternative to slower options like overland rail and highways hasn’t really gotten any better in the last 50 years, but it hopes to change the economics with its electric drive technology.

    The use of electric drive system technology will help Zunum Aero achieve hard targets including a 40 percent decrease in the overall travel time between spots on busy commuter corridors, or by up to 80 percent on routes that have less traffic. Costs will be reduced by between 40 to 80 percent, too, which could accommodate a corresponding decline in fares. Even with the hybrid tech, the planes will result in 80 percent decreased emissions vs. purely gas-powered regional jets, with the ultimate aim of working on 100 percent battery power with zero emissions once battery density capability catches up.

    Finally, Zunum Aero promises a 75 percent drop in community noise, which could dramatically increase both the hours of operation for smaller regional airports, and the willingness of communities to allow the existence of hubs to begin with, and larger planes with higher seating capacity on existing routes.

    In addition to funding from Boeing and JetBlue, Zunum has a team that includes a leader from a previous NASA-backed project on developing electric drives for airliners, and a long-term partnership in place for research on electric systems power optimization with the University of Illinois. It’s also been in close contact with the FAA since 2014 to work on certification standards for electric aircraft, so it’s up to date on the regulatory environment, too, and is helping shape what that looks like.

    satellite

    Smaller Satellite Company Gives Boeing A Run For Their Money

    According to Wall Street Journal, Boeing is in the process of changing the way a satellite is constructed, with an eye toward automating a lot of the process. This will make it more simple to boost production while also developing overall efficiency. The efforts of the company reflect the basic transformation of the private space industry, driven by pressure put on incumbents by new entrants with a more nimble approach to getting the job done.

    satellite

    The rarefied atmosphere housed by private contractors has not been very crowded, and has proven a place for the companies that do exist to make a lot of money out of lucrative government contract that have large built-in margins. However, pressure from smaller players like SpaceX, which drastically undercuts Boeing on the cost of rocket launches, has meant the legacy operators need to rethink how they conduct business. Boeing’s satellite business lead Paul Rusnock told the Wall Street Journal that his company is now taking measures like putting 3D printing to use wherever possible, and sampling the designs of the satellites so they require fewer moving parts in order to minimize error rates and speed up production.

    Satellites have been especially dependent on specialized, one-off parts that cost a lot to produce. Use of more standard, cross-purpose and modular satellite components is driving new efficiencies in production. The Wall Street Journal also states that there is a lot that can be done with simulated testing, and self-check protocols run by satellite themselves that replace previous expensive efforts to achieve the same results. With upstart providers offering cost of construction for new satellites that run at roughly 1/100th the price of what Boeing has commonly charged, and production cycles that can design new ones in a small fraction of the time, it is a likely necessity more than anything else that has pushed Boeing to rethink how it approaches the industry.

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