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« Afghanistan out of eyeshot | Main | Singularity Signposts – Telemedicine on the slow track »

07 February 2012

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Robert White

George: You have made a valuable expansion beyond the novelty interest in this technology.

Douglas Keachie

Don't know at what range these can be controlled, but you could have them do the equivalent of sky writing nasty things about the Taliban and cause them to give away their positions and waste ammunition. I would assume a full sized drone safely up a couple of thousand feet could really get their ground forces in a tiszz. One problem, many Taliban can't read, so you'd have to arrange them to appear to be Allah with a bomb turban, or some such thing.

Douglas Keachie

The much higher drone would be controlling the critters and monitoring ground activites resulting from their passage.

Douglas Keachie

Hell George, we were taught how to deal with such things back in the cold war during the 1950's. If you see them coming, follow the instructions here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqXu-5jw60

Scott Obermuller

Actually, this is old news. I remember at picnic day in Davis back in the late 60's that Dr Mollor was already displaying the same concept with a crude example that looked like a flying saucer with about 8 or so chain saw motors driving individual fans that would raise and fly the craft such as the ones in the video. He explained that in the future, computer control of the propulsion would enable it to be highly maneuverable. He went on to patent and produce a highly profitable motorcycle (and later) automotive exhaust muffling system that funded his research. Later models were controlled by computer and offer the very type of transport that this video promises. He has a good grasp of the primary problem. The power unit(s) needed to provide the thrust. He always knew the digital control issue would arrive via a lot of very clever folks, but the physics of the propulsion system would dictate a very advanced power unit. Obviously he is working towards a transport system - drones and the like can be much lighter and are operational now.
http://www.moller.com/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MwxVAZuFOs

George Rebane

ScottO 702pm - multi-rotor helicopters are old news, but this is not what this post is about. Here we are talking about minituarization, and most importantly, the solution to the control problem that not only permits complex individual kinematics, but the co-ordinated precise control of entire fleets.

I have tracked Moller's progress for almost twenty years, and frankly he hasn't made much beyond a careful tethered flight under a crane. The 'Moller Aircar' never got off the ground, the control problem was apparently too much for him to solve. The problem now for bigger vehicles is to get high thrust-to-weight engines that sip instead of guzzle fuel.

Scott Obermuller

I was always impressed by the fact that he predicted the control of multiple aircraft in tight quarters by synchronized computer control, just as this recent video shows. There are many facets of this video that Dr Mollor correctly predicted a decade or more ago. He could have retired a wealthy man years ago, yet has poured all of his money into a singular vision. These craft in the video are all wonderful, but Dr Mollor had detailed all of this and tackled the harder problem. As you state, the problem for payload bearing craft is the motive power. Dr Mollor worked on this harder problem head on for decades and let the simpler problems be solved by lessor technicians. He has only failed in making money, but he was spot on in his ability to acknowledge the biggest problem. This was one of the reasons the Wright Bros made it off the ground. They designed their own motor to their own needs. Lyman Gilmore was a failure in flight, but correctly understood much of what lay ahead in modern aviation. Both were needed in the development of modern flight. The folks shown in this video all stand on the shoulders of Dr Mollor. He did his part and they have done theirs. The solution of the problems of control are now at hand. But when these solvers were little kids, Dr Mollor was showing the world what was possible and what was to be solved. A careful review of Dr Mollor's work shows that he worked on much more than multi-rotored helicopters. He in fact worked towards the exact problem of what you stated. "Of course, such craft can also be flown in tightly packed airways under the control of traffic control computers which take over from operator when the craft approaches such an airway." This is nearly verbatim of what Dr Mollor was working on 20 years ago. Visionaries don't always succeed in their quest, but inspire the ones that come later who do succeed. I was raised in a world where a flight to the moon was laid out by Dr Willy Ley. When I was 18, that vision was realised. Dr Ley had no idea of the many technological challenges that had to be met in the actualising of his drawings and concepts. But many NASA scientists who worked on the program have cited Dr Ley as their inspiration and acknowledge him as one who was prescient in some of the technological problems that needed to be solved. He was ahead of them, even if he could never actually catch up. The exact concept of the self guided transport mentioned above is in fact, old news. What you wrote was just about an exact quote from Dr Mollor 20 years ago. He has never actually commercially produced such a craft but then again, neither has anyone else.

Douglas Keachie

I've been hoping this group would find funding for years now. The commute anywhere would be great.

http://www.airscooter.com/pages/airscooter_main.htm

Robert White

What I draw as salient from this demonstration is what it indicates our military probably has use of which is functional and commissioned.

Not to mention what other entities may also control.

George Rebane

For the record, the thrusters sufficient to power the Moller AirCar for local commutes have been available for over twenty years. What kept the vehicle from proceeding to market was Moller's inability to develop the needed control system to have the FAA certify it safe for flight (let alone anyone on his team to have the courage to test fly it). In such vehicles, which are intrinsically (dynamically) unstable, it is always the control system that is the rocket science required to make it work. That task is never left to "lesser technicians". Control is simply the crux of the matter; with it you can fly a barn door or an F-117. Without it you have the kinematics of a blown up and released toy balloon. Had Moller been able to fly the his aerocar even a half mile under full control, money to develop more efficient thrusters would have poured in from the investment community (I know, I was one of those waiting to invest).

With some decades in control engineering (and as a registered control systems engineer in California Lic#1970), I make this statement with some background in what I'm talking about.

Douglas Keachie

Another improvement to LED lighting gets major funding.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/08/BU7M1N48S9.DTL

Unlike solar panels which will ALWAYS cost what they do today, and their output will never improve, LED 's follow the path of science. [Sarcasm Indicator for the sarcasm handicapped]

Scott Obermuller

Yep - the power has been there, but there is the cost, fuel consumption and emissions to take into consideration. Private aircraft so far are pretty much exempt from that last one. The kind of craft we're talking about (mass produced transportation devices) would come under CARB rules I'm afraid. I don't mean to make light of any ones' accomplishments, those videos are impressive. The scary part is this bit of news. Can't say we didn't see it coming. I'm afraid the multi-rotored craft you are most likely to see above your yard won't be your neighbor commuting to work.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/7/coming-to-a-sky-near-you/

Douglas Keachie

Fortunately, I have a shotgun and enough acreage to use it. Good target practice!

Otherwise, lasers might do interesting things to their optical systems.

Douglas Keachie

You could also string bird netting above your house. Finders keepers.

Douglas Keachie

Passive system, a zillion one inch mirrors all over your roof, aimed to pickup up sun at different times of the day and season, and blast it outwards in a variety of directions. Yes I know. Some clever programmer will figure ou how to take the non damaged sensors and put it all together to get a composite image, but it will slow them down.

Gregory

George, to me, as a pilot and an engineer, the Moller Aircar screamed "run away as fast as you can" from the very beginning. It was clear just from the geometry that a single point of failure of either the control or propulsion would immediately result in a catastrophic loss of control and loss of life. Looked real cool, though. Like 300mph even if it would never have gotten close to the projected cruise speeds.

When the engine fails on a conventional fixed wing or rotary aircraft, you land. No big deal, except your choices of where to land are limited. The aircraft remains controllable until the landing is accomplished.

George Rebane

ScottO 1032am - Agreed, and that's exactly what I was posting about.

Gregory 1207pm - Very true, and that's why Moller couldn't even get anyone to lift it ten feet off the ground. The fault tree on that system looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Last I heard, he was working on redundant drive linkages to the ducted propellers. Have no idea whether the project is still alive.

Douglas Keachie

Reminds me of the flying syringe in "Dune."

George Rebane

Here come the nifty applications of UAV technology that will be enhanced by these little flying critters.
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/will-the-eu-use-drones-to-spy-and-enforce-regulations-on-farms-sure-looks-like-it/

Douglas Keachie

I wonder if, society breaks down around the planet, if 100 lbs of coffee will be worth more than one pound of gold?

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