Reaching New Heights: Advances in Aviation Technology

by Modis on August 17, 2017

aviation technology in actionIf you count kite flying, then the history of aviation is more than 2,000 years old. Hot air balloons arrived in the 18th century and then came gliders, which were the precursor to the “heavier than air” craft that we fly around in today.

Since the first short-powered flights in the early 20th century, the changes in aviation technology have been plenty and groundbreaking. Today there are stealth planes and drones, which have both been created through advanced engineering. There is also a revival of the airship, which has been redesigned for the 21st century to provide air access to places that are difficult to reach by plane.

Stealth Planes

A stealth plane is one that can evade detection by radars. The first experiments in stealth aircraft were carried out during WWI, but the modern version is based on research during the 1970s by a mathematician working for Lockheed Aircraft, Denys Overholser, who developed a computer program called Echo 1. This program enabled the prediction of radar signals coming from aircraft made with flat panels.

Today’s stealth planes have advanced that initial idea and use computer algorithms to deflect radar away from them so that tracking systems can’t detect them. This video is a great overview of the physics behind it all that makes it work.

Aerial Drones

Drones have have become very popular with consumers who mainly use them for aerial photography and video. The latest drones to hit the consumer market were showcased at CES 2017 earlier this year.

But what’s the engineering and aviation technology that powers them?

This article, How Do Drones Work And What Is Drone Technology, goes into great detail, but in short they are super lightweight unmanned aircraft that are controlled remotely. They feature radar positioning technology as well as a return home trigger that activates if the drone goes out of remote control range: the drone turns around and goes back to the spot it took off from.

This section of the aviation industry is changing rapidly and new advances are coming so often that what seems innovative today is often obsolete within a year or so.

Modern Airships

A California company, Aeros, has been transforming the airship for the modern world. They have designed a new concept called the Sky Dragon, which can land and take off like a helicopter does. This makes it a great solution for providing aid in times of war or after natural disasters have shut down infrastructure.

How has the Sky Dragon advanced from its ancestors over the past 100 years? The biggest difference is that his variable buoyancy through the innovative COSH (control of static heaviness) system designed by Aeros. This enables the Sky Dragon to operate as a lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle while also becoming heavier on demand, which allows it to hover.

Here it is in action:

When you consider the scope of the advances we’ve seen in the past 100 years, it will be interesting to see what the aviation sector comes up with over the next decade as the pace of technology innovation continues to accelerate.

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