Looking Forward to AIAA SciTech Forum

In a few days, I’ll be in Florida at the AIAA SciTech Forum, along with some of our technology experts. This is the place where you can get an inside look at how much innovation is going on in the aerospace industry today. At ANSYS, we are constantly expanding our simulation platform capabilities through internal development and integration, acquisitions and partnership. Let me highlight just a tiny part of what happened in 2017 and what you can “touch” at our booth at SciTech.

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Investigating Placement of Antennas Inside an Aircraft Fuselage

You may be surprised to learn that a standard passenger jet can have 30 to 50 antennas protruding from the aircraft’s external surface, producing drag forces that can drastically reduce fuel efficiency at a time when airlines are trying to reduce energy consumption. Most antenna designs are engineered for safety purposes, such as air traffic control, traffic collision avoidance, instrument landing systems and distance measuring equipment. Increasingly, antennas are being added to meet passenger demand for more and faster Wi-Fi access, in-flight TV and cellphone applications.

aircraft antennas

Antennas are mounted on the exterior of today’s airliners

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Enhancing the Accuracy of Full-body Scanners for Improved Airport Security

If you’ve traveled by plane in recent years, you know the airport security drill: Put all your possessions through the X-ray detector, empty your pockets and step into one of the full-body scanners — or millimeter-wave holographic scanner, to use its official name. After you raise your hands above your head, the scanner sends out millimeter waves (mm-waves) that penetrate your clothing and bounce off your skin — or any other object you might be trying to conceal under your clothing, like a weapon of some sort. (The mm-wave radiation is 10,000 times less powerful than a single cellphone call, so you need not be concerned about any health effects.) An antenna array in the sweeping scanner device detects the reflected mm-waves and reconstructs an image of your body.

Airport mm-wave scanner

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This Is No Simulation: Achieving Zero-G on Earth

I wasn’t expecting my dad to start speaking — especially while were we watching television. Let’s face it: some things are sacrosanct. So, when he started talking during the opening credits of the 1985 miniseries “Space,” I listened.

“All my life,” he said, “I’ve wanted to go in to space. But, I know that that that’s not going to ever happen. Maybe you’ll have the opportunity.”

Fourteen-year-old me had little doubt that I’d explore space, just like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker. I would, in fact, be the first person on Mars. No doubt about it. Oddly enough, my journalism degree wasn’t exactly the ticket to space. So, like most of us, my feet never left the ground.

Fast forward to last November, when one of our ANSYS employees entered a contest and won a seat on Zero Gravity Corp’s G-Force One. This company, the brainchild of X-Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, sends everyday people on zero-G flights, similar to the ones NASA used uses for astronaut training. As luck would have it, the opportunity to fly with Peter and G-Force One fell to me. Continue reading

What We Can Learn from the Wright Brothers on National Aviation Day

Tomorrow is Orville Wright’s birthday and we celebrate National Aviation Day and the incredible progress made in aviation in just over 100 years. It was December 1903 when Orville became the first pilot of an engine powered aircraft, staying aloft for 12 seconds and covering a distance of 120 ft. at 20 ft AGL. Five years later he was able to stay aloft for an entire hour, reaching an altitude of 350 ft.

Indeed, the Wright brothers are a great example for all those who want to innovate. Many pioneers lost their lives or were badly injured in their attempt to demonstrate their ideas, test new concepts and to tame phenomena they were still not able, sometimes very far, to understand and master. Continue reading

The Engineering Behind Why It’s Too Hot to Fly

I’ve read a lot of articles talking about an interesting fact: this summer was so hot that in some cities like Phoenix aircraft could not fly. If you are an engineer or a pilot, it should not be a surprise that in hot weather an aircraft’s performance can deteriorate until the point it is unsafe to attempt take off. But maybe you have not considered all the possible causes of why it’s too hot to fly. I will try to explain things in a very basic and simplified way, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with these phenomena.

American Airlines canceled dozens of flights out of Phoenix on June 19 due to extreme heat. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Why Startups and New Players are Driving Innovation in the Space 2.0 Arena

With a clear mission in mind, huge government funding and thousands of talented scientists, the early pioneers of space exploration were disrupting innovators, able to achieve what many thought impossible. Then organizations grew in size, and projects and goals multiplied while public funding was often in doubt. Despite other significant success, this led to a slowdown in the innovation pace. Now, another wave of innovators has come: Space 2.0 players.

With no history, no legacy of tools and processes and no constraints in workflow design, they were able in a few years to attract huge private funds and challenge the leadership of the big established players.

Both the old players and the newcomers rely on simulation, but I see a big difference in the results they get in terms of efficiency, costs and innovation pace. The secret is in how they implement it. Continue reading

Lightening the Load with Composites and Digital Prototyping

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are doing everything they can to lower their costs, including lightweighting every component possible, which can improve fuel efficiency. The industry spends more than a hundred billion dollars on fuel every year. While the price of oil is relatively low today, manufacturers and airlines must look ahead to the more than 25-year life span of the average airplane, assuming someday prices will rise again. Cost is a major driver, but the industry is also committed to reducing emissions during flight, and reducing fuel burn from the engine helps achieve this goal. Lightweighting, then, is one of the most important trends in the aerospace industry, and using composites, that can offer the required strength but at lower weight than metals, in manufacturing is a key strategy.

aircraft cargo area

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The Next Generation of Aircraft is Different from Anything You’ve Seen Before

A few weeks ago I got a very close look at a F-35, and was able to talk a bit with one of the test pilots. “This is not an aircraft,” he told me. It’s more a kind of spaceship.” I believe he is right. This is not an aircraft, at least not the kind of aircraft we are used to.

Two generations, face to face

Courtesy G.P. Torriani

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Hang Gliding Takes Quantum Leap with Simulation

hang gliding simulation side viewSince its creation, hang gliding has progressed solely — and often painfully — through experimentation. But engineering simulation is starting to change that.

The German inventor and flight pioneer Otto Lilienthal made over 2,000 flights as long as 820 feet in gliders he designed and flew in the 1890s. He died in 1896 from injuries sustained in a glider crash, but his well-documented accounts of theories and experiences with flight influenced many of the early aviation pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. Continue reading