04 March 2007

IAI: two out of three - way to go!

JP reports on three projects going on in Israeli Air Industries:

A solar powered spy plane, Sun Sailor that could, at least theoretically, stay in the air indefinitely and weighs 4 kg, which is already sufficient to carry a digital camera for military surveillance missions. The article does not make clear whether the plane will have to return back to base to offload the pictures or, instead, this "digital camera" is in reality a videocam with uplink to the base. But it is Yaakov Katz of JP, remember? So this detail will be missing for now.

Judging by this picture, this high tech gear requires a well-muscled low-tech assistance with take off, but some exercise will do a lot of good to the IAF pukes.

The next project is dealing with Enfica-FC - Environmentally Friendly Inter-City Aircraft powered by Fuel Cells.

The first flight test will be held in a year and a half; IAI has put up €700,000 of the project's €4.2 million cost. The 10-seater aircraft's fuel cells will reduce noise and damage to the environment.

Being transported by a plane propelled by electric engines instead of whining turbojets or revving combustion engines sounds heavenly to me.

The third project, however, is kinda... Well, it stinks to me.
Innovative Future Air Transport System, an unmanned cargo plane with a 30-meter wingspan that can transplant up to 30 tons. The technology already exists to build unmanned passenger jets, but "the world is not yet ready to be flown without a pilot at the stick," Tsach says. "A psychological obstacle needs to be overcome before people are willing to fly in unmanned planes," adds Tsach, a world-renowned expert on UAVs.
First of all, there is a bit of a contradiction between the article that is being quoted and the IAI site that says loud and clear:
UNMANNED PASSENGER AIRCRAFT- IAI is taking part in a European consortium program under the auspices of the European R&D Commission. The goal of the program is to enhance flight safety by using autonomous flight technology and to lower manpower costs.
So, as usual, our intrepid military expert of JP, was a bit hasty (well, he had to have his "The aircraft, revealed in The Jerusalem Post for the first time, are:..." scoop). In any case, being transported in an aluminium tube (very thin at that) at an insane speed and height, driven by a computer, most probably powered by a Windows (Vista, argh...) is a bit of a problem for me. I don't mind the computer as such: they make less mistakes than humans in general, and after a hundred or so of initial system crashes (no pun intended... er...) when the kinks in the system are ironed out, I wouldn't mind trying it out. However, the thought that there is no man/woman in the cockpit whose interest is that the coffee is not spilled on his/her trousers/skirt because of excessive turbulence, makes me queasy somewhat...

But all in all, more power to IAI!