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Comment: Re:Shocked he survived (Score 1) 327

by BostonPilot (#49489007) Attached to: Gyro-Copter Lands On West Lawn of US Capitol, Pilot Arrested

Actually gyrocopter rotors and helicopter rotors use exactly the same types of airfoils. The only difference is that a helicopter can use an engine to turn the rotor, while the gyrocopter uses the airflow through the rotor to turn it. Helicopters do exactly the same thing when we glide with the engine shut down/disconnected. There are many different designs, but generally speaking gyrocopter and helicopter rotors are identical except that helicopters may use an engine to power the rotor.

If you want to check out a couple links on my helicopter website that discuss this:

http://www.copters.com/helo_ae...
http://www.copters.com/aero/au...

Comment: Re:Shocked he survived (Score 1) 327

by BostonPilot (#49488893) Attached to: Gyro-Copter Lands On West Lawn of US Capitol, Pilot Arrested

Your blowing it out of proportion. The guy didn't endanger anyone.

So if that gyrocopter developed trouble on his approach, and veered 20 degrees to the left on its way down, which would have put him into a crowd of kids and tourists, no big deal?

Granted, only a few hundred people have died in gyro accidents since they became popular.

Actually I think you're the one blowing it out of proportion. The no fly zone isn't there to protect the kids and tourists, otherwise there would be no fly zones over every major city and populated area. It's there to prevent terrorist attacks which this guy took some reasonable (but not foolproof) steps to make sure nobody thought was what was going on. Yes, if he had aircraft problems he could have endangered people, but that's the case with every airliner flying into every major city. As a helicopter pilot with a couple hours in gyrocopters, I think it's pretty safe to say that he posed a very small and manageable risk to kids and tourists on his approach path.

My only problem with the stunt (I think it was pretty funny/cool mostly) is that the government will no doubt feel they need to further tighten security around D.C. in order to prevent future embarrassment. Luckily I'm in Boston with few requirements to ever fly in that airspace - in general I would avoid it like the plague but this will probably make it even worse.

Comment: Re:Reasons? (Score 1) 460

by BostonPilot (#49428203) Attached to: Planes Without Pilots

As a pilot, I would never fly an aircraft which has a remote capability to take control away from me.

Fair enough, why? What specific objective reason(s) causes you to oppose the idea completely? I'm not for or against the idea but I'd like to hear why it is a good or bad idea. I understand the issue of situational awareness by the remote operator could be an issue. What else?

Because when I'm the Pilot In Command it means exactly that: I'm in command, and I'll pay with my life for the mistakes I make. That won't be true of people on the ground. If you don't want me in command, don't put me in command in the first place. I again refer to United Airlines 232. Why did that crew save 2/3 of the passengers when subsequent attempts in the simulator by other crews failed 100% of the time? One reason was probably motivation. Their lives were on the line. As a passenger I much more likely to trust the crew who's lives on are the line, than some guy on the ground trying to second guess them.

Also, I very much doubt you can construct a safe system which allows you to take control away from the crew. How do you implement that in a way which can't take control erroneously, yet can't be disabled by a suicidal crew? I very much doubt it can be done.

To suddenly decide that we can't trust the crew despite the fantastic safety record aviation has is just ludicrous.

Agreed though that also doesn't mean we shouldn't analyze the situation thoroughly to see if anything can practically be done. I generally share your sentiment that the safety record of aviation is great but it got that way by carefully examining disasters to see if any improvements could be made. Maybe there is an opportunity of some sort here to introduce improvements.

I said that in the original posting - more screening and evaluation of crew is probably needed. And the USA rule of "never one person alone in the cockpit" should be adopted world wide. But trying to take command away from the crew while in flight will cause many more problems then it would ever solve.

Comment: Re:Technology can indeed fail (Score 4, Insightful) 460

by BostonPilot (#49421529) Attached to: Planes Without Pilots

As a pilot, I would never fly an aircraft which has a remote capability to take control away from me. As a passenger, I would never fly in an aircraft in which remote control could be taken away from the crew. I don't even think the "remote copilot" is a good idea. There are a lot of good reasons to fly with a crew of 2... it's not just workload and risk of incapacitation. When things get weird, it's good to have another person to bounce ideas off of. United Airlines Flight 232 is a great example of that, and there are plenty more.

This isn't the first time we've seen suicide by the crew, but it's extremely rare (I can think of maybe 5-6 in 40 years). It sucks to be the people in the back when that happens, but it also sucks when an airplane drops on your house and kills you and your family. I'm as worried about one than the other which is: not very. We can improve the situation some: better screening of crew, USA style "always two people in the cockpit" rules... To suddenly decide that we can't trust the crew despite the fantastic safety record aviation has is just ludicrous.

 

Comment: Re:Cut the vitriol, talk science (Score 1) 330

by BostonPilot (#49412319) Attached to: Inexpensive Electric Cars May Arrive Sooner Than You Think

Interesting calculations. I'm going to suggest that they may be weighted worst case for the EV though. I think it's very unlikely that you're going to see 100% of the fleet need battery replacement at 100,000 miles. What nobody knows for sure is what that number will actually be, but my gut tells me it'll probably be somewhere between 150,000 to 300,000 miles typically. But let's ignore that for a minute. The other assumption you used was 20K for the 85 kWh battery pack in the Tesla. But the Tesla is the luxury car of the EVs. I'd like to offer some other numbers (For my Honda Fit EV). Now, my car is a lease only, but I think the Leaf owners can comment that I think the Leaf will be pretty close. The Honda Fit EV has a 19 kWh battery. Let's assume for argument's sake that we prorate the cost of replacement based on the capacity, so $4470 @ 100,000 miles instead of $20,000. I'll still use the 100,000 mile figure even though I think it's way too conservative. I'm also going to work the calculations assuming $0.12/kWh which is what I pay. I've been seeing 100 miles in the summer and 50 miles in the winter, so I'll assume 75 miles from the 19 kWh battery, even though it's probably better than that (winter isn't 6 months, but we'll assume it is).

100,000 miles: electricity==$3040, battery replacement==$4470, total==$7510/100000 or $0.08/mile
150,000 miles: electricity==$4560, battery replacement==$4470, total==$9030/150000 or $0.06/mile

an ICE car assuming 30 mpg @ $3.00/gallon here in the US right now:
100,000 miles: gas==$10,000, oil changes==$1,000 regular 30/60/90 inspections==$1,000 total==$12000 or $0.12/mile

So, assuming the battery pack cost is proportional, a small EV like the Leaf or the Fit EV is cheaper to operate than the ICE car even assuming 100,000 mile battery pack replacement. But it's probably not even that bad, because as someone else pointed out, once EVs are popular there will almost certainly be shops that will replace bad cells in your pack for a nominal fee. If we assume that for half the cost of the battery pack we can get the car to make it to 250,000 miles (which I think it will probably make without pack servicing) then we see numbers more like:

250,000 miles: electricity==$7600, battery servicing==$2235, total==$9835/250000 or $0.04/mile.

I don't think that's overly optimistic, but it's certainly not pessimistic. I think the ICE numbers are overly optimistic - I don't think many ICE cars make 100,000 miles with only $2,000 of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, but even if we go with those numbers, a smaller EV is substantially cheaper to operate than a comparable ICE car. I also think that if you rework your numbers to compare the realistic cost of operating a BMW M5 versus the Tesla, it will be a lot closer than your numbers initially indicate. I'd actually expect the Tesla to be moderately cheaper than the BMW when you figure in all the maintenance costs on the M5...

The thing that still makes EV expensive is the initial cost. Right now the small EVs are probably carrying $10,000 to $15,000 extra cost over the ICE version of the car, so if you add that into the equation for the Fit EV it brings the price up to around $0.18/mile which IS more expensive than the ICE car. If we can see manufacturers get the initial price down to be more in line with the ICE cars, then I think the EV can easily be price competitive.

In closing, I'm glad you worked out some hard numbers instead of the regular hand waving that's so typical on Slashdot, but I hope you'll consider that your equations might have been a bit skewed and that the reality is that even with EVs being brand new on the road, the operating costs are more than competitive with ICE, and hopefully we'll see initial prices drop to make them overall competitive with ICE cars.

BTW, the Honda Fit EV is a great car and I'm sorry that Honda doesn't seem to want to compete in the EV market (hydrogen is dumb, I think). I'm anxiously waiting to see what the Tesla Model 3 ends up looking like: if it's competitive with the BMW 3 series for $45K or so, I'm planning on buying one.

Comment: Re:Electric not the answer (Score 4, Informative) 212

by BostonPilot (#49100267) Attached to: The Best, and Worst, Places To Drive Your Electric Car

Do your calculations include the cost of a replacement battery?

No, and this is not well understood yet. When I was a kid cars seldom lasted more than 60,000 miles. Now 200,000 is pretty common. So, a good question is what's the average life of a gasoline car, and how many battery swaps might you expect in an EV over the same mileage?

Another thing to consider is that many people believe the cost of replacement batteries will decrease substantially over time, so how long it takes you to put 100,000 or 200,000 miles on the car may substantially change what you end up paying to replace the battery pack.

According to Wikipedia:

The Fit EV employs Toshiba's SCiB batteries that can be recharged to 80% capacity in 15 minutes and can be recharged up to 4,000 times, more than 2.5 times that of other Li-ion batteries.

So, that could mean up to 400,000 miles if you believe them, but I'm skeptical of hitting numbers like that. But it might suggest that 150,000 to 200,000 miles on a battery pack is a reasonable expectation. Unfortunately, because my Fit is a compliance/lease-only car I'll never get to find out - I'll need to return it long before I can put enough miles on it to see the battery degrade. But I'll get back to you after I put a couple hundred thousand miles on my next EV ;-)

Comment: Re:Electric not the answer (Score 5, Informative) 212

by BostonPilot (#49099969) Attached to: The Best, and Worst, Places To Drive Your Electric Car

I think unless batteries get much better in capacity vs weight and someone can figure out how to recharge them a lot faster. We will never see EV's as a viable solution to the masses.

I have an EV (Honda Fit). I think that they're already useful for something like 3/4 of the population. Lots of parts to the equation. Right now they're better as the second car of a two or more car family, but they can be the only car depending on your driving pattern. They're great for someone who has a defined commute, as opposed to someone who drives to work and then drives around as part of their work. They're better when you have a garage or dedicated driveway, probably not so good right now if you have to park curbside. Right now some of them suffer pretty big range loss in cold weather (mine has about 50% range in the dead of winter compared to summer time and that definitely needs to be addressed, but I don't see why it can't be improved substantially).

Charge time is only an issue in rare circumstances; the problem is that people who don't drive an EV tend to think of recharging like going to the gas station; something you do when the tank runs low. That's not how most of us use the EV, though. Typically I use it on trips which I know I can make without recharging. (in warmer months I can drive 100 miles without recharge). The recharge happens at night, or between trips. A typical trip for me is to drive 50-60 miles and get home with 1/2 charge. I plug in to the dryer outlet in my garage and within 90 minutes it's full again. So, I may run some errands, go home and grab lunch, and by the time I'm done with lunch the car is fully charged again, ready for more errands. Or, if I commute to work I get home with 1/2 charge and again, within 90 minutes it's fully charged if I want to go out to dinner etc. Even if I use the full charge (which is very very rare) I typically recharge overnight so by the time I wake up in the morning it's ready to go. My point is that with a few exceptions you don't notice the charge time because it charges while you're doing something else. This means that I almost never have to wait for the car to charge. That said, if I had to do a road trip I could see myself doing it if I had to spend 20 minutes recharging every 200 miles. I'm sure high speed charging will improve, and by the time we hit 10-15 minutes to recharge after 200 miles of driving I think we hit diminishing returns, i.e. it'll be short enough I won't care whether they make it any faster or not.

Similarly, many non-EV people worry about the number of charging stations. Again, my typical use is that I don't have to use a charging station because I plan my trips so that I can make the full trip without recharging, but as an example if I need to drive into Boston (35 miles) I can make it there and back without a recharge, but if I also need to do another stop that's going to require more than another 20 miles of driving, then I'll plan to park in Boston at a charging station. If I've used 35 miles of charge, it only takes 20 minutes to fully recharge, so unless I'm running an especially short errand in Boston the car will be fully charged by the time I get back to it. One way to measure what percentage of my trips are EV friendly is to look at when I use the EV versus the gas car. During the summer, I find I use the gas car about once a month. That's about how often I have a trip to make that the EV doesn't have the range for. My next EV will have at least 200 miles of range and at that point I expect only 1 or 2 trips a YEAR won't fit the profile (and I'll just rent a car for those 2 trips).

All the calculations I've done show that my direct operating costs (i.e. cost to "fill the tank") is about 1/5th of what it costs when I drive a gasoline car. I also save on maintenance - there are no scheduled oil changes or tuneups... just a tire rotation that the dealership did for free. So, it's actually costing me quite a bit less than 1/5th of operating my gasoline car (Subaru Imprezza STi). Right now EVs cost a premium so I wouldn't call them a car for the masses, but as soon as the purchase price is in line with gasoline cars I DO expect them to be a car for the masses. It's hard to argue with the economics for the average person - if you can spend 1/5th the money operating a car, why wouldn't you want to?

Meanwhile I expect battery technology to move forward quickly. As an idea of how much research is being done into battery technology just compare the number of articles in the press today versus 10 years ago. I think that Tesla nailed the perfect range, or even went a little beyond. I predict that the EVs will settle somewhere around 200 miles of range, and beyond that manufacturers will use newer battery technology to reduce weight and increase available storage space.

I realize that I may not exactly fit your model of the "masses", but I'm far from rich, I believe my driving habits are very typical of the population, and the EV works very well for me. I enjoy driving it (even though I'm a sports car kind of guy, and the Fit is definitely not a sports car, but it IS fun to drive). I'm convinced that I will never buy another non-EV in my lifetime.

Comment: Re:Are they really that scared? (Score 1) 461

by BostonPilot (#48537577) Attached to: Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies

If electric cars become a reality, they will need to produce and distribute a lot more electricity to generate the energy currently generated by ICEs in the cars.

Keep in mind that ICE's are at best about 1/3 efficient with the fuel they burn while electric cars are around 90% or better with the electricity they use.

This is an important point. My electric car typically consumes 10kWh per day in the summer for a 50 mile commute. That's equivalent to leaving 4 100 watt lightbulbs on 24 hours a day. Not insignificant, but not huge from the electric company's standpoint. When my daughter uses the car all day just to get around town, she typically uses about 0.4kWh, or the equivalent of leaving a refrigerator light on all day.

Electric cars are very efficient.

I haven't measured it, but I probably use a lot more electricity running the electric dryer than the car (teenage daughters, don'tcha know?).

Comment: Re:Airspace (Score 2) 199

I don't think he's saying the airspace should be reserved for him, I think most of us think that those of us who fly deserve some regulations to prevent us from being killed because some idiot realtor caused a drone to strike our aircraft. I haven't heard anyone here say drones shouldn't be allowed. What we want is to be able to share the airspace safely.

Currently, a drone operator who causes a manned aircraft to crash has little fear for their own personal safety. They may have some liabilities (civil or even criminal) but they probably won't lose their life. I'd certainly like some regulations so that I'm not risking my life due to drone strikes every time I go flying.

Comment: Re:Not a rule (Score 1) 199

You forgot to quote paragraph d:

(d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

We frequently operate at 500 feet and below - it's one of the things that makes a helicopter useful. It's going to be a real issue when we start sharing the airspace with drones. Birds are already enough of an issue, but birds large enough to take down the helicopter are generally visible at the speeds we fly close to the ground. A maneuvering quadropter on the other hand is probably close to invisible to us - it's hard enough to see flying objects below the horizon, but one that can maneuver aggressively such as a model helicopter or quadropter is almost impossible to see and avoid. Usually we see RC Fields well before we see the RC Aircraft - the fields tend to look a certain way so when we see such a field we generally keep clear or at least are much more vigilant (and would be reluctant to go below 500 feet if we though an RC aircraft was being operated).

Anyway, there are lots of operations that legitimately take us below the altitudes specified in paragraph b & c.

Comment: Re:Not a rule - Not just the FAA (Score 1) 199

I'd like to second this. If I go out flying I'm likely to see one or two fields where people are flying RC aircraft. Not too hard to avoid. (and they have maximum altitudes the keep them below most manned aircraft). When uses for commercial drones are found, it's likely to suddenly flood the national airspace with a huge number of drones, and at that point we're going to need to have safety regulations already in place. If anything, I think FAA has been a little slow to enact drone regulations. I hope they hurry up, but also make balanced regulations that protects the flying public (and public on the ground) but also does not hinder the development of what will certainly be a huge and useful capability - I'm thinking autonomous drones here......

Comment: Re:Dear Fed (Score 1) 199

The reason FAA has the concept of commercial operating certificates is so that:

a) it can make sure those operators are following regulations enacted for safety reasons.
b) It can revoke the certificates of operators who for one reason or another violate those regulations.

The FAA has very little authority over an entity (person/corporation) who operates without a license or operating certificate. (I think it can levy fines against individuals but I'm not sure where their authority stops in that sense. I don't believe the FAA can act in a law enforcement capability, so it's not clear to me at what point a person can be arrested for violating FAA regulations).

By licensing drones, the FAA can enact rules to prevent them from endangering manned aircraft. For instance, if something akin to a type certificate is required by drones because FAA finds that certain equipment (like ADS-B) is required to insure separation from manned aircraft, how would they enforce that? Probably the way they will is by having certain equipment requirements for drones that want to operate in the national airspace.

Hopefully they will use a layered approach so that very small light drones will have little to no equipment requirements, but may have severe altitude restrictions, while larger/heavier drones, or drones that need to be operated at higher altitudes will have equipment requirements to keep them separated from manned aircraft.

We also have the issue of parts falling out of the air onto the public. In general this isn't an issue for manned aircraft, because usually when big pieces fall off the aircraft, the people on board are killed - it gives the crew plenty of incentive to make sure this doesn't happen. But what's to prevent an SLR carrying drone from falling out of the sky and killing people walking down the sidewalk? Since there's probably little to no risk on the part of the drone operator, we need a way to enforce some rules about how drones can be operated above people...

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