Thursday, March 28, 2013

Update on Commercial Airfreight

Laurinburg-Maxton Airport in Maxton, North Carolina
A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the Small Business Administration soliciting proposals for Innovation and Research.  I decided to pitch my idea for a Unmanned Commercial Airfreight.  I missed the deadline for the proposal but I wanted to share my results in hope of making a more intelligent pitch next year.

The objective of this proposal is to demonstrate the feasibility of unmanned airfreight.  We intend to deliver a software and firmware platform that will communicate remotely with a pilot from a ground control station to a multiengine cargo aircraft (previously mothballed.)  The purpose of this application is to fly transoceanic commercial airfreight.

This proposal seeks to manufacture open-source software to pilot autonomously multiengine cargo aircraft.   Thousands of multiengine cargo aircraft currently idle at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base and three other locations in Southern Arizona. 
 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base serves as a reserve Air Force in the event of a catastrophic loss of aircraft.   However, there are several aircraft boneyards across the United States many of them are in the southwest particularly Arizona.

(1) Kingman Airport, Kingman, Arizona was home to at one time 150,000 World War II surplus aircraft.  Aircraft can still be purchased there for as little as $ 350.
(2) Phoenix Goodyear Airport, Goodyear, Arizona served as a Naval Air Station before its closure in 1967.  According to John Weeks III, no aircraft remain.   
(3) Pinal Airpark, Marana, Arizona - during Vietnam, this was an old CIA base and home of the front corporation Air America.  Now it is home for the defunct Northwest Airlines aircraft.
(3) Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville, California, formerly George Air Force Base.  John Weeks III counts over 200 mothballed aircraft. 
(4) Mojave Air & Space Port, California: "Numerous large Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus aircraft owned by major airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service." 
(5) Roswell International Air Center, Roswell, New Mexico contains the remains of several large passenger and cargo jets, including at least two Boeing 747s and five Boeing 707s. 
(6) Abilene Regional Airport in Abilene, Texas is home to many retired Saab 340 aircraft, primarily from American Eagle Airlines. 
(7) Laurinburg-Maxton Airport in Maxton, North Carolina, home of various former Northwest Airlines aircraft being stripped for parts by Charlotte Aircraft Corporation.  Visitors to the airfield can see a number of 727s, DC-10s, and other aircraft in various stages of being dismantled and scrapped.
Southern California Logistics Airport courtesy of John Weeks III
I have revised my test aircraft from a C-130 to a Cessna 152 and a DC-9.   As my application is strictly for civilian use only.

The proposed solution will use Audrino.  Audrino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Audrino is intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. The Audrino language is based on C/C++.  The proposed solution will make autonomously multiengine cargo aircraft transoceanic flights possible.
I saw the what Unix, Java and Audrino were able to do for innovation.  I want to develop a platform by which all people can use.  The dawn of a new space age is unmanned aviation.  A drone is not just a death bird or a peeping tom but latest innovation in the further automation and computerization of every day life. Commercial air freight is the next logical step in that evolution.  And an open source platform to turn a piloted aircraft into a drone would be the next step in that evolution.

From BBC: RQ170 Stealth UAV shown by Iranian Military on national television
Open source infers free to all, open to change and limited regulation.  The attacks of 9/11 demonstrate the damages of weaponizing commercial aviation.  Further our experience in Iraq and elsewhere demonstrate that malefactors.  In December 4, 2011, the Iranian Cyber Unit captured a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel through the use of GPS spoofing.

At first, I thought the avionics would be re-wired through Audrino boards and controlled by software ArduPlane already accepted by most commercial unmanned engineers since 2005.  Normal radio transmissions will give the operator control over his device up to 20 to 30 miles, but getting across an ocean will take a satellite - a number of satellites.  But Arduplane is too weak to handle a full size airliner.  I would need a multi-core processor with an interface to flight data bus and auto pilot controls. Remote Wide bodied aircraft have been used in test and crash analysis for decades.
I have more updates to follow.  But I thought I would keep you informed of my progress.

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