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What’s Trending in Aerospace – September 20, 2020

By Staff Writer | September 20, 2020
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Check out the Sept. 20 edition of What's Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.

Commercial Aviation

Boeing's debut 737 MAX-7. (Boeing)

An 18-month investigation into the two fatal 737 MAX crashes involving Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air provided more insight into the design and certification process for the MAX. (Boeing)

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) published a 230-page report investigating the development, design and certification of the 737 MAX.

“This report concludes the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s 18- month long investigation of the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX aircraft, and related matters. The Committee’s investigation has revealed multiple missed opportunities that could have turned the trajectory of the MAX’s design and development toward a safer course due to flawed technical design criteria, faulty assumptions about pilot response times, and production pressures,” the report says.

Check out the full 737 MAX report on the committee’s website here.

Military

Raytheon Wins to Connect Military Aircraft to LEO Internet Under New Contract

Starlink visualization. (Mark Handley, University College London)

Raytheon Intelligence & Space has been awarded a $13.1 million contract for a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory program aimed at connecting military jets to emerging commercial satellite internet constellations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced the contract Sept. 10.

Under the contract, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, is developing a phased array antenna to allow communications with satellite internet constellations. The design is for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI), or “Global Lightning,” program. According to a Raytheon release on Tuesday, the new phased-array antenna will allow an aircraft to seamlessly jump between different satellites. The program calls for a flight demonstration in 2022.

Check out the full story as first published on Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics.

Air Traffic Management

North Dakota's Statewide UAS BVLOS Network Beginning Key Site Implementation 

The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) has begun the initial stages of implementing infrastructure for North Dakota’s statewide Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) network.

The key site chosen for initial deployment is in the area surrounding Watford City and Williston, ND, due to the proximity of many potential use cases and existing state and local government infrastructure that can be leveraged for this deployment.

“We’re excited to begin the first stage of building this network in western North Dakota. It is ideally located in the heart of North Dakota’s oil and gas industry and covers a population center that will directly benefit from the network,” said Nicholas Flom, executive director of NPUASTS. “This means that even the very first stage of the network will be commercially viable.”

Infrastructure for the network will be built by L3Harris, Collins Aerospace and Thales USA. Volansi's VOLY10 VTOL delivery drone, capable of carrying 10 lbs of cargo, has been selected for testing and use-case development.

Lockheed Martin Ventures Invests in Hidden Level

Lockheed Martin Ventures made a strategic investment in Hidden Level, a sensor and airspace management company that is working with Uber Elevate as part of the company's air taxi network development.

The investment amount was not disclosed, but is "part of a strategic investment leading into our Series A fundraising round which is kicking off now," according to a company representative. Hidden Level raised $3.6 million in seed funding in November 2019, according to Crunchbase.

“Growing infrastructure and evolving technology pose new challenges every day, such as spectrum access and radar congestion, to safely navigate our nation’s airspace system,” said Chris Moran, general manager and VP of Lockheed Martin Ventures. “Our investment in Hidden Level underscores our focus on mitigating airspace safety challenges. We are excited to add Hidden Level to our investment portfolio and look forward to working with their team and gaining access to their distributed sensor network that may offer a solution to address these escalating challenges.”

Hidden Level is working with a number of municipalities and metropolitan areas on the east and west coasts of the United States to propose integration of airspace monitoring solutions, the company told Avionics recently. Announcements are slated for later this year.

Autonomy and eVTOLs

Boeing Pauses Work at 'NeXT' Innovation Unit

Image: Aurora Flight Sciences

Facing numerous ongoing crises affecting its commercial business, Boeing is suspending work at Boeing NeXt, its innovation unit focused on next-generation air vehicles, including eVTOL air taxis.

NeXT, which contains Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, has been developing a Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) and Cargo Air Vehicle (CAV), both of which crashed during flight testing last summer.

Aurora will remain a subsidiary of Boeing for the rest of the year, according to Boeing spokesperson Alison Sheridan, as management assesses its options for the future of the company. Sheridan told eVTOL.com that Boeing’s continued investment in and participation with its joint ventures, investment companies and partners are “being evaluated and no decisions have been made yet."

Wisk, a joint venture with Larry Page-backed Kitty Hawk focused on bringing autonomous electric air taxis to market, told eVTOL.com the following: “Wisk is a healthy, independent company with a committed vision, mission and go-to-market plan. We are in a strong financial position with an exceptional team and we continue to execute on our current roadmap. As an investor, Boeing’s relationship with Wisk has not changed.”

Near Earth Autonomy Hires Alex Foessel as Senior Director of Market Strategy

Pittsburgh-based Near Earth Autonomy, a systems integrator of autonomous flight solutions for drone, urban air mobility and military aircraft, hired Alex Foessel as senior director of market strategy.

Foessel, formerly director of technology and innovation for John Deere, joins Near Earth as the company ramps up its partnerships with numerous companies working to develop autonomous aircraft, including electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. With extensive experience developing and commercializing automation and robotics solutions, Foessel will lead business and product strategy as Near Earth expands its technology across new industries and applications.

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