Flight of fiction, now future prediction

July 1st, 2014 by Victoria Hollick in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration
Flight of fiction, now future prediction
Aerospace Ph.D candidate Ben Morrell


Aerospace Ph.D candidate Ben Morrell

Personal air vehicles (PAVs), lightweight four to five-seater aircraft that anyone with a driver's licence could fly are in the not too distant future according to a University of Sydney aeronautical student.

The prediction from Dana King comes ahead of the 75th anniversary celebration of aeronautical engineering on 4 July.

The 20-year-old student from Perth, studying a combined Bachelor of Engineering (Aeronautical) and Bachelor of Project Management (Civil Engineering Science), sees a future in the design and development of rotorcraftor rotary-wing aircraft where she can utilise her expertise in aerodynamics.

"When people think aerodynamics, they think only about the commercial airline industry. It's so much more than that. With my degree I can work on projects involving not just aircraft but also, (UAV's), helicopters.

"Aerodynamics is a secret weapon in almost every engineering field, "says Dana.

Dana sees the industry surging towards being more commercially available and playing a more prominent role in our transport system.

"From commercial space flights to PAV's, the push is there and the global desire for fast, cheap travel is a strong driver for our industry,"says Dana.

Professor Andy Dong, Warren Centre Chair for Engineering Innovation at the University agrees with Dana's predictions for the future of aviation.

"Our built environment will start to change to accommodate aerial transport of people and goods - your garage will not be on the ground floor, especially as Australians progress towards vertical living in high -rise apartment blocks," Professor Dong says.

The innovation professor also envisages that we'll have personal aerial assistants - aerial vehicle that can do things like walk our dogs, keep an eye out on the kids playing at the park, help disabled people to get around and deliver goods.

Aeronautical engineering Ph.D. candidate Ben Morrell, who is conducting research in control systems for autonomous robots aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This straight-A student predicts that UAVs will become more and more widespread, used in fields such as search and rescue, agriculture, environmental monitoring, cinematography and cargo delivery.

Ben's goal is to be part of a team that is pushing the boundaries of . His research is investigating the role of robotic spacecraft, 'spheres', and their ability to move autonomously around the ISS. The work has the potential to be applied to the maintenance of the ISS, deep space exploration and space mining. Ben says his research was inspired by the flying orbs in Star Wars.

"Space is the new frontier,"says Ben, who sees the galaxy opening up more and more to commercial entities such as Space X, Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic.

"Within maybe a decade we will see more missions to Mars and more human presence in space," says Ben.

"Space mining will eventually become a reality. This would be driven largely by autonomous systems such as the robotic spacecraft I am investigating," he says.

Ben also predicts there will be new and innovative uses for satellites, and greater satellite coverage of earth.

David Cox, aeronautical engineer and chief operation officer of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies agrees with Dana and Ben and says the has a promising future.

Here are their top ten predictions for the aviation industry

Provided by University of Sydney

"Flight of fiction, now future prediction." July 1st, 2014. http://phys.org/news/2014-07-flight-fiction-future.html