Personal Electronc Devices (PEDs) on Aircraft

May 23rd, 2013

     We all usually have had to shutdown our electronics devices when flying. This is usually limited to takeoff and landing when instrumentation is key. Not to touch on the technical nature too much but radiofrequency (RF) signals are used in many aspects of flight and pilots use instrumentation that use these signals to operate the aircraft in a safe manner. The operator (airline) is in charge of allowing/denying Personal Electronics Device (PED) use [14 CFR 91.21] except cellphones which are prohibited [47 CFR 22.925]. Most airlines restrict PED use during takeoff and landing. Currently the FAA is looking at relaxing that regulation [FAA-2012-0752]. Prompting this could be any number of things: passenger complaints about not being able to use their devices or PED manufacturers that want their equipment used more etc.
     Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) is the study and regulation of both what is called susceptibility/immunity (how sensitive something is to electromagnetic interference) and interference (what a device produces electromagnetically). There are all kinds of standards like FCC (USA) CE (Europe), RTCA (Aircraft), MIL-STD-461 and many more. These standard set levels of electromagnetic interference that a device like a PED are allowed to put out and how much interference aircraft equipment can take before disrupting it’s operation. These standards are discussed and revisited constantly based on many criteria such as FAA incidents, new technologies, new aircraft type (i.e. the new Boeing 787 prompted a new standard because of the carbon composite fuselage) etc. And PEDs are not the only items which standards are addressed. For example, as a passenger, your plane may be hit by lighting. So there are tests and standards to see if equipment is susceptible to a lightning strike to a certain level. None of the testing ensures 100% safety but the standards attempt to address issues that can affect safety and changing technologies.
     The increased desire for passengers to use PEDs is one of those changing technologies. It is a difficult problem. There are some documented instances where PEDs cause issues on planes which jeopardizes the safety of the plane. But, you just do not know what harm they can cause and it is better to err on the side of safety. We can set equipment testing to a higher standard but some of the equipment uses frequencies and therefore there is really not much you can do about the susceptibility. One possibility is to require qualification of PEDs for airline use. That would be unpopular because it would increase the cost of the devices. Just taking the stance that PEDs should be allowed because of demand is not a valid approach, though. It should be investigated using scientific methodology. The FAA does a somewhat fair job trying to mediate demand with scientific principles. They take public comments, industry insights and more. The investigations will always continue as the types of wireless devices and pervasive use increase. Anything can happen, a device can break and operate abnormally, devices can interact with each other and much more that can jeopardize safety. Insurance should look at increasing the rates to airlines that allow PEDs to be used during takeoff and landing. You can even pass the cost off to the individual passenger that can not live for the ten minutes or so without their device.

Some other references

     A new look at gadgets on airplanes
     FAA-2012-0752 – Closed for Public Comment now

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer and President of Haynes-Bent, Inc.

Haynes-Bent, Inc. – Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation. We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

sales@haynesbent.com (630)845-3316

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Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify. May only link to the published page – Haynes-Bent, Inc & Ronald David Kollman

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CAFOs

chicken-egg-03
May 6th, 2013
CAFOs – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

     Among environmentalists it is a derogatory term.  There is probably some justification in the perception.  As an engineer and business owner, though, I like to find solutions to problems and not just complain about issues.  It mainly means a farm that keeps the animals close together for efficient operation.  One can feed them more easily and you do not have to chase them down to slaughter them.  If chickens, you just automate the process of getting eggs and making money.
     The CAFOs are not liked by environmentalists.  There are issues with regard to the highly concentrated waste that comes from the animals which is overly rich and sometimes laced with antibiotics that can harm the environment.  This concentrated waste is sometimes just held in pools and/or spread on fields for fertilizer only to run off into streams.  There are also disease issues in keeping the animals so close together (hence the need for the antibiotics).  And some feel that it is not humane.  I will leave my personal feelings aside on that since it will not change much anyway.
     As an engineer I like to look for solutions that solve multiple problems.  Recently I was looking at this problem.  There are many solutions out there but the one that seemed to surface was a system to digest the waste and take the methane off.  The processed waste is then better for the fields and the methane can be sold or used for power generation to reduce the electric bill for the farm.  It seems like a good idea and there are some places implementing it right now.  It is not a new concept and some farmers (mainly in the past) lived over their animal slurry pits and took the gas off for cooking.
     Recently I was looking into mentoring some electrical engineering students to automate such a process just as a philanthropic endeavor.  The students seemed uninterested as did investors.  That is sad as it would seem to solve two problems.

Here are some references:

     Anearobic Digestion
     Biogas
     EPA – Best Management Practices (BMPs) for AFOs

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer and President of Haynes-Bent, Inc.

Haynes-Bent, Inc. – Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation. We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

Twitter, LinkedIn

Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify. May only link to the published page – Haynes-Bent, Inc & Ronald David Kollman

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Bringing Manufacturing Back To The US

Bringing Manufacturing Back To The US
May 4th, 2013

     As we focus on bringing manufacturing back to the US, we must not forget that design and education is a higher mission. It seems that we have given much to other countries during the offshoring boom through lost intellectual property and knowledge. Money has gone to other countries and now they come back and invest in the US. It almost seems like an economic attack.
     Manufacturing in the US is only going to be a good thing for the country if we have highly automated systems that are also developed in the US AND the technical jobs created to setup and maintain the machines are good paying jobs. They should be very good paying jobs since they are replacing large numbers of workers in the process. We need to develop the highly automated systems ourselves to limit our dependency on other countries. Unfortunately countries like ABB (Switzerland), Invensys (Britain), Siemens (Germany), Schneider (France), Mitsubishi (Japan) are leaders in the marketplace. On the bright side, especially for the Midwest, companies like Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, WI) and Emerson (Ferguson, MO) are a couple of US based companies that were on the Fortune 500 (dated). The later does not necessarily translate to US based jobs for citizens but at least it is base to help bring back prosperity to the US.

     Top 50 Automation Companies (2010)
     Top 50 Global Vendors

     Now, who is going to make the mounts of widgets and gadgets to be manufactured by these highly automated systems? That falls to some of the large companies around but also small design companies that operate more efficiently with low overhead. The development of products is expensive with the engineering and prototyping necessary. With lower volume larger cost items it is even more imperative to keep design costs low. But, small companies can fill that gap. For example, my company is looking at becoming the second source for a high end radio design. The initial design was developed by a large company. But, since the initial design bugs and real requirements were worked out through a government contract with the larger company, we can now come in and develop the same product to be a second source.
     In short, as we gear up for increased manufacturing in the US we must also have designs and a market to sell to. The global market is waning and so we must look to products to sell in the US and bring business back to the US. Small Business design companies and manufacturing seem to be the way to go and the small mom & pop type companies for prototyping initial designs (click on the graphic) are going to be key in recovery.

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer and President of Haynes-Bent, Inc.

Haynes-Bent, Inc. – Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation. We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

Twitter, LinkedIn

Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify. May only link to the published page – Haynes-Bent, Inc & Ronald David Kollman

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Thorium Power Generation

Thorium_Sticker_small  April 29th, 2013

     For awhile now I have been interested in Thorium as an alternative energy source.  We have been using nuclear energy for a long time as a nation.  Even with the incidents that we have had in the US, impact has been minimal.  Reactor designs and controls have been improving steadily.  There is still the waste issue to address but it is one of the cheapest sources of energy for the US even with the waste disposal costs.
     So, basically, you can get lots of energy without much mass with nuclear power.  For a refresher, the energy comes from the difference in mass during fission and/or fusion.  For example in fission a large atom such as Uranium breaks into two smaller elements and other particles with a total mass less than that of the original atom.  Multiply this difference in mass (m) by the square of the speed of light (c) and you get the energy (E) from the famous equation associated with Einstein.  Emc2In nuclear power plants, we use this E to produce heat to make steam to turn turbines to turn generators to make electricity.  It is the same process for almost all electric generating stations but others use coal, oil, natural gas etc. to get the thermal energy (heat).
     There are many radioactive elements around.  The Uranium in commercial power plants is mainly the U-235 isotope and you can see the abundance here.  Another mildly radioactive element is Thorium (Th-232) which is found more abundantly in nature (Thorium).  Therefore it can be used as a nuclear fuel.  The byproduct of the decay of Th-232 is U-233 which can then also be used in other reactors as the fuel is used up.  Presently commerical nuclear plants are inefficient since they used only up to 5% enriched U-235 which necessitates changing the fuel about every six months.  This is a costly endeavor whereby US Navy reactors have enrichment of over 90% and the reactors can run without maintenance for over ten (10) years without core change outs.  Some of the reasons for only allowing low enrichment are safety, national security and economics and are probably the reasons why commercial plants are limited to 5% enrichment of U-235.  If a source of U-233 and infrastructure could be setup then Thorium plants could augment the commercial nuclear plants in the US and use the byproduct of Th-233 for more energy versus waste and storage.
     Currently Thorium is found naturally all around us.  It is a byproduct of mining in the US and is a problem (Forbes Article) as desired elements may not be obtainable if too much Thorium exists during mining.  But, as a nation, we need the other materials found in mining such as rare earth metals.  As a nation we need rare earth metals for many things we use from day-to-day in many products such as electronics, cars, turbine engines, lights etc. and the US is quite dependent upon these.  China currently has a monopoly on rare earth metals (China Monopoly) and may be using that as an economic weapon (Rare Earth Weapon).  So, if we can find a use for Thorium, we can also increase mining for rare earth metals in the US and make ourselves less dependent.  It exists anyway, why not utilize it?  Many of the arguements is that it is radioactive but that argument is moot since we mine Uranium for it’s radioactivity.  Thorium is naturally is only an alpha emitter (basically a Helium atom) and can be stopped with a piece of paper and is less of a danger.  But, Thorium is a radioactive material and should be handled as such.  With care, though, it is less dangerous that Uranium mining which we do already.
     As for Thorium reactors to produce power, there are a few designs that are proposed and a few test reactors have been built.  What will drive may be only if big business gets behind it and lobbies for it unfortunately.  But, the big nuclear plant companies probably do not want to invest in newer technologies right now due to public outcry against nuclear power and lower budgets in general.  Our focus in the US is towards alternative energies such as wind and solar.  Those two technologies are good to some extent but are not without their issues (Issues with Solar/Wind).  Thorium reactors could be a solution to other issues such as our import dependencies on rare earth metals, oil and Uranium for the current nuclear plants.  Other countries such as India are really looking into using Thorium.  Personally I want a great environment for myself and my posterity and, if we put good regulations into place and hold reactor designs to high standards, the impact of using nuclear power for our electricity needs is relatively safe.  I was told once that more Uranium has been put into the atmosphere due to coal burning than the total released by all of the reactors in the world.  Right now we push the environmental problems off to other countries and ignore those issues but the world is a small place and even that will catch up to us.  We are not isolated here in the US.  It would be better to do things in a country that has good envirnomental regulations than to push that off to other countries.  Eventually it will affect the US.  The tradewinds from the “East” blow into Canada and the US, we get good from China that may be tainted with pollutants etc.  We can not control these other countries but at least we can reduce our dependency and reduce what we import from them to reduce their production by being more self sufficient and not buying from them.
     In short, why are we not pursuing Thorium?  One of the reasons is that the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (amended) controls Thorium.  It should control Thorium but should be rewritten to allow use of Thorium.  In fact, it may be beneficial to get the Thorium out of the ground to be used.  Another reason may just be our general fear of nuclear power.  Unfortunately we only have so many methods for producing power.  Fossil fuels are waning, alternative energies are not really going to add sufficient energy nor are they reliable and most alternate forms are more expensive.  When the public finally has to foot the bill for alternative energies, they are probably not going to be happy especially since we seem to be in an economic slump without a light at the end of the tunnel.  Nuclear power generation can be safe with sufficient study and regulation.

One place for additional information is the Thorium Energy Alliance Site.
They provide quite a bit of information on the subject.

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer and President of Haynes-Bent, Inc.

He was formerly in the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Program.

Haynes-Bent, Inc. – Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation.  We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

Twitter, LinkedIn

Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify.  May only link to the published page – Haynes-Bent, Inc & Ronald David Kollman

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Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

AbombIcon    February 27th, 2013

EMP is a concept by which a sharp spike in the time-domain for electromagnetic energy can cause a wide bandwidth frequency range of energy transmitted.  If this energy reaches electronic equipment after attenuation and propagation loss (1/r^2) of sufficient energy and the frequencies are such that the electronic equipment is susceptible, it can cause disruption of the equipment’s functionality.  Basically it is like a shotgun or waterspray with respect to electromagnetic energy.

So there are allegedly new EMP weapons from China.  The concept has been known since around the 1940s/50s when nuclear bomb testing would knock out electronics.  One time a nuclear test knocked out equipment in Hawaii.  So Nuclear EMP (NEMP) is one of the most influential types of EMP.  Congress commissioned a study in, I believe, the 1980s which detailed how an airborne nuclear blast could conceivably knock out much of the electrical equipment in the continental US through the power grid and direct influence on automobiles and other electronic equipment.  There are other ways that EMP is produced, though.  Lightning is a natural source but not usually effective unless the electronics are close to the strike.  Man made sources include some type of directed energy weapons with fancy sci-fi looking antennas and massive energy sources.  Another one could be a cheaply built device called a Flux Compression Generator (FCG) that could be employed by terrorists (for around $2k).  It is a concern especially for aircraft because it can be detonated (uses high explosives to cause the effect) near a plane and fully disable it.  Planes today are fully dependent upon electronics (no more cables to control your ailerons).  As electronics devices get smaller and more efficient, they are many times more susceptible to EMP as well.  On can fairly easily destroy a smart phone today if you want (Electrical Engineers in my field consider it sometimes for annoying drivers on their cellphones).

It would be difficult and costly to really guard against a big EMP attack.  It was known between Russia and the US during the cold war and always a consideration and strategy to use EMP.  In fact, the Russian planes were more tolerant to EMP than the US counterparts due to using older tube technology.  Today we test equipment to high standards under Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) standards.  Much goes on in the background that consumers do not know about before electronics gets in their hands.  The CE and FCC that you see on your computer or smart phone means that it has been tested to certain standards including the EMC criteria.  Ensuring equipment meets these standards helps protect some against EMP.

Right now the hype is about China’s secret weapon.  But realize that the technology has really always been there.  We just enabled them to spend some time and money by offshoring and through teaching Chinese engineers and scientists here in the US.  It was inevitable but we accelerated and paid for any threat from China or other countries instead of investing in our own people.  It would be nice to have a global community but we will never really have that until we have a global government.

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer – Haynes-Bent, Inc.

Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation.  We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify.  May only link to the published page – ronkollman.wordpress.com

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My Mom Gave Me a Map Once

February 26th, 2013

MarbleIcon    Talking to a young woman the other day, we were discussing the technology of smartphones, GPS etc.  She stated how dependent she was on here in-vehicle navigator to get around. In fact, she was almost fully lost when she did not have it.  The statement from her was (paraphrased) “My mom gave me a map once when I was going to Atlanta.  I said, OK, but you are going to give me the GPS too, right?”  Some people (usu. older) are amazed and almost enraged with the lack of ability for some to do what they had to learn and respond with the same old phrase that they learned from their parents: “Kids today!!”

As a technology developer, I often wonder if what we do makes people too dependent on technology.  I think, though, the real goal is just to give people tools to make their lives easier and to liberate them to do other things.  It is the same old scenario with technology.  We lose skills that make us dependent on technology.  Just consider the washing machine, microwave and so many other devices.  They should liberate us to give us more time for enlightened pursuits.  I think it was the old Azimov Foundation series that had a society where all basic needs were taken care of for them so they could pursue art, music etc.  The caveat was that they had no strife or adventure in their lives to sing or paint about.  But, in digression, these are the same topics of every generation.  From the farmer who gets the newfangled plow and then does not know what to do with all of the extra time on his hands after making short work of his field to the young lady of today who uses her “leisure” time to make great music and inspire others.

We just have to remember that all of these technological devices are only tools.  As one gets obsessed with their new smart phone and connects with all of their friends on Facebook that person must realize the base reasons for why he/she wants that convenient access to information and everyone must determine what that is as an individual.  We all have to determine for ourselves if technology is enhancing our lives or just for entertainment value.  The later is surely needed by everyone but not to the point of distraction.

So, in summary and specifically for having a physical map versus GPS, it is my philosophy that we should all at least learn the older ways of doing things (here – physical map reading) at least once.  Then use the newer technologies to free our time.  That was some of the goals of boy/girl scouts, 4-H and other organizations.  But we can all take a little time to try something once on our own… sometimes it might be cooking something from scratch.  I made bread and pancakes from scratch recently.  I still did not have to grow the wheat, grind the flour, raise chickens, milk a cow, create baking soda/powder, mine for salt etc…..  but that liberates my time to work the electromagnetic field for various purposes such as those GPS device antennas and circuitry.

Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer – Haynes-Bent, Inc.

Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation.  We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

Copyright © 2013 – All rights reserved. May not modify.  May only link to the published page – ronkollman.wordpress.com

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The Boeing 787 – Dreamliner Grounding

The Boeing 787 – Dreamliner Grounding

Jan. 26, 2013

Whatever the outcome of the investigations, there may be more issues with the Dreamliner in the future.  In my opinion, having worked for one of the vendors working on the project I noticed a few different issues:

1)  There were too many new ideas introduced into one aircraft.  It is better not to change too many variables in any system at one time.  With a quite new aerodynamic design, new composite carbon structure and many other new features, it was quite a bit to take on.  I would like to think we as engineers can do this but we will need a better vision towards what engineering is and I think all companies in the US are going in the wrong direction with regard to the later.

2)  Outsourcing/Offshoring:  Many blame outsourcing in that Boeing was trying to bring together too many vendors to accomplish the design.  I think more of an issue was in the offshoring.  Foreign labor really is not as good as US with regard to quality.  Of course we are moving toward how foreign labor works as pressures to work as cheaply as them become forefront.  All of the old practices of paying people well and having union labor make more quality and reliable products.

3)  Cutting costs:  Cheap will lead to cheaply made goods and services.  Back to (1) and (2):  Cutting labor costs and taking on too much increases safety risks.

Other Links:  Forbes, Biminusc, Bloomberg

Why can Airbus compete better?  Probably the root problem is that US companies have higher administration overhead costs and shareholders expect fast short-term large investment payoffs.  That leads to (3) which necessitates (1) and (2).

Ronald KollmanHaynes-Bent, Inc.sales@haynesbent.com – (630)845-3316

Radiofrequency hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation.  We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.

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