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Billy Johns

Electric Thrust: The Future of Manned Aviation

Department: Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics
Advisor: Joachim Grenestedt

Currently under development, the electric-powered, autonomous flying car will make significant progress on various issues like pollution, traffic, and the geographical expansion of cities. The details of how electric motors may produce enough thrust to safely and efficiently transport payloads across long distances is complex from both electrical and aeronautical perspectives. This research will be based on the thrusts created by the JoBy JM1 motor, capable of reaching 40 horsepower, connected to carbon fiber RASA propeller blades. Measuring the aerodynamic performance of an electrically-powered propeller under various aerodynamic conditions requires a test rig capable of measuring the thrust of the propeller and maintaining a high degree of safety. A structure capable of deflecting proportionally to the thrust created by the propeller was designed and manufactured for these observational experiments. Strain gages measuring the surface strain along flexures within the structure will reveal a voltage output directly proportional to the thrust created. Both static and dynamic airflow conditions may be simulated with the test rig without changing the procedure used for measuring thrust. Electric motors may quickly change speeds with respect to power output changes, so voltage changes in the strain gage circuit will indicate propeller performance, both for different power outputs of the motor and for different airflow conditions. For static thrust testing, the structure may simply be fixed to the ground, but for dynamic testing, the structure will be mounted onto a car roof rack. In dynamic thrust tests, different airspeeds will be simulated by the car for each series of thrust tests. Testing is ongoing at this time of writing.

About Billy Johns:
Billy is a senior undergraduate Mechanical Engineering major from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, GA. His interests of study center on solid mechanics and aerospace engineering. Aside from his studies and research, Billy is an active member of Theta Chi fraternity and has been the captain of the Lehigh Men’s Golf team since his sophomore year. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends, travelling to new places, watching football and basketball, and playing with dogs. His work experience includes an engineering internship with Sawnee Electric Membership Cooperative, internships for two engineering consulting companies (EnerVision, Inc. and Wiedeman & Singleton, Inc.), and six years on staff with National Youth Leadership Training. Looking forward, Billy has made plans to continue his education at the graduate level here at Lehigh starting this fall.