Robert Alan Eustace now holds the world record for the highest-altitude free fall jump

Robert Alan Eustace now holds the world record for the highest-altitude free fall jump

2014 was a year of literal jumps for the aviation industry. We saw a man attempt a high-altitude record-breaking free fall jump, a robotic space probe jump onto a comet, and an inventor win the Popular Science Invention award for a personal aircraft that will someday jump off a runway.

Robert Alan Eustace is an American computer scientist who serves as Senior Vice President of Knowledge at Google. As of October 24, 2014 he now holds the world record for the highest-altitude free fall jump.

In a life-support system to allow Eustace to breathe pure oxygen in a pressure suit, it took two hours to reach drop height via a balloon filled with helium. His descent from space to earth lasted a mere four and a half minutes and stretched 25.736573 miles with peak speeds exceeding 821.45 miles per hour. Find more information and a video of the jump here.

A second jump in 2014 was by the European Space Agency’s probe named Rosetta onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The decade long project came to crucial point in August when the spacecraft began flying alongside the comet and sending back high-resolution images so scientists could choose a landing site.

The European Space Agency's "Rosetta" spacecraft photographs Comet 67P

The European Space Agency’s “Rosetta” spacecraft photographs Comet 67P

The world was fascinated as photographic images were shared of the comet and on November 12, the Rosetta’s Philae probe touched down on the comet. “The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science,” says Matt Taylor, Esa’s Rosetta project scientist.

The third aviation jump is by inventor and entrepreneur JoeBen Bevirt, known for designing airplane-like wind energy turbines at Joby Aviation. Bevirt mobilized his wind energy team to create a personal electric airplane called S2 that jumps off the runway vertically, like a helicopter, and flies aerodynamically, like an airplane. The S2 was recently given the Popular Science Invention Award 2014.

While, no full-scale prototype exists yet, Bevirt and his team have built about two dozen 10-pound models to demonstrate their concept works. NASA has taken notice and is now funding the development of a 55-pound unmanned aerial vehicle. Supercomputer simulations of a full-scale, 1,700-pound S2 suggest it could fly two people about 200 miles (New York City to Boston) in an hour on 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or roughly equivalent to 1.5 gallons of fuel used by a typical two-seat airplane—which would make the new aircraft about five times more efficient.

S2 wouldn’t have been possible just a decade ago, according to Bevirt, who believes new compact and efficient motors, ever-increasing power density in batteries, smarter control systems, and tinier sensors mean his plane will soon be a reality. “There has never been a better time to be an aircraft designer,” he said.

Read more from the Global Aviation December 2014 Newsletter:






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