The Fly-By-Wire Propulsion (in a coma…)
Along the vision to improve the everyday usability and to minimize the parts' count, a new idea popped up: what if we replaced all the gear parts of the Curved–Shaft System by a combination of a generator, wires and an e-motor?
By this system, the crank axle of the pedals would be driving a generator. The electric energy produced by the generator would be transferred by wire to an electric motor sitting very close to the propeller.
Hence the name of this sub-project, which is commonly used in aironautic contexts. It is referring to the pilot activating the flaps and rudder not by cables any more, but remotely, by wire, directing servo drives sitting right at the flaps and rudder to move those parts of the airplane.
At the outset of this special project, it is completely open whether this concept will show enough advantages in certain sets of OW components to become an attractive alternative relative to the Curved-Shaft System. Its main goal is exactly to find that out…
The Curved-Shaft System developed independently by Mark Drela and Rick Willoughby is obviously highly efficient by concept and would be hard to outperform on its efficiency aspect. It will have to be determined how close the Fly–By–Wire can come to, and how its other features will compare to the Curved-Shaft System.
It's quite obvious that the prerogatives defining an optimal racing and workout vessel are not the same ones as those defining an all–purpose vessel. Therefore it might turn out that a less efficient propulsion system than the one found optimal for the racing hull, overall, could be a more ubiquituous system when the overall functionality is more important than maximizing speed.
The results of this special project will show whether the Fly–By–Wire drive might become an alternative option for the stabilized monohulls as well as for the cats, and if so, under what conditions.
Cats provide great stability in huge seas, increased seating comfort, the possibility of tandem operation, room for a small dry cargo, and more. Their altogether different profile allows their use for a number of different kinds of service and makes them attractive for different customer segments.
Researching an alternative drive (i.e. the Fly–By–Wire) will require keeping close contact with the group developing the other components of the OpenCat.
The special project's road map will be adjusted as things are evolving, but it will start by finding the best/optimal match of generator and e–motor for the intended purpose, taking into account their power efficiency, their weight, their water resistance, their value for money, …
Besides finding the good pair of generator/motor, the study will have to figure out further possible improvement by a dedicated setup developed from scratch.
The project will also have to determine how the engines found would be integrated with the vessels, meaning that all other components will have to be factored in as well, whether fixed already or still being evaluated.
Finally, a practicability test on the water must proof the results.
The state of this special project
Upon contacting one of the worldwide leaders in developing and building small size powerful electrical motors and generators we had the sheer good luck to be offered the free use of one set for the purpose of the research study.
Following this encouraging moment, we contacted one of Switzerland's technical colleges in search of students willing to adopt our research as their own. The responsible professor judged the questions involved as interesting enough to present them to the students for election, and now we are waiting… The students will have to decide on a topic to do their research on by September 2013.
Towards the year's end we had to realise that no students were interested, the study wasn't going to be conducted. …too bad. We had to send back the motor/generator to the very generous company and try to find an appropriate combination ourselves.
Our boat is better than my boat…