Research@Mines Archive:
April, 2019

The Hillard Brothers Flying Machine

John Hillard, aloft over Custer State Park, during the inaugural flight using an electric paramotor he and his bother Phillip developed.

On a brisk fall morning at the Custer State Park airport, John Hillard sprinted across an open field with a propeller strapped to his back. The 80 pounds of thrust generated by the electric motor pushed him forward as the paraglider wing lifted over his head. In seconds he was aloft. The inaugural flight lasted only a few minutes. But it was a milestone after years of work to pioneer a commercial electric paramotor.  

Phillip and John Hillard grew up with a love of flying inspired by their father, a Navy helicopter pilot. Phillip finished his degree in mechanical engineering in 2018, and his younger brother John is in his senior year at Mines. The brothers took up paramotoring as a hobby; their training as engineers helped them identify improvements needed to the standard gas motors used in the sport. “We spent almost as much time tuning our two-stroke gas engines as we did flying. We wanted to break that down and make the sport easier to do and take it into the realm of the standard consumer,” says Phillip. 

Their fix: Go electric. Electric motors are quieter, simpler to operate and more compact and light weight.  But pioneering a new electric paramotor system didn’t prove easy.   The brothers had to overcome hurdles such as insuring battery safety, building in redundant fail-safes, designing proper instrumentation and keeping it all in a lightweight, compact system. “The cool thing about being...

Last Edited 4/26/2019 02:40:47 PM [Comments (0)]

Finding the Flame in the Flaming Fountain

Logan Kocab attaching the air intake line to the fountain casing.

The Flaming Fountain is an important component of the South Dakota veteran’s memorial site at Capitol Lake next to the state capitol building in Pierre. The Flaming Fountain is a water well that was drilled back in 1910 and completed in the Dakota aquifer at a depth of 1280 feet. The well is uncapped and free-flowing, driven by artesian pressure in the aquifer. Until recently, enough natural methane gas was produced with the water to sustain a flame, giving the fountain its name.  This flame no longer burns continuously, snuffing out within hours to days after being re-lit.

Stacy Langdeau, PE, the State Engineer and an SD Mines graduate inquired if the Geology and Geological Engineering (GGE) Department at SD Mines had any interest in investigating the now non-Flaming Fountain. Coincidentally, a methane sensor had recently been transferred to SD Mines from the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate the occurrence of stray gas in drinking water aquifers in the vicinity of fracked shale gas wells. The engineers at DOE had not gotten the unit operational, so several SD Mines graduate students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE) took on the task. They included Md Raqibull Hasan, Saeed Shahmiri, and Sandesh Acharya.  Each contributed to solving a significant piece of the puzzle, and Sandesh was eventually able to resolve issues with the datalogger and controller, bringing the unit up to operational status....

Last Edited 4/22/2019 08:34:28 PM [Comments (0)]

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