Bluebird’s not over

Senior reporter

Briefing brings some disappointing news this week after an accident halted an attempt to break the UK electric powered land speed record by the great-grandson of the original Blue Bird driver Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Joe Wales was at Pendine Sands in Wales, attempting to beat the 137mph record set by his father Don in the Bluebird Electric in 2000, when the car hit a pothole, damaging the steering and suspension and giving the 19-year-old driver a mild case of whiplash.

‘One of the front wheel uprights has sheared off,’ the Bluebird team’s chief technical advisor, Dr Tim Allen, told The Engineer. ‘Steering’s gone on that wheel and they think also the bottom wishbone might have become disconnected.

‘In terms of repairing it there’s an upright that needs replacing. There was quite a substantial amount of input in terms of energy so we need to check the alignment.’

The Bluebird Electric team hope to one day achieve 500mph in an electric-powered car, continuing the family tradition started by Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1924 when he first broke the land speed record by travelling 146mph in one of the original ‘Blue Bird’ cars.

The latest Bluebird incarnation is the same vehicle used by Don Wales in 2000 but has since been adapted for the latest electric record attempt.

‘We’ve provided a new more powerful drive train, replacing two 100KW motors with two 130KW ones’ said Allen, who is also director of electric vehicle design consultancy Tirius.

The car also now uses nickel cadmium batteries that can be recharged between record attempts instead of replaceable lead acid ones.

The team has vowed to return to the beach to re-attempt to break the record but there are likely to only be a few days left in the year when the conditions will be suitable.

Looking more widely, today is the deadline for nuclear power station operators in Japan to submit an interim report on the ability of each plant to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis following the Fukushima disaster earlier this year.

Scientists are also expected to publish a report on the effect of radioactive material from the Fukushima plant on seawater reaching the US West Coast.

Meanwhile in the US, two conferences will this week focus on the future of defence technology. The Annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Alabama will look at how next-generation technology will provide increased capabilities while becoming smaller, lighter, and less expensive.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America exhibition and conference in Washington DC, will add a different spin, however, by including focus on benign uses for unmanned systems.

A special event will touch on a number of areas where robots aided in coping with recent environmental and humanitarian disasters and can extend the reach of first responders, scientists and aid agencies while keeping people out of harm’s way.