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Thread: Heather and electric propulsion

  1. #1
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    Default Heather and electric propulsion

    Heather 2.jpg
    I have a new boat I am converting from diesel to electric. Open to advice as I have little to no experience with electric propulsion.
    Thanks to anyone here with an insight.unnamed.jpg
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    Brem-River.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    I found this book a good place to start for someone who knows nothing on the subject. It explains electric propulsion in the most basic terms.
    Work the numbers and see what you think.
    I concluded that it is too heavy and/or expensive to be doable, for me.
    In the rough sea in your first pic...I would want the diesel.
    51E9A5D966L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    In what part of the world would that be considered a 'rough sea'?

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    I don't get it.
    In the PNW, yer either going dead up or dead down wind. It is not a sailors paradise.
    A diesel GIVES you both electricity and heat.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Cute boat. I cannot imagine switching away from diesel being cost effective, energy effective, or eco effective. Even if you get your batteries recharged by wind and solar - iffy at best if you're cruising - you've still the issues of those big batteries.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Hahahahaha! That’s probably the cutest boat I’ve ever seen!

    That is just about as much as you can pack in, isn’t it? I love it.

    Why are you looking to change? Curiousity, is all. We looked long and hard at electric for two boats, and it is hard to make it work out with weigh and power and cost and charging and etc. Hard for us, anyway.

    I will be watching with great interest.

    Peace,
    Robert

    P.S. More about the boat? Is she as much fun as she looks? I’d probably smile the whole time.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by timo4352 View Post
    I found this book a good place to start for someone who knows nothing on the subject. It explains electric propulsion in the most basic terms.
    Work the numbers and see what you think.
    I concluded that it is too heavy and/or expensive to be doable, for me.
    In the rough sea in your first pic...I would want the diesel.
    51E9A5D966L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
    That book was published some years ago, and developments in the field of electric propulsion have been very rapid. While it might be a start, it wont be the best guide to converting Heather.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Howard, did you buy the Heather? Congratulations if you did. She is a pretty clever and unique boat.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Howard, I think Heather needs a bit more of an introduction here! I know a little about her from Marty's posts on Facebook and elsewhere but she's a unique little boat and worth describing in some detail. One thing that might not be apparent from the photos, for example, is just how small she really is: 16' LOA I believe? She's tiny. Which also might put the "rough seas" comment in perspective. I suspect that what is merely a brisk day for a larger boat gets a bit more significant in what is basically an overgrown dinghy.

    I too wonder whether electric power is feasible if you want to do any real cruising in the PNW. I do love the idea but could you get enough battery capacity aboard to run a motor for more than an hour or two without recharging? As a rough gauge you might have a look at the smallest Elco package:

    https://www.elcomotoryachts.com/ep-6.shtml

    According to their specs, three 8D batteries gets you 4-9 hours of cruise time. Which isn't bad but I doubt you would be able to recharge effectively without a shore connection. And three 8Ds is a lot of weight in for a 16' boat, not to mention the challenge of finding a suitable place for them.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    I've built 2 electric boats and modified one to electric, so I know a little, but by no means an expert . heres a few of my thoughts, in no particular order.

    1. Befriend an electrical engineer that is good at explaining things. what you are doing is not hard but sometimes is puzzling.
    2. prepare to spend more money than you anticipated.
    3. there are more pieces parts you've got to buy for an e-boat than any sailboat you've ever had.
    4. study DC electric.
    5. the old adage 'you can never have too much HP' should be 'you can never have too much voltage'
    6. you can never have too much (expensive) instrumentation. (to know whats going on)
    7. properly sized wires are expensive and heavy.
    8. some lithium-ion battery salesman sell 'snake oil' on the weekends, be careful, do your due diligence, but go lithium.
    9. buy some good textbooks on DC circuits and motors .
    10. I could go on, but I must admit, e-boats are fun. after each boat I swear ill never do it again, but I'm thinking about building another one. you'll learn a lot, and when you understand it and get it right, you'll smile a big wide grin !
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    One of the issues with a conversion of this kind is cost. Throw enough money at it and any problems are solvable.
    But there are options, one being to buy an old, disused golf cart thats still a runner. That gives the drive motor, the charger, the controller and a lot of the wiring needed.
    New batteries would, in most cases be required, and the technology there is changing very quickly but even a set of deep cycle fork truck batteries would be a good choice. They're designed to charge at high rates, and work hard all day. Heathers hull form is not one that is particularly weight sensitive, but if one counts the weight that has come out when the diesel and its tankage came out and just replace that with batteries, I think that the conversion might even be weight neutral.

    Ventilation, batteries need ventilation, not just for gassing, for heat as well.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    I want to second John's opinion of the book. For what you want to do t would be pretty much worthless. Having built and owned an electric boat, I would not give up that diesel under any circumstances.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Howard - here's the boat I mentioned --

    https://www.facebook.com/EVGinger/

    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    The main problem I see is batteries. Lithium $$$$$, AGM $$ and short life span. You will be replacing them in another4-5 years. It's not cheap and its not "green".
    If batteries make a HUGE tech leap in the next five to ten years, I would consider it. The electric motors are already there in that regard, but also $$$$.
    16ft. Not a lot of room for solar panels either.
    Great little boat!

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Cute boat. Yours? Buy a Prius or Tesla from a junk yard and go from there.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    So much negativity. This is a great idea!! How far do you really think you have to go on auxiliary power? 30 or 40 miles is pleeeenty. Car based systems are too large, heavy, and powerful for the 16' Heather. An electric golf cart or fork lift motor is perfect. Batteries can be had in many sizes and capacities, and they are everywhere! With a little looking around, you can find a local battery and electrical retailer. My local university swaps out is uninterruptible power supply batteries every year, and the "used" ones get resold by my local battery place.

    It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest. It doesn't have to be the most efficient technology. It doesn't have to fulfill every possible trip. It just needs to get you to the next port when the wind dies.

    Its Howard Rice, do you really think he's gonna motor really long distances?

    (I might be biased, Im putting an electric drive in my Navigator, and I have a Nissan Leaf.)
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

    15' Welsford Navigator Inconceivable
    16' W. Simmons Mattinicus double ender ​Matty

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWgbM9DoA7A

    I havent watched it all. But they have had electric for quite some time.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by BBSebens View Post
    So much negativity. This is a great idea!! How far do you really think you have to go on auxiliary power? 30 or 40 miles is pleeeenty. Car based systems are too large, heavy, and powerful for the 16' Heather. An electric golf cart or fork lift motor is perfect. Batteries can be had in many sizes and capacities, and they are everywhere! With a little looking around, you can find a local battery and electrical retailer. My local university swaps out is uninterruptible power supply batteries every year, and the "used" ones get resold by my local battery place.

    It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest. It doesn't have to be the most efficient technology. It doesn't have to fulfill every possible trip. It just needs to get you to the next port when the wind dies.

    Its Howard Rice, do you really think he's gonna motor really long distances?

    (I might be biased, Im putting an electric drive in my Navigator, and I have a Nissan Leaf.)
    No negativity here Ben. I'd love to see it happen but even using used and found parts it's not going to be inexpensive I think, so it's worth asking about things like necessary range before going too far down the road. 30 miles at 5 knots still means 6 hours of battery capacity. I don't think that's going to happen with a couple of golf cart or UPS batteries. Taking the Elco EP-6 as an example, it's a 36v motor drawing 2.5kW at cruising speed. At a rough guess, the diesel motor and fuel tank in Heather now might weigh 300lbs total. If we want the electric package to be weight neutral and we assume lead acid batteries (AGM or wet cell) then we are looking at 3 x 4D batteries at around 100lbs each and about 200Ah total. Those are all rough numbers but close enough. We need at least 20% reserve in the battery (really should be more like 50% but let's be generous). So...


    (200 * .80) / (2500/36) = 2.3 hours of run time or a little over 11nm. That doesn't get Howard very far around here. So let's go for something with a bit more power. LiFePO4 batteries say. That's going to be a pain in the budget but we will assume that Howard is independently wealthy. With our 300lb weight allowance (not counting the motor but this is back-of-the-napkin calculations here) we can get... let's see... something like... this:

    https://www.amazon.com/LiFePO4-volt-.../dp/B06XX197GJ

    LiFePO4 12v, 100Ah, 30lbs. We can put nine of those in a battery bank and get 300Ah of 36v. So run the numbers again...

    (300 * .80) / (2500/36) = 3.5 hours of run time. Hm. That's better but not a lot. But here's the real problem: 300Ah of LiFePO4 is going to cost Howard around $10,000. That's TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! Ahem. Sorry. Was I shouting there? Anyway, we are assuming that Howard is independently wealthy so maybe that's not a problem but it seems a bit on the high side to a working guy like me.

    I suspect that it's possible to get more accurate numbers, find room for more batteries, etc. and get the range up a bit and maybe the cost down but these are the sort of limitations that Howard is going to run into.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    You could get 30 (slow) miles only with the help of a generator. I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by Geftb View Post
    You could get 30 (slow) miles only with the help of a generator. I'm not saying that's a bad thing.
    True, but remember that Heather is only 16' long. At some point Howard is going to run out of room for all this stuff.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Hi Rob
    I am looking to change because Heathers little diesel was removed and is not with the boat. Her previous owner Marty put real leg work into electric propulsion and seems to have a solution. I however am new at electric propulsion and am looking for input, opinions, ideas, etc.

    as per Marty's plan and advice from an electric propulsion expert:
    I paraphrase:
    "The idea is to use an appropriate sized electric motor, four 12v batteries, a charger, controller, 3:1 or 4:1 Baldor reduction gear, shaft and prop appropriate to the motor and reduction ratio; solar panel(s) and 2000-watt Honda or Yamaha portable generator.

    The basic concept is to obtain a sweet-spot (motor only, no sails) cruising speed for 7-8 hours of running time without firing up the generator, or be able to run “forever” at the same hull speed if using the generator—which would according to calculated figures will stay just ahead of battery drain at the all-day cruising speed. Of course, if I run the boat at a slower speed, or motor-sailed on light-wind days to provide just a little boost to sail-only hull speed, the electric motor could far longer than 7-8 hours before draining the bank of batteries.

    If the generator is fired up as needed I’d stay ahead of any potential battery drain."

    This is the general plan Marty hatched and his paraphrased words above. Much of the electric propulsion system came with the boat so I am in.


    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Hahahahaha! That’s probably the cutest boat I’ve ever seen!

    That is just about as much as you can pack in, isn’t it? I love it.

    Why are you looking to change? Curiousity, is all. We looked long and hard at electric for two boats, and it is hard to make it work out with weigh and power and cost and charging and etc. Hard for us, anyway.

    I will be watching with great interest.

    Peace,
    Robert

    P.S. More about the boat? Is she as much fun as she looks? I’d probably smile the whole time.
    Last edited by Howard Rice; 11-15-2018 at 07:44 PM.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Nope not even close to independently wealthy.

    All this is great info and I am reading all of it.

    Thanks to everyone.

    I have spent a life as an avowed engineless sailor other than my cutter Blueberry. So it's new brain on for the electric option.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Heather drawing 3.jpg
    For 16 feet she has a ton of room

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Yeah for sure.
    Watch that video I linked Howard. It give a lot of practical info on what you can expect from electric. I love the idea of electric, it's just the battery price that holds me back.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by Howard Rice View Post
    Heather drawing 3.jpg
    For 16 feet she has a ton of room
    Wow. I had no idea she was that big inside! And I love that drawing. So nicely done. Right up there with the best from Wm. Garden.

    I agree that the genset-plus-battery-bank arrangement that Marty had in mind would probably solve all of the problems I was envisioning. Ok then. I withdraw all of my objections and eagerly await further details and progress.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Thanks again, appreciate your effort.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Hi Chris
    Thanks. I am willing to give electric a shot. Seems so much better for the environment and in the name of peace and quiet not to mention those diesel smells in such a small space. I know, I know the environment, batteries and other elements are part of the broader problem but for actual use on the water, cleaner. I trust Marty's direction and the advice he had been receiving from an electric savvy person so I am headed down that path.

    It boils down to this. Heather sails beyond her specs and I am first and foremost a sailor. Rare will be the times when I go under power. Her designer/builder Tim Nolan is also on board with electric propulsion.

    Again I am really pleased by the input here. Love learning new things.
    Thanks

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    No negativity here Ben. I'd love to see it happen but even using used and found parts it's not going to be inexpensive I think, so it's worth asking about things like necessary range before going too far down the road. 30 miles at 5 knots still means 6 hours of battery capacity. I don't think that's going to happen with a couple of golf cart or UPS batteries. Taking the Elco EP-6 as an example, it's a 36v motor drawing 2.5kW at cruising speed. At a rough guess, the diesel motor and fuel tank in Heather now might weigh 300lbs total. If we want the electric package to be weight neutral and we assume lead acid batteries (AGM or wet cell) then we are looking at 3 x 4D batteries at around 100lbs each and about 200Ah total. Those are all rough numbers but close enough. We need at least 20% reserve in the battery (really should be more like 50% but let's be generous). So...



    (200 * .80) / (2500/36) = 2.3 hours of run time or a little over 11nm. That doesn't get Howard very far around here. So let's go for something with a bit more power. LiFePO4 batteries say. That's going to be a pain in the budget but we will assume that Howard is independently wealthy. With our 300lb weight allowance (not counting the motor but this is back-of-the-napkin calculations here) we can get... let's see... something like... this:

    https://www.amazon.com/LiFePO4-volt-.../dp/B06XX197GJ

    LiFePO4 12v, 100Ah, 30lbs. We can put nine of those in a battery bank and get 300Ah of 36v. So run the numbers again...

    (300 * .80) / (2500/36) = 3.5 hours of run time. Hm. That's better but not a lot. But here's the real problem: 300Ah of LiFePO4 is going to cost Howard around $10,000. That's TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! Ahem. Sorry. Was I shouting there? Anyway, we are assuming that Howard is independently wealthy so maybe that's not a problem but it seems a bit on the high side to a working guy like me.

    I suspect that it's possible to get more accurate numbers, find room for more batteries, etc. and get the range up a bit and maybe the cost down but these are the sort of limitations that Howard is going to run into.
    $10,000 would buy somewhere around 2,800 gallons of diesel, several lifetimes worth of diesel for that little boat. I wonder how many gallons of diesel it would take to match the carbon foot print of manufacturing the electric running gear? Unless the motor is on its last legs or is a really miserable beast to live with it's hard to imagine a conversion being an efficient choice. Now a new installation because it needs a repower anyway would be a different equation.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by jsjpd1 View Post
    $10,000 would buy somewhere around 2,800 gallons of diesel, several lifetimes worth of diesel for that little boat. I wonder how many gallons of diesel it would take to match the carbon foot print of manufacturing the electric running gear? Unless the motor is on its last legs or is a really miserable beast to live with it's hard to imagine a conversion being an efficient choice. Now a new installation because it needs a repower anyway would be a different equation.
    According to Howard's post # 21 above the boat has no internal combustion engine currently, so it's not actually a conversion, although he describes it as such in his opening post.
    If I had a dollar for every girl who found me unattractive, eventually they would find me attractive.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Not sure why this is important to note.
    In my mind it is a conversion. Her previous owner (my friend Marty) removed the diesel and was well on his way to converting the boat to electric and I am finishing the conversion.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    According to Howard's post # 21 above the boat has no internal combustion engine currently, so it's not actually a conversion, although he describes it as such in his opening post.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarkey View Post
    In what part of the world would that be considered a 'rough sea'?
    In my part of the world. I prefer a millpond!
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Quote Originally Posted by Howard Rice View Post
    Not sure why this is important to note.
    In my mind it is a conversion. Her previous owner (my friend Marty) removed the diesel and was well on his way to converting the boat to electric and I am finishing the conversion.
    I think the point here is that Jim was assuming that there was still an option to keep the original engine and that in an absolute calculation the net environmental benefit was with the diesel in that case. I don't disagree but it's not really the current situation since the diesel is already gone.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    Let's be realistic. Electric propulsion is for dead calm conditions and legally entering marinas and harbours that have no sail rules. Basicly it replaces a pair of oars or a yuloh. No motoring against wind and tide at hull speed for hours. That means it will be ok with around 1kW of motor.
    Options available:
    1. Buy any electric outboard in the 1kW range that allows aditional external batteries. Install on sidemount bracket.
    2. Convert an old gas outboard to electric and mount as above.
    3. Do an inboard installation by reusing the existing prop and shaft installation, either from a kit or by selecting the components individually.
    4. Use a pod motor kit.

    The motor/controller/gear reduction part for converting an outboard or inboard installation is easy enough. The parts are used for bike/scooter conversions. Not that expensive.
    The battery part is also pretty covered. Best bang for the buck are EV battery modules, Tesla, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf. Of course all have "unsafe" chemistries, but you can not beat them for price or quality. Next are the chinese prismatic LiFePO4.
    BMS systems are the crux of everything, and sometimes a philosophical debate.

    What exactly is "cruising speed" and under what conditions? What components do you actually already have?
    Last edited by Rumars; 11-15-2018 at 08:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    When I saw conversion that was exactly what I thought, that there was still an operational motor in the boat. Since there isn’t, carry on and good luck.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Heather and electric propulsion

    These proposals always draw lots of reservation from the forum. Some call responses negativity but almost all previous experience calls them realistic. Count me among those who like to be more optimistic but past observation forces a large dose of pessimism. Here on the ICW, various examples including catamarans and barges with every available square foot of usable space to solar cells have been seen and appear very marginal, even with a schedule compromised by charging requirements. One power cruiser specifically designed for electric power needs was later reconverted to diesel. The little 16 footer does not come close to these in providing power needs. Small boats with usage that does call for more than small or occasional propulsion will work if the limitations are suitably realized and the user is ready to live with. Electric boats have made it around the world but are outside the abilities of most every one. Humans have traveled to the moon and back but, can you buy a ticket?

    I'm fairly familiar with Douglas Little's boats and his book is a good starter for this last class of small boats but is in no way a guide for larger and heavier craft without on board charging. For short use such as getting to and from a dock and maybe a bit further, battery power is a viable alternative. Comments labeled here as negative are more likely realistic but anyone who can realize the dream will get all the praise they can handle from the same people. Hybrid systems are certainly workable and are in a separate class.

    After spending many years of expert time and money, there are now electric airplanes that can take off and fly with humans aboard but calling them practical looks to still be out in the future.
    Tom L

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