Author Archives: Bianca Van der Watt

  1. High Density Dry Batteries Will Revolutionize Electric Aviation

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    Image by Chris Horvath from Pixabay

    Electric planes flying on batteries are no longer a midsummer night’s dream, as an Israeli startup named “Eviation” is planning to introduce the first one by 2021 which will carry nine passengers over distances of up to 650 miles (1045 km). The key technological development that makes this possible is the existence of high-density dry batteries such as the ones that Tesla Inc. has been turning to recently. The American automotive and energy company has recently acquired Maxwell Technologies, along with their ultra-capacitor manufacturing unit. Already, Maxwell’s solutions are on the range of 300 Wh/kg, which is about 30% higher than Tesla’s current solutions, but is that enough for aviation applications?

    According to Elon Musk, his bulk estimations about the cross-over point is 400 Wh/kg. He believes that in about five years, we will be there, so long-range passenger plans carrying up to 200 passengers could become a reality much sooner than we previously anticipated. Maxwell has already laid out a path of development that foresees a density increase of 15-25% every 2-3 years, so the short-term goals seems feasible. Moreover, Maxwell’s superior technology and production line expertise will enable Tesla to ramp up production by 16 times for the same space, lower the associated costs, and double the battery life.

    As some followers of Elon Musk justifiably commented on Twitter, kerosene’s energy density is about 40 times that of the existing lithium-ion batteries, so in their eyes, the transition doesn’t have much prospect. Elon Musk defended his predictions, telling them that the cross-over point isn’t depending solely on the energy density, but also on the weight of the combustion engines against that of electric motors. Moreover, electric motors are much better at converting energy to motion than their conventional counterparts. When flying, these weight and energy conversion rate differences play a massive role in the overall efficiency, so Musk’s claims are not biased statements aimed at helping Tesla’s shares go up.

  2. MIT Close to Presenting a Feasible Nuclear Fusion Reactor

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    Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

    The MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has announced that they have received a final push in the form of a $64 million investment, which will allegedly help them take the final step in the development of a working nuclear fusion reactor. The investment group includes MIT’s internal financial support organization called “The Engine”, the Italian energy company Eni, and the “Breakthrough Energy Ventures” investment consortium.

    After 25 years of research, MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center has presented a new reactor technology to the investors, called the “ARC” (affordable, robust, compact), and which costs only a couple of billion dollars. This may sound like a lot, but fusion reactors are very efficient, work on fuel that is abundant on Earth (like deuterium for example), give out significantly more energy for a given weight of fuel compared to fission reactors, and are generally much safer.

    Contrary to nuclear fission reactors that split the atom into two smaller ones while releasing heat, fusion is the merging of elements into a new whole which is heavier than the mass sums of the two. For example, deuterium is combined with tritium, and the fusion generates helium, neutron, and a massive amount of energy which is released in the process. This is exactly what happens in the Sun and all stars, but doing it here on Earth and inside a nuclear fusion reactor is challenging due to the various technical complexities that are involved.

    MIT, however, promises that they have solved almost everything by now, and by 2025 they will be able to introduce a safe, scalable, carbon-free, and limitless energy source that is going to solve humanity’s growing energy supply problem, open new possibilities in space exploration, and change everything forever. First, the team will build a 50-megawatt prototype fusion reactor, while the first wave of commercialized solutions will be at the level of 200 megawatts. If these promises prove to be accurate, the arrival of the ever-elusive nuclear fusion reactor technology comes in a critical time when humanity is under threat from the drastic climate changes that are attributed to conventional fuel pollution.

  3. Apple Acquires Self-Driving Car Startup Drive.ai

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    Image from Pixabay

    Apple has bought Drive.ai, one of the most promising self-driving startups in California, who wasn’t doing very good recently and was actually close to ceasing operations altogether. Maybe this was the very reason that Apple decided to go forward with the acquisition, as this was the right time to strike a good deal. Drive.ai was established in 2015 in Mountain View, and quickly grew into an expert in the field of AI-based self-driving systems for regular cars. Drive.ai’s units are independent of the vehicle, and can turn any car into an autonomously driven one through simple and relatively inexpensive modifications.

    Why does Apple need such a system? The Cupertino tech giant has been running a project codenamed “Titan” for at least five years now, with the goal being to develop a self-driving electric car. While the rumors about Apple have been rampant for quite some time, the particular project was disclosed in 2018, so the associated research and development goals were publicly confirmed. In the start of the year, Apple laid off more than 200 engineers from the Titan, so uncertainty engulfed the project. As some noticed on Linkedin last month, there have been new members joining in with several Drive.ai employees changing to “Apple” employees and stating that they’re now working on special projects that are underpinned by data analytics, software engineering, and system development. Most of these people are hardware and software engineers, so Apple clearly has something going.

    In spite of these developments being publicized, Apple is not keen to share more details about their Titan project, when to expect the first prototype, and what level of autonomy they’re after. Drive.ai’s kits promise the withdrawal of the need for the “safety driver”, but how close this is to reality remains to be seen. According to BBC reports, Apple is currently operating a test fleet of 66 driver-less cars that roam around Cupertino, so these are bound to get the Drive.ai kits and hit the road for a new round of testing.

  4. Apple Watch Will Soon Protect Your Hearing

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    Source: Apple

    The Apple Watch was at first thought to be a replacement for your smartphone, but through the years, it has become a different breed of a smart gadget. Thanks to the plethora of sensors it possesses, the Apple Watch is mostly marketed as a fitness device, but in recent years it also became a potent health tool. With this smartwatch, you can now monitor your heart rate for heart-related diseases, and soon, you can also use it to protect your hearing.

    Apple already announced that in the new watchOS 6 operating system, available for all generations of their Watch smart wearable, there will be a new app called Noise. This app will continuously monitor the surrounding area for noise via the built-in microphone and notify the user if the sound might be damaging to the ears. More precisely, the app will track how long the user is exposed to various levels of noise intensity. That said, the app might show higher or lower readings in windy areas or immediately after the Watch was used in water.

    The user can choose what those intensity levels are in the settings of the app, but Apple already has set recommended parameters according to suggestions from the World Health Organization, which are:

    • 80 decibels up to five hours per day.
    • 85 decibels up to two hours per day.
    • 90 decibels up to 30 minutes per day.
    • 95 decibels up to minutes per day.
    • 100 decibels up to three minutes per day.

    This nifty app could be a great addition to the Apple Watch, especially for those that spend most of their time outdoors. Sure, most people are already aware of heightened sound levels on concerts, but you’d be surprised how much noise there is on the street. According to some measurements, a busy street sits at around 70 dBA, while a noisy restaurant might even go to 80 dBA.

    As with all Apple services, Noise will respect the privacy of the user, and it will not record any sound. 

  5. Amazon Launches Hexagonal Drone for Even Faster Prime Deliveries

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    Delivering packages with the help of drones is certainly not a novelty, but it is still not spread enough to replace conventional methods. Amazon wants to change that with their new hexagonal drone, which was presented at their re:MARS Conference. This drone should improve the Primer Air delivery program, which is available in selected countries where regulations allow it.

    Credit: JORDAN STEAD / Amazon

    The newest Amazon hexagonal drone can fly up to 15 miles with one charge and carry packages that weigh up to 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms). According to Amazon, the new addition to their flying lineup can bring packages to end consumers in less than 30 minutes, which seems pretty amazing to be honest. Apart from being very fast, the hexagonal drone will help Amazon achieve its ShipmentZero vision for 50% of the deliveries to be carbon-free by 2030.  

    Apart from fast deliveries, the hexagonal drone has the ability to land and takeoff vertically, which means that it can deliver a package directly to the consumer yard. According to Amazon, the drone also has a computer vision aided by machine learning algorithms that can detect telephone wires or electrical wires: “Through the use of computer-vision techniques we’ve invented, our drones can recognize and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.”

    Nonetheless, these drones only work for consumers with large backyards due to the sheer size of the drone. On top of that, the consumers mustn’t have animals or people (kids) in the yard for the drone to work correctly, which is another limiting factor. However, it seems that one can free up space in the backyard at least for half an hour, or until the drone arrives with the package. The hexagonal drone will not be used in the US for now because of stringent regulations.

  6. New Credit Card That Calculates Your Carbon-Emission Spending

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    Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

    How much carbon emissions does a human being produce daily? The answer to this question is not as simple as calculating the CO2 emissions from our vehicles or the electricity in our homes. It’s much more than that – every product we buy has an impact on the environment in terms of carbon emissions. Luckily for green-oriented people, there’s a new credit card that will help them calculate how much carbon emissions are there in a product.

    A Swedish financial technology company called Doconomy invented the sustainable DO Black Card in collaboration with MasterCard and United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. This credit card will not only show money balance and limit spending according to how much credit the user has left, but it will also limit spending according to carbon emissions associated with every purchase. Yes, when you cross over the carbon limit with the DO Black Card, you will not be able to spend any more money. Ouch!

    The user will be able to monitor the credit and carbon balance within the DO app. According to the company, the mobile app uses the Aland index to calculate carbon emissions of every transaction. To help the user stay within limits though, Doconomy will reward spending on “green” purchases with additional credit. In other words, if you buy from retailers that have products with less carbon footprint, you will be rewarded with more carbon credit on the balance. The most responsible customers can even use the credit card to donate to UN-certified green project throughout the world. Besides helping its customers and environmentally friendly retailers, Doconomy also made sure that the credit card itself is made of bio-sourced materials that aren’t harmful to the environment. The company even went as far as to use ink made from tiny air pollution particles, thus cleaning the air we breathe. Sweet!

  7. Experts Think That Self-Driving Vehicles are Years Away

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    Image from Pixabay

    While we’re constantly bombarded with news of self-driving vehicles every single day, we’re also no strangers to autonomous cars having accidents. It is an undeniable fact that this technology is the way to go forward, but it is also undeniable that it is still in its infancy. Experts on the subject share this opinion and give us the reasons why that’s the case.

    The first and most glaring disadvantage of current autonomous systems is performance under foul weather, such as snow, rain, and fog. The reason is quite simple here – these systems rely on cameras and radars to see the road ahead, and snow and rain limit their vision. While human beings are designed to see correctly in such weather thanks to years of evolution, autonomous systems are still very limited in this regard. According to Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, “It’s like losing part of your vision.”

    On top of that, most places on Earth have different lines and curbs, and some locations don’t have them at all. Autonomous cars use road lines to navigate, and losing them means that the vehicle will lose the ability to follow the road ahead. When a fully self-driving vehicle launches on the market, it should work everywhere, not just in one area.

    Another limiting factor to autonomous technology is human drivers. Let’s face it – we’re pretty horrendous at driving. Most of the human drivers don’t drive by the rules, which is a complete opposite to autonomous systems which are designed to work only within selected parameters.

    As with most human drivers, though, autonomous systems have problems with left turns at intersections when there’s no green light. According to Waymo CEO John Krafcik, the same challenges that apply for human drivers also apply for self-driving technology continuing “So sometimes unprotected lefts are super challenging for a human, sometimes they’re super challenging for us.”

    In the end, experts think that the market is still not ready for a fully autonomous vehicle. Most consumers still don’t accept this technology and fatal crashes with self-driving cars, such as the one in Phoenix with an Uber vehicle, certainly don’t help in this regard. According to a study by AAA in March, 71% of the examined were afraid to be driven in autonomous vehicles.

  8. The All-Electric Honda e Will Use Cameras Instead of Side Mirrors

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    Camera mirror system by Honda

    Side mirrors have been a staple in the automotive industry for over fifty years now. They were invented to help the driver see what happens in other road lanes, which helps with safety. While this invention certainly helped the automotive industry going forward, it seems outdated by today’s standards. The reason is quite simple – side mirrors spoil the airflow around the vehicle and increase drag, thus limiting performance, and increasing fuel consumption and emissions.

    Honda is one of the first manufacturers that will replace the wing mirrors on one of their vehicles with cameras, following Lexus, which already offers the ES sedan with optional side cameras in Japan. The Honda e is a compact electric vehicle with a retro design that caused a lot of stir when it was launched as a concept a few years ago.

    The side cameras offered as standard in the Honda e are much smaller than side mirrors. On top of that, they have two settings – Normal and Wide, depending on the needs of the driver. According to Honda, the Normal setting will improve visibility by 10% when compared to a conventional side mirror, while the Wide setting will improve it by a whopping 50%. The cameras will have other advantages, such as showing guidelines when the driver engages reverse.

    According to Honda, the new side cameras on the Honda e compact will produce 90% less drag than conventional side mirrors, or 3.8% overall less drag for the vehicle. This design choice should result in less energy consumption, better performance, and longer range. Honda also paid attention to the design of the housing to limit water drops on the lens.

    The cameras on both sides of the Honda E will stream continuous video to 6-inch LCDs inside the cabin, located in the left and right corner. This location of the screens is also seen as an improvement as they are closer to the view of the driver.

    Sadly, the side cameras won’t be offered in the US at first due to regulations but will be available in the Japanese and European markets.

    The Honda e compact electric car will launch in early 2020 with 125 miles of range and fast charging of 30-minutes for 80% capacity.

  9. U.S. Warns of Spy Dangers of Chinese-Made Drones

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    U.S. Warns of Spy Dangers of Chinese-Made Drones

    Is there anything that is still secret in our digital world today? How secure is your everyday movements, day to day routines and most intimate information? Are we really protected by firewalls and passwords to secure our most precious information? Have we become so gullible to accept the big banners on software promotions promising just that?

    Obviously, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the people in the know don’t think so. The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies could pose a security risks, including that the data they gather could be stolen.

    The Chines Communist Party enforced a national-intelligence law in 2017 making it obligatory for Chinese citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities.

    The most sold drones in U.S. and North America are manufactured in China with DJI Technology being the biggest distributor. DJI Technology has a market share of almost 80%, according to an industry analysis.

    Lanier Watkins, a cyber-research scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute, said his team discovered vulnerabilities in DJI’s drones.

    “We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone,” Watkins said. “You could also hijack the drone. Someone who was interested in, you know, where a certain pipeline network was or maybe the vulnerabilities in a power utilities’ wiring might be able to access that information,” he noted.

    The vulnerabilities stem from the server hosting the drone management and maintenance information. According to DJI, random information regarding location, flight information and video clips are uploaded to the server and is vulnerable to hacking (or sharing with the Chinese Intelligence).

    This prompted the U.S. Army to bar the use of DJI’s drones in 2017.

    The DHS drone alert comes a week after an executive order from President Donald Trump effectively banning the sale of Huawei telecoms equipment in the US.

    Image by Thomas Ehrhardt from Pixabay

  10. The U.S. Navy to Facelift Existing Missile Submarine Fleet

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    submarine

    The Navy “Boats”

    • Ohio (1981 to 1997)
    • Virginia (2000 – present)
    • Planned – Columbia

    The U.S. Navy Ohio class submarines are reaching their age out date. The current 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines have been in service between 1981 and 1997.

    The new Columbia class submarine, in conjunction with the existing Virginia class submarine, is meant to take over as the next line of defense for the American Navy.

    Congress passed funding for the Virginia submarines in the form of an upgrade called “Virginia Payload Module” or VPM’s, meaning that the Virginia’s Tomahawk strike missile load-out will increase from 12 to 40 by inserting a module increasing the length of the submarine.

    This mammoth task is entrusted to the Huntington Ingalls Industries to do the upgrades on the Virginia class submarines and start the new production of the Columbia class submarines. The Columbia class submarines will serve for more than 40 years and will carry hundreds of nuclear warheads to sea at a time and is due to enter service in 2031.

    On the 23rd of May, technology and production amalgamated when a steel cutting ceremony took place where the first steel plate was cut with a plasma-burning machine and using an all-digital blueprint to aid in construction.

    Statistics

    Ohio:

    Length: 560 ft
    Beam: 42 ft
    Propulsion: nuclear reactor
    Speed:

    • 12 knots surfaced (22 km/h; 14 mph)
    • 20 knots submerged (official) (37 km/h; 23 mph)
    • 25 knots submerged (reported) (46 km/h; 29 mph)

    Range: Limited only by food supplies
    Test depth: +800 ft (240 m)
    Complement: 15 officers, 140 enlisted
    Armament: 22 tubes, each with 7 Tomahawk cruise missiles, totaling 154

    Virginia:

    Length: 377 ft (115 m)
    Propulsion: S9G reactor 40,000 shp (30 MW)
    Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) or over
    Range: unlimited
    Endurance: Only limited by food and maintenance requirements.
    Test depth: +800 ft (240 m)
    Complement: 135 (15 officers; 120 NCOs and enlisted)
    Armament:
    Block I-IV:

    • 12 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
    • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
    • 37 × torpedoes & missiles (torpedo room)

    Block V (VPM Module):

    • 2 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
    • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
    • 65 × torpedoes & missiles

    Columbia:

    Length: 560 ft (171 m)
    Installed power: Nuclear reactor
    Range: Unlimited
    Complement: 155 (accommodation)
    Armament: 16 × Trident D5

    The Objective

    The U.S. Navy submarine facelift will form a powerful deterrent against a surprise land nuclear attack on American soil and any of its Allies.

    Image by David Mark from Pixabay

  11. Here’s How Ducati’s First Electric Motorcycle May Look

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    CEO Claudio Domenicali has confirmed Ducati’s commitment to its electric motorbike future ventures while speaking at a Motostudent event in Spain.

    “The future is electric, we’re not far from starting series production,” he commented.

    Ducati enthusiastic are sitting on the edge of their seats, motorbike seats. There is a buzz amongst motorbike fans to get a bird’s eye view of the Ducati ‘Elettrico’ that will be direct competition for the Harley-Davidson’s Livewire. Although only rumored, the Ducati ‘Elettrico’ may graze us with its presence by as early as 2021.

    This will not be the first time that Ducati is involved with the design of electric driven vehicles. They previously teamed up with the Milan Polytechnic School of Design to develop an electric Ducati concept, the Ducati Zero. The CEO was even spotted riding a Hypermotard electric motorbike with a Zero FX powertrain.

    CEO Claudio Domenicali presented the famed designer Aritra Das concept showing what their e-model could possible look like.

    While we can only speculate on the technical details of its power, the typically red exterior is defined with a clean and smoothly sculpted bodywork that features few distinguishable lines, most notably on the front. The design’s prominent mid-mounted motor leads to a sharp, cantilevered seat and rear tail. Besides the odd fake tank, which is necessary for knee grip and balance, it is a feast for the eyes. The fully faired Elettrico features a single-sided swingarm with offset mono-shock, a mid-mounted motor, chain drive, inverted front fork, and Brembo brakes are standard on many of Ducati’s current bikes.

    A feather in Ducati’s cap is that they remain true to their brand. While other brands of electrical motorbike/bicycle manufactures struggle with the balance and even change their company name like Curtiss did, the Ducati ‘Elettrico’ screams: Proudly made by Ducati.

    product info:
    Brand: ducati
    Concept Images:aritra das designs

  12. Ford’s Foldable Robot Could Soon Be Delivering Your Packages

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    Ford and Agility Robotics explore how a new robot, Digit, can help get packages to your door efficiently with the help of self-driving vehicles.

    Image courtesy Ford and Agility Robotics

    With so many robots available on the market, why would Ford show interest in a walking delivery robot? It’s all about autonomous vehicles and the need for the automated delivery of goods to your doorstep.

    Ford partnered with the Oregon-based startup company called Agility Robotics saw an opportunity to solve delivery issues for the US postal service and Domino’s Pizza. The US postal services delivery firm Postmates alone delivered more than 6 billion packages in 2018. Ford announced on Tuesday, May 21 that it was testing a robot to carry deliveries from its autonomous vehicles to your front door.

    Digit, as it is named, will be Ford and his partner Agility solution to the “last mile delivery” obstacle. Digit is designed to unfold from the back of an autonomous delivery van and is a two-legged humanoid that can handle lightweight shipments of up to 40 pounds.

    “As we’ve learned in our pilot programs, it’s not always convenient for people to leave their homes for packages or for businesses to run their own delivery services,” Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technology officer, said.

    “If we can free people up to focus less on the logistics of making deliveries, they can turn their time and efforts to things that really need their attention.”

    When an autonomous vehicle brings Digit to its destination, Digit, which is equipped with lidar and several stereo cameras to detect its surroundings can send an image back to the vehicle which then configures a solution when the robot encounters an unexpected obstacle. The vehicle is also equipped to request information if it has difficulty processing the information and can relay it to the cloud and request help from other systems.

    Digit may not be the fastest robot on the market and may be years from visiting your neighborhood, but a walking robot is part of Ford’s vision for how its autonomous vehicles will someday deliver packages and goods in the future.

  13. ABB & Siemens Test Subsea Power Grids for Underwater Factories

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    Photo: ABB

    As the need for more natural resources increase daily, offshore oil and gas-drilling technology is migrating from floating platforms to the seafloor.

    This will not only increase the production, but remove current hazards caused by icebergs and hurricanes. Pumps, compressors and separators moved down to the seafloor decades ago, requires electricity. Presently an impractical web of power cables know as umbilical’s are supplying seabed equipment from power plants or diesel generators aboard nearby oil rigs.

    Engineers are looking at future expansions and production of natural resources by building subsea factories that extract and process oil and natural gas directly on the seafloor. And in the center of this visionary idea, electricity takes center stage.

    This is where ABB and Siemens are leading the pack with the world’s first subsea power-distribution stations. Siemens has successfully concluded the first phase of its Subsea Power Grid shallow water test in Trondheim, Norway. ABB will complete its final round of testing in June and expects to install its first subsea power system in 2020.

    “Our technology is an enabling technology for the subsea factory,” says Bjørn Rasch, head of subsea power for Siemens.

    How Will It Work?

    Illustration: ABB

    ABB has developed a subsea power-distribution system (red) that can be placed up to600 kilometers away from an onshore power plant. The company expects to install it at a commercial site in 2020.

    The subsea models consist of a transformer, a medium-voltage switchgear, and a variable-speed drive.

    The subsea electricity distribution will be connected through a single line to the surface where electricity will be provided to the subsea distribution point by either water or tidal generators, wind turbine or platform power plants. Both projects have been in the works for more than five years.

    Siemens announced that they can deliver 30 kilovolts, while its variable-speed drive puts out 6.6 kV. Equipment with power rating between 1 and 15 megawatts can be connected to their power grid. In addition, remote management will be controlled via fiber-optic cable so engineers and technicians can access operations remotely.

    Humans have always been driven by the lure of the unknown. Subsea power distribution is only the start. Imagine cities and factories producing goods, food and accommodation in the not too far future. It is said that humans have managed to explore only about 5% of the ocean floor. The remaining 95% of the ocean remains a mystery.

  14. SpaceX Confirms Dragon II Explosion

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    Credit: Es’hail-2 Mission via SpaceX

    The Dragon II capsule that carried out a non-piloted test flight to the ISS in March has exploded during a later test on the ground, as confirmed by the SpaceX vice president, Hans Koenigsmann. The explosive event was already apparent from a video that leaked late last month, but the level of the vessel’s destruction was unknown until now. Koenigsmann stated that it’s too early to determine the exact cause of the incident, but provided a couple of crucial details that point to the thruster system.

    More specifically, the “SuperDraco” unit, which is Dragon’s thruster was just being fired up when the anomaly occurred. This came only after the smaller thrusters were successfully activated and fired for five seconds each, and only after the preliminary powering tests had been concluded. As the particular capsule is meant to carry a human crew, and since SpaceX has invested a lot in the specific thruster unit and hypergolic liquid fuel, this is complicating the current schedule of development. The Dragon II capsule was planned to take its first crewed flight to the ISS in July 2019, and unless a really speedy and absolutely conclusive investigation takes place, this is not going to happen this summer.

    Hopefully, the particular Dragon II vessel sustained damage from its sea landing and recovery operation after coming back from its low-orbit trip, so a brand new Dragon II wouldn’t have a problem carrying out the scheduled mission. In the worst case, this incident has to do with an undiscovered flaw in the design. This new capsule is incorporating some innovative novel elements in its design like the use of 3D printing for the combustion chamber, and the use of liquid-fueled launch abort system. That said, NASA and SpaceX may have a lot of investigation work to do and the fact that the Dragon II blew to pieces isn’t very helpful in that regards. Possibly, we may not see Dragon II carrying astronauts before 2020 after all.

  15. BAE’s Magma Demonstrates Breakthrough ‘Blown-Air’ Flap-Free Flight Technologies

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    Image courtesy BAE Systems

    Modern aircraft rely on complex moveable flight control surfaces to maneuver their path through the air.

    BAE Systems revolutionize the future aircraft design

    First time in history, a flapless unmanned aircraft has been maneuvered in flight by replacing moving surfaces with the blown air technology.

    UK‘s largest defense and security company BAE Systems has performed flight trials of the MAGMA to successfully demonstrate two flow control technologies that could revolutionize future aircraft design.

    BAE Systems has developed the MAGMA in collaboration with researchers at The University of Manchester. The MAGMA successfully completed a series of trials recently at the Llanbedr Airfield.

    The technologies have been designed to create better performing aircraft that are lighter, more reliable and cheaper to operate. Not only this, the flap-free flight technology will also help improve an aircraft’s stealth by reducing the number of gaps and edges to make it invisible to radar.

    The technologies tested in the trials were:

    Wing Circulation Control: taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing to provide control for the aircraft

    Fluidic thrust vectoring: using blown air inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust, to change the direction of the aircraft.

  16. GM Recalls Trucks Due to Engine Block Heater Cord Fires

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    GM Recalls Trucks Due to Engine Block Heater Cord Fires

    Photo by Tina Nord from Pexels

    In December 2018, a quality engineer submitted a report to the company’s Speak Up for Safety program which resulted in an investigation which concluded that there were 19 fire claims caused by a faulty optional engine block cord. The faulty cord is only applicable to diesel engines where it is used to heat up the engine block in extreme cold weather conditions. Preliminary investigations revealed that the cord short circuits where it connects to the engine block, causing a in fire in the engine compartment.

    This led General Motors to recall over 368,000 pickups and other trucks worldwide the Duramax diesel 6.6-liter, eight-cylinder engine and optional engine-block heaters in April 2019.

    Symptoms

    Customers may notice the following:

    • Smoke or a burning smell
    • Poor block-heater performance
    • Tripped circuit breakers or blown vehicle fuses
    • Damage to the block heater, the heater cable, or engine components
    • Block-heater coolant pooling under the vehicle

    The Recall Models

    In the US, GM recalled the following trucks:

    • The 2017-2019 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500
    • The 2019 Silverado 4500HD/5500HD/6500HD
    • The 2017-2019 GMC Sierra 2500/3500.

    An additional 40 319 trucks were recalled in Canada while about 61,418 of the recalled trucks are held at dealerships until the cord issue can be fixed.

    In April, Ford Motor Co. was also forced to recall 327,000 medium-duty trucks with engine block heater cable fires.

    Avoid Heater Use

    Both automakers urged customers to avoid using the engine block heater until it is fixed. GM and Ford are disabling the engine block heater cords in unsold vehicles.

    Recall Centers

    GM said it would contact customers via mail letters and that all repairs will be done free of charge. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recall number is 19V-328.

    GM can also be contacted online on the following URL:

    https://my.gm.com/recalls

  17. Nasa Uncovers 20-Year Aluminum Scheme That Caused 2 Failed Missions

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    Nasa Uncovers 20-Year Aluminum Scheme That Caused 2 Failed Missions

    Credits: NASA

    In a settlement agreement, an Oregon aluminum extrusion manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc., has agreed to pay $46 million to NASA, the Department of Defense, and others to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to a 19-year fraud scheme.

    Federal prosecutors concluded that Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as Sapa Profiles Inc. (SPI), and its corporate parent, Hydro Extrusion USA, LLC, formerly known as Sapa Extrusions Inc. (SEI), provided falsified certifications for aluminium extrusions. The falsified certificates showed that the aluminium extrusions provided possessed better tensile strength than the supplied parts.

    According to investigators, inferior quality aluminum products from SPI are directly responsible for the loss of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions. In 2009, the OCO failed to reach orbit when the payload fairing covering the satellite didn’t separate from the rocket. The Glory atmospheric science mission in 2011 also failed because the fairing did not separate causing the overweight rocket to crash into the Pacific Ocean.

    In 2015, SPI was suspended from all government contracts when the lab director, who was proven to be the mastermind behind the scheme, pled guilty and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and had to pay a restitution of over $170,000. This is a fraction of the $700 million and years of people’s scientific work lost.

    “For nearly two decades, SPI and its employees covered up substandard manufacturing processes by brazenly falsifying test results,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “They then provided the false test results to hundreds of customers across the country, all to increase corporate profits and obtain production-based bonuses.  This proposed resolution ensures that the victims of this conduct, including the U.S. military, can replace faulty product put into the supply chain and help recover the costs foisted on taxpayers to investigate this scheme.  I want to thank our partners at NASA-OIG, DCIS, and the FBI for their efforts in helping bring much-needed oversight and reform to these companies.”

    The positive outcome led to remedial implementations when companies obtain government contracts:

    • The implementation of state-of-the-art equipment to automate the tensile testing process
    • Company-wide audits at all U.S. tensile labs
    • Increased resources devoted to compliance and revamping internal quality controls
    • Quality audit processes revamping.
  18. The Goodyear AERO – A Concept Tire for Autonomous, Flying Cars

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    The Goodyear AERO – A Concept Tire for Autonomous, Flying Cars

    Image courtesy Goodyear

    Technology has come a long way since the first application of the wooden wheel in 4500–3300 BCE i.e. the Neolithic Age.

    Since the first patented pneumatic tire by Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson in 1847, we’ve had everything else in between up until the 21st Century, which included white wall, radial, low profile, off-road, snow, all terrain, run on flats, to mention but a few, tires in circulation.

    Now we have the Goodyear AERO Concept Tire.

    “For over 120 years Goodyear has obsessively pursued innovations and inventions, partnering with the pioneers driving change and discovery in transport,” said Chris Helsel, Chief Technology Officer at Goodyear. “With mobility companies looking to the sky for the answer to the challenges of urban transport and congestion, our work on advanced tire architectures and materials led us to imagine a wheel that could serve both as a traditional tire on the road and as a propulsion system in the sky.”

    On, March 5, 2019, the Goodyear AERO concept was introduced in GENEVA. It was presented as a two-in-one tire designed for autonomous and flying cars of the future.

    Some of the features presented by Goodyear for the AERO concept tire includes several innovative features:

    • Multimodal Design: The AERO tire will function as a tilt-rotor concept for flying cars and traditional road orientated cars, thus enabling the cars to transition seamlessly from the road to the sky.
    • Non-Pneumatic Structure: The concept will utilize the spokes and non-pneumatic tire structure, which will be flexible enough for road usage, as well as aerial maneuverability in the form of rotation and vertical lift requirements.
    • Magnetic Propulsion: With the AERO concept a magnetic force will be used to provide frictionless propulsion. This would enable the desired rotation to provide land and air speeds for propulsion.
    • Optical Sensing: The structural integrity of the tire i.e. road conditions and tire wear, will be monitored by fiber optic sensors.
    • Artificial Intelligence: With the assistance of AI technology, the AERO Concept tire will be able to produce data from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication enabling the car to alternate between flying or driving modes.

    Keeping in mind that the AERO tire is purely a concept, the Chief Technology Office had this to say: “Goodyear’s concepts are meant to trigger a debate on the tires and transport technologies for a new mobility ecosystem.”

  19. Technology That Monitors the Wiring in Building and Ships

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    N.I.L.M. EARLY WARNING SENSOR FOR ELECTRICAL REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE IN BUILDINGS AND SHIPS

    Image from Pixabay

    Have you ever had a shocking experience (pardon the pun) when you received your energy bill? Weep no more. Thanks to the latest NILM (non-intrusive load monitoring) technology, expensive energy and repair bills will soon be something of the past by monitoring the state of electrical appliances.

    The Concept

    Often referred to as a “recording” of an appliance “singing”, NILM can “learn” and record the different “tunes” each appliance generates when switched on.

    By predetermining the current / resonance / fluctuations / voltage e.g. a kettle draws compared to a stove, a clamp on the phase wire “looks” for these characteristics in an electrical cable. With the assistance of a standalone PC and GUI (graphical user interface), a 70% accuracy can be achieved to identify and monitor electrical appliances in ships or buildings.

    Limitations

    • Limited appliances to be connected due to interfering current fluctuations
    • Similar fluctuating devices is hard to distinguish
    • Variable current fluctuation appliances send different “tunes” leading to wrong appliances being identified
    • LED lights drawing low current is also problematic

    Field Trials

    MIT professor of electrical engineering Steven Leeb and seven others at MIT, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Naval Academy recently tested the NILM on the Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Spencer, based in Boston.

    The test resulted in the detecting of anomalous amount of power being drawn by a component of the ship’s main diesel engines called a jacket water heater. At closer inspection, severe corrosion and broken insulation was found on the heaters.

    “The NILM also detected a serious shock hazard and may have prevented a class Charlie (electrical) fire in our engine room.” Leeb said.

    Leeb pointed out that the NILM can have multiple applications with early detection, energy savings and maintenance procedures as only a few currently being utilized.

    Leeb says, “the system can be physically and electronically isolated and thus highly resistant to any outside tampering or data theft”.

    The Future

    We can expect the NILM technology to become part of our every day experience, just another advancement operating silently in the background ensuring costs savings and the safekeeping of our hard-earned possessions.

  20. Blood Samples Delivered by UPS Drones Across North Carolina

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    Blood Samples Delivered by UPS Drones Across North Carolina

    Image by Harald Landsrath from Pixabay

    Medical samples are vital elements in many hospitals. Their transport, however, gets complicated when the amount of blood or tissue samples increases. UPS recently decided to tackle this problem.

    The company started to move medical specimens with unmanned drones. So, the futuristic idea about drone deliveries for various industries just got real. Their drone-delivery scheme will carry samples to hospital systems in the North Carolina area.

    Who’s in Charge of the Deliveries?

    UPS partnered with a drone logistics startup, Matternet, to shuttle blood samples and medical supplies to three hospitals and WakeMed facilities in the North Carolina area. WakeMed is a health services provider in the area. Up until now, they transported the medical items with courier cars.

    According to Fortune’s article, UPS stated that “The addition of drone transport provides an option for on-demand and same-day delivery, the ability to avoid roadway delays, increase medical delivery efficiency, lower costs and improve the patient experience with potentially life-saving benefits.”

    The project is a pilot program of the Federal Aviation Administration. They launched in 2018 to use drones for practical applications and to see if it will reduce costs in deliveries. In addition to Matternet and UPS, drone flights are monitored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

    How Long It Takes for a Drone to Deliver Blood Samples?

    As stated by Wired, Matternet’s M2 Quadcopter drone “can carry payloads of about 5 pounds for 12.5 miles on each battery charge. It can complete a flight in about three minutes, versus the 30 or so it takes human drivers to make it in average daily traffic”.

    WakeMed employees will load the drones with the samples to send them to WakeMed’s labs. Remote drone pilots will monitor each flight to see if the drone’s mission went well.

    Blood samples delivered by UPS drones should reduce costs and speed up the delivery time to enhance the medical service across the US.