Blog

Drones – Using them in Daily Life

Unmanned flying crafts, drones, have been used by the military for years in situations where manned flight is considered too risky or impossible. Like most military technology, it has been expanded and drones are now being used in daily life in order to make tasks easier.

  1. shutterstock_167890163Amazon’s Delivery Drone

Amazon has already tested and revised its first prototype, making progress towards their goal of using drones to make small deliveries to their customers. Each drone would be able to carry 5lbs in packages and deliver them directly to customers’ doors, within 30 minutes. Normally a pilot is only able to control one drone at a time, but amazon has improved on this, making it possible for one pilot to control multiple drones simultaneously. Amazon hasn’t given a date when they will start using the drones for delivery, but continue to test them in several different countries.

  1. PD6B-AW-ARM

Japanese company Prodrone knows that the more a drone can do, the easier it will be to integrate it into people’s lives. Keeping this in mind they have invented the PD6B-AW-ARM which is able to lift items that weigh up to 22lbs, with its 5-axis grasping arms. The drone is specially stabilised during flight in order to be able to transport the objects. Fully charged it will be able to fly up to speeds of 37mph and heights of 16,404 ft., for a maximum of ½ hour. It has also been designed for use in and around the home, including improvement projects, as it can turn on and off switches, cut cables and join items. This technology would also be greatly beneficially to people that have limited mobility, allowing them to become more independent.

  1. Facebook’s Wi-Fi Wonder

The internet is a major part of both our business and personal life, but over 2/3 of the people in the world are still living without access to Wi-Fi. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has embarked on a project to bring the internet to everybody using solar powered drones. Each of these environmentally friendly drones would be about the size of a 727 aircraft, but weighing significantly less and able to hover between 60,000 and 90,000 ft. They would be able to stay airborne for up to three months, with each providing internet access across a 50 mile radius. The long term goal is to have enough of them working side by side in order for the entire world to be able to access the internet.

  1. Cameras

In both military and civilian life one of the first uses of drone technology was to enable us to view and take pictures of previously inaccessible places. They have been used in order to capture spectacular images of plants, animals, the inside of caves, underground havens, the earth from different angles and many more images that we would otherwise never have seen. This has started a new era in photography and more powerful drone cameras are being designed all the time. They are also used by the military and law officers in situations that may be dangerous, e.g. when trying to rescue hostages, in order to save lives and make a record of what is taking place.

The EM Drive – Revolutionizing Space Exploration

One of the biggest obstacles we have faced when it comes to going to other planets is the amount of time that it will take for us to get there. NASA, and other independent space exploration teams, has been working on a solution to this for decades. In 1999, a British scientist, Roger Shawyer, came up with the idea of producing an EM drive (short for electromagnetic propulsion drive) which would be able to cover these amazing distances in significantly less time. The only opposition he has had to making the EM drive is the fact that it completely defies one of the fundamental laws of physics.

Newton’s third law is: ‘To each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ The law of conservation of momentum breaks this down further; to state that for any thruster to gain momentum it will need to expel a propellant in the opposite direction. The design of the EM drive would allow it to go in one direction without any propellant in the other. It would operate by turning radio waves into thrust by bouncing them back and forth inside of a cone-shaped closed metal cavity. The other end of the EM drive will then thrust forward. A range of tests at NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory have proven that this ‘impossible’ device works, even though scientists are still unable to come up with an explanation as to how it can defy one of Newton’s laws.

shutterstock_309714437The possibilities of space exploration would become unlimited with the use of the EM drive, which would be able to transport humans to Mars in 70 days (presently it takes between 150 and 300).  It is rumoured that the years of research into the possibility of sending one into space has now been peer approved, and papers regarding the device are expected to be published shortly. In addition, Guida Fetta has designed a rocket engine based on the original concept of Shawyer’s EM drive and plans to launch it on a miniature satellite within a few months. His team of scientists will let it remain in orbit for at least six months to prove that the drive will continue to work over an extended period of time.

There are also speculations that other devices using the same technology are being made by the original designer Shawyer, and several private companies in China, that are almost ready to be launched as well. The race seems to now be on to see which team will be able blast the barriers of space exploration, in the shortest amount of time. Regardless of the country or inventor that makes the first launch, the important thing to note is that this invention will be one of the greatest of all time and another giant leap into our exploration of the universe.

The Airlander 10 – The Possibilities Presented by the World’s Largest Aircraft

The Airlander 10 was flown for the first time on August 17, 2016 over central England, and is believed to be the largest aircraft ever flown. The aircraft combines characteristics of airplanes, helicopters and airships, in an effort to ensure that it functions as efficiently as possible. Its manufacturer, Hybrid Air Vehicles, originally designed the aircraft to fulfill military surveillance in Afghanistan, but reprogrammed it when this project was abandoned in 2013.The company believes that the Airlander 10 will be able to serve in other areas including cargo transportation, communication, private commerce and even as a luxury airliner. In addition, it will also be significantly less harmful to the environment, because it uses helium instead of hydrogen to fuel its journeys.

Nicknamed the ‘Flying Bum,’ because of its shape, the Airlander 10 is 92m, with a height of 6100m, and can attain speeds of 90mph. The aircraft is able to remain airborne for up to 5 days when it is manned, and 10 days if unoccupied. It can carry a maximum weight of 10 tons. Hybrid Air Vehicles aims to use it to revolutionize the industry of flying both commercially and militarily. As a result of being a hybrid, the aircraft uses a traditional airplane wing structure to get 40% of its lift with the other 60% coming from the helium.

An aircraft that can be flown for an extended period, land anywhere and doesn’t have an overwhelmingly negative effect on the environment, provides great potential for the future of flying. The company plans to release the Airlander 10 as a commercial vehicle that can be used as an advertisement and communication medium, in private sector transportation and in other areas where it will have a significant advantage over ordinary aircraft. Some of these advantages include:

  • Endurance – The ability to stay in the air for weeks at a time, would allow an easier delivery of goods and longer surveillance periods than are currently available.
  • Cost Effective – The running costs of the Airlander would be lower than other aircrafts because it runs on helium, instead of fuel.
  • Less Pollution – The Airlander 10 has one of the lowest forms of carbon emissions of any aircraft currently being flown.
  • More Accessibility – The aircraft can be landed anywhere, including land, water and even ice, opening up the possibility of air transfer to previously inaccessible areas.

Hybrid Air Vehicles has presented the Airlander 10 as the first in a series of super aircraft, which will be made to carry even heavier cargo and achieve more extraordinary flight times.

Proxima B – The Closest Earth-like Planet to our Solar System

The infinite nature of the Universe indicates that there are or should be other habitable planets. Our natural curiosity, as human beings, dictates that we will continue searching until we find them. After that we will make it a priority to explore these planets, and the life that we find there, in the most thorough way possible. A team of international scientists, based at the Queen Mary University in London and led by astronomer Guillem Anglada-Escude, have recently discovered a planet in the habitable zone of our neighboring star system. Temporarily called Proxima B, the team believes that this is the closest we have come to verifying the existence of life outside of our Solar System.

The closest star system to ours is the Alpha Centauri which consists of three stars; Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri, which is a red dwarf meaning that it is smaller and cooler than our sun. The planet has been discovered orbiting this star and, because of its distance, is believed to be warm enough for water to remain in liquid form on some parts of its surface. This is one of the main criteria that determines whether a planet will be able to sustain life.

shutterstock_413371993Proxima Centauri is a more active star than our sun, which would result in the planet being exposed to 100 times more radiation. Without any protective magnetic field, this level would be detrimental to any living organism. If the planet does have an atmosphere, however, life would still be able to survive especially in its water bodies.

Proxima B is 30% larger than earth and 95% closer to its sun, being only 4 million miles away as opposed to our planet’s 93 million.  It orbits the star every 11.2 days, and is located approximately 4.2 light years away from us. This distance means that, even with current technology, it will be possible to send a probe there in as short as a few years. The biggest mystery about Proxima B, even though it is centred in a habitable zone, is whether or not there is actually life on the planet.

If the planet was formed by being blown away by stellar radiation, it means that without an atmosphere it would be unable to sustain life. Another obstacle to the presence of any living species is the fact that Proxima B may be tidally locked, meaning that the same side of the planet always faces the sun. An atmosphere as thick as earth’s would allow it to rotate in a way that would provide the entire surface with the necessary warmth, in order to create habitats in which plants and animals would be able to survive. Since there is so much potential for life on this new planet, some scientists have ventured as far as to say that we can assume that life exists there until it is proven that there isn’t.

Mind Controlled Technology – Brain Waves Dictating the Pace

It is believed that anything is possible once we put our minds to it. Our technological genius proves that this is definitely so. Combining the two and using the mind to control technology has become many manufacturers aim, in order to keep up with the current trends. The brain’s electrical activity can be recorded along the scalp, using a process called EEG. By monitoring these brain waves, technology has been designed to translate them into commands allowing various devices to be controlled with just the user’s thoughts.

Not only is this process convenient, but it has been useful in helping those with physical handicaps lead more fulfilling lives. Even though the technology is still being refined, paralysed individuals are able to control wheelchairs and other equipment by wearing a cap and training their brains to send the appropriate signals to the machine. EEG on its own has limited accuracy, however, and a combination of brain control and artificial intelligence seems to be the best way to operate these items. The combination means that the individual will not need to focus constantly on controlling their device. The brain would only have to produce the initial thought and then the artificial intelligence would take over.

shutterstock_119131810Operating technology with the mind has an unlimited scope, and some of the ones available or coming soon are:

  1. Prosthetic Arm by DARPA – Wearers are able to control this limb with their thoughts, and the arm will function in the same way as a real one. The introduction of these prosthetic devices means that many people will be able to use them to regain their independence, especially when the technology is applied to other prosthetic limbs.
  2. NeuroSky MindWave – This is a headset that has been designed to improve the user’s brain ability and comes with educational, gaming and life improvement apps. One of the accessories for the MindWave is the Orbit Helicopter, which the user can fly by using their concentration to dictate the aircraft’s course.
  3. Muse – This is a portable headset which controls relaxation and focus, making it easier for the user to perform mentally challenging tasks. The manufacturers are still working on the object however and in the near future the Muse will be used to control iPhones and Androids by brain wave activity.
  4. shutterstock_95312896Emotiv EPOC – This device allows people to control their computer using only their mind. It is particularly beneficial for gaming technology and can be adapted to control any electrical device.
  5. Necomimi and Shippo – Not all the technology that is being produced to be used with brain waves is for ease or convenience, some of it is just for fun. This pair of ears and tail will scan brain waves and respond to them. For example, the Necomimi ears may stand up when the user is alert and the Shippo tail will wag whenever its human is happy. The achievements we can make with technology are just simply mind-blowing!

Combating the Zika Virus – Genetically Modified Mosquitos

The Rio Olympics are in full swing and fans are as excited as ever to watch the increasingly competitive sports. Unfortunately, the number of people that have actually made their way to Brazil to be a part of the games is significantly less than in previous Olympics. Athletes have also given up the chance to participate in these legendary games, because of concerns about their health. The fear of catching the Zika virus has become greater than the love of sports for many. Governments, and other officials, have started looking into ways of eliminating or decreasing its spread, in order to ensure that it won’t affect other high profile sports games in the future.

shutterstock_363993479The best way to stop the spread of the virus would be to eliminate its cause. Zika is passed on to humans by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. A biotech firm based in the UK, Oxitec, has developed a way of genetically modifying male mosquitos which are then released into the population. When they breed with the females, genes which will be fatal to the following generation are transferred. These offspring don’t live long enough to reproduce, and the mosquito population begins to decrease.

These GMO mosquitos have already been introduced in Cayman, Brazil and Panama cutting the amount of Aedes aegypti mosquitos in the countries by up to 90% in 6 months. The firm believes that it is currently the only viable solution, and they are negotiating terms to release the affected insects in the United States. Even though the process has already been approved by the FDA, the company is still waiting for the go ahead from other state and federal agencies. Some of the country’s citizens have expressed concern as to the possible effects that this release will have on the environment, and the human population.

shutterstock_118321864Entomologists have concluded that there is no possibility of the GMO mosquitos harming humans. Furthermore, they insist that eradicating the mosquito will cause no known side effects to the local animal life, because there is no species that relies exclusively on it for food. Many countries, including the USA, are spraying pesticides into the air to kill the mosquitos. This practice is significantly more harmful to the environment as the chemicals kill other insects, including bees.

If approved in other countries, the project is expected to eventually eliminate the fear of catching the Zika virus. The expense is expected to run quite high, however, as the estimated cost is 10c per mosquito and millions will have to be released. The positives extend far beyond eliminating the Zika virus, as the Aedes aegypti mosquito is also responsible for the spread of dengue, chikungunga and other viruses. If allowed to continue to multiply freely, there is the possibility of the mosquito adapting and starting to transfer other viruses which may become even more of a threat to humans than Zika currently is.