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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Dreadnought 2050: England's Royal Warship Of The Future

As reported by Sky NewsEngineers have provided a glimpse of what the Royal Navy's surface ships could look like in the future.

The design of Dreadnought 2050 includes a new style of operation room that would give commanders an improved focus on areas thousands of miles away.
Engineers believe the warship could be manned by a crew of 50 - a significant reduction from modern vessels, which usually have a crew of 200.
The images of the ship have been released by a group of leading British naval electronic systems companies who worked with experts Startpoint.
The original HMS Dreadnought entered service in 1906 and was such an advance at the time that all it rendered all other major warships obsolete.
Commander Steve Prest, the Royal Navy's fleet robotics officer, said: "In 2013 the Royal Navy challenged the defense industry to innovate, and to generate new opportunities to give it an operational edge.
"We therefore welcome a project that allows some of Britain's best and brightest young engineers to come up with ideas on what a warship might look like or be equipped with in 2050.
"We want to attract the best new talent to sea to operate, maintain and develop systems with this level of ambition."
Muir Macdonald, from Startpoint, said: "The Royal Navy needs visionary, innovative thinking and these concepts point the way to cutting-edge technology which can be acquired at less cost and operated with less manpower than anything at sea today in the world's leading navies."
The images of futuristic vessel were released as Chancellor George Osborne announced £500m to be spent on sea walls, jetties and other projects at the Faslane naval base, the home of the UK's nuclear deterrent. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aircraft Company Offers Stake in Vertical Take-off and Landing Business Plane

As reported by GizmagCrowdfunding is usually associated with consumer goods like smartwatches and drones, but XTI Aircraft Company of Denver, Colorado is hoping to score a double first with its TriFan 600. Pitched as the first commercially certified high-speed, long-range Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) airplane that combines the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed of an airplane, it's also the first major aviation project to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign in the wake of new rules approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Under development for two years, the TriFan 600 is designed as a six-seat, fixed-wing, composite-construction, fly-by-wire airplane with both VTOL capabilities and the speed and range of a conventional business jet. It would carry a pilot and five passengers at a cruising speed of 340 knots (400 mph, 644 km/h) and have a ceiling of 30,000 ft (9,000 m). Its two high-performance turboshaft engines give it a range of 800 to 1,200 mi (1,300 to 1,900 km), depending on takeoff method and payload.
Meanwhile, three ducted fans behind a sliding hatch provide vertical lift. One selling point of the aircraft is that by eliminating the need to travel to and from airports and transport passengers door-to-door (or helipad-to-helipad), it would be competitive even with faster conventional aircraft. The TriFan 600 will initially be targeted at business customers and is expected to cost from US$10 to $12 million.
According to the company, the TriFan 600 has a choice of interior fitouts, ranging from luxury business seating to medical evacuation or air ambulatory configurations.
On Tuesday, XTI Aircraft announced an equity crowdfunding campaign that the company refers to as the "first fundraising effort of its kind in aviation history." Based on new rules approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, backers can buy a stake in the company. The campaign is part of a larger fundraising effort that is also looking to attract venture capital, private equity, and high net-worth investors.
The new company boasts some high-powered officers, including Vice Chairman Jeffrey Pino, who is the former president and chief executive of Sikorsky Aircraft, board member Charlie Johnson, who is the former president of Cessna Aircraft Company, and Chief Engineer and board member Dennis Olcott, who served as chief engineer for Adam Aircraft and the PiperJet program.
If the fundraising effort is successful, the company aims to get the first proof of concept prototype completed in two-and-a-half years before building another one or two prototypes for further testing and FAA certification.
"We view equity crowdfunding as a creative way to involve everyone as true stakeholders working together to pioneer this all new way to fly," says Brody. "It's a way to turn all of our supporters into potential stockholders by providing the public a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get in early on something truly revolutionary."
The video below introduces the TriFan 600.

Tesla Agrees to Buy Lithium from Mexican Mine for its Gigafactory

As reported by Fortune: Tesla has entered into an agreement to buy lithium from a soon-to-be-built mine in Northern Mexico to supply a key ingredient in the batteries that it will eventually churn out in its large battery factory.

The companies that own the mine, Bacanora Minerals and Rare Earth Minerals, announced a conditional supply agreement on Friday. The mine, called the Sonora Lithium Project, will just be one of the lithium suppliers to Tesla’s Gigafactory.

The deal is subject to various terms and conditions. One of the biggest is that Bacanora and Rare Earth Metals will need to raise funding and then build out the mine and a lithium processing facility.

The lithium-deposit region is less than 200 miles south of the border with the U.S., in the state of Sonora in Mexico. The companies estimate that it will be able to produce 35,000 tons of lithium compounds, with a potential to grow that to 50,000 tons, when fully constructed.

The companies have previously estimated that it would take them $114 million to build out a lithium mine on the site. But in the release the companies said they were doing a new study to determine the costs now that the companies would build out the site to supply Tesla with the materials and volumes it wants.

Lithium deposits can produce both of the compounds lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate. Depending on the type of battery chemistry, lithium-ion battery makers would buy one or the other to supply the key ingredient for their lithium-ion batteries. Tesla plans to buy lithium hydroxide from the mine.

Another big condition is once the mine is built out, it must provide Tesla with the volumes of lithium it wants and at the speed that Tesla requires. The mine must reach performance milestones over the next two years, for Tesla to buy lithium from the mine. Following that time period, from the first order of lithium, the deal is for five years, with an option to extend it for another five years.

Tesla’s massive Gigafactory is under construction just outside of Reno, Nevada. The factory intends to churn out enough lithium-ion batteries to supply 500,000 electric cars by 2020.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Artificial Leaf Harnesses Sunlight for Efficient Fuel Production

As reported by Phys.orgGenerating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy. When the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) was established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub had one main goal: a cost-effective method of producing fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and storing energy in the form of chemical fuels for use on demand. Over the past five years, researchers at JCAP have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

"This result was a stretch project milestone for the entire five years of JCAP as a whole, and not only have we achieved this goal, we also achieved it on time and on budget," says Caltech's Nate Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor and professor of chemistry, and the JCAP scientific director.
The new solar fuel generation system, or , is described in the August 27 online issue of the journal Energy and Environmental Science. The work was done by researchers in the laboratories of Lewis and Harry Atwater, director of JCAP and Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science.
"This accomplishment drew on the knowledge, insights and capabilities of JCAP, which illustrates what can be achieved in a Hub-scale effort by an integrated team," Atwater says. "The device reported here grew out of a multi-year, large-scale effort to define the design and materials components needed for an integrated solar fuels generator."
The new system consists of three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize , generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production
A highly efficient photoelectrochemical (PEC) device uses the power of the sun to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The stand-alone prototype includes two chambers separated by a semi-permeable membrane that allows collection of both gas products. Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech

Semiconductors such as silicon or gallium arsenide absorb light efficiently and are therefore used in solar panels. However, these materials also oxidize (or rust) on the surface when exposed to water, so cannot be used to directly generate fuel. A major advance that allowed the integrated system to be developed was previous work in Lewis's laboratory, which showed that adding a nanometers-thick layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2)—a material found in white paint and many toothpastes and sunscreens—onto the electrodes could prevent them from corroding while still allowing light and electrons to pass through. The new complete solar fuel generation system developed by Lewis and colleagues uses such a 62.5-nanometer-thick TiO2 layer to effectively prevent corrosion and improve the stability of a gallium arsenide–based photoelectrode.
Another key advance is the use of active, inexpensive catalysts for fuel production. The photoanode requires a catalyst to drive the essential water-splitting reaction. Rare and expensive metals such as platinum can serve as effective catalysts, but in its work the team discovered that it could create a much cheaper, active catalyst by adding a 2-nanometer-thick layer of nickel to the surface of the TiO2. This catalyst is among the most active known catalysts for  molecules into oxygen, protons, and electrons and is a key to the high efficiency displayed by the device.

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production
Illustration of an efficient, robust and integrated solar-driven prototype featuring protected photoelectrochemical assembly coupled with oxygen and hydrogen evolution reaction catalysts. Credit: Image provided courtesy of Joint Center for …more

The photoanode was grown onto a photocathode, which also contains a highly active, inexpensive, nickel-molybdenum catalyst, to create a fully integrated single material that serves as a complete solar-driven water-splitting system.
A critical component that contributes to the efficiency and safety of the new system is the special plastic membrane that separates the gases and prevents the possibility of an explosion, while still allowing the ions to flow seamlessly to complete the electrical circuit in the cell. All of the components are stable under the same conditions and work together to produce a high-performance, fully integrated system. The demonstration system is approximately one square centimeter in area, converts 10 percent of the energy in sunlight into stored energy in the chemical fuel, and can operate for more than 40 hours continuously.
"This new system shatters all of the combined safety, performance, and stability records for artificial leaf technology by factors of 5 to 10 or more ," Lewis says."Our work shows that it is indeed possible to produce fuels from sunlight safely and efficiently in an integrated system with inexpensive components," Lewis adds, "Of course, we still have work to do to extend the lifetime of the system and to develop methods for cost-effectively manufacturing full systems, both of which are in progress."
Because the work assembled various components that were developed by multiple teams within JCAP, coauthor Chengxiang Xiang, who is co-leader of the JCAP prototyping and scale-up project, says that the successful end result was a collaborative effort. "JCAP's research and development in device design, simulation, and materials discovery and integration all funneled into the demonstration of this new device," Xiang says.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Welcome to the World, Drone-Killing Laser Cannon

As reported by WiredHANG ON TO your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.

The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.
People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t. In airport flight paths. Above wildfires. Onto the White House lawn. Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents—that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet.

But governments and militaries around the world are terrified by the prospect of drones carrying explosives or chemical weapons (and now, pornography) into places where they shouldn’t.
There are lots of theories on the best way to deal with the drone threat. An Idaho company has developed special anti-drone shotgun shells. Some agencies are working on jamming technology to block communication from the operator to the aircraft. Firefighters in New York kept it simple, aiming their hose at a pesky drone hovering near a house fire.
Forget all that. Boeing thinks the best way to kill a drone is to zap it with a precision laser, burn a hole in it, and bring it down. So it created a weapon system to do just that—and the result could someday be installed everywhere from LaGuardia to the Pentagon.
Wednesday morning, the company showed off its Compact Laser Weapon System for media in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a much smaller, significantly more portable version of the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) Boeing demonstrated last year. This setup looks like an overgrown camera, swiveling around on a tripod.
In the demo, Boeing used the laser to burn holes in a stationary, composite UAV shell, to show how quickly it can compromise an aircraft. Two seconds at full power and the target was aflame. Other than numerous safety warnings to ensure no one was blinded by the two-kilowatt infrared laser, there was no fanfare. No explosions, no visible beam. It’s more like burning ants with a really, really expensive magnifying glass than obliterating Alderaan.
Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.

The new system is more scalpel than sledgehammer. Its laser, and, especially, the off-the-shelf gimbal (a fancy motor that can aim the laser and camera in any direction) it’s mounted on, make it precise enough to target different parts of a UAV. Want to zap the tail so it crashes and then you can go retrieve the mostly intact drone and see who is trying to spy on you? Can do. Think it’s carrying explosives and you want to completely destroy it? No problem. Boeing wouldn’t get specific on its range, but company reps suggested that if you can see a target, even with binoculars, you can kill it.
Depending on the target’s speed and distance, Boeing’s weapon can fire its laser within an inch or two of what it wants to hit. Because the laser moves at the speed of light, it’s easier to be precise—there’s no need to lead the target. The speed of the gimbal is the primary limitation on the targeting front.
The laser is controlled with a standard Xbox 360 controller (“If it breaks, just head to the barracks to get a replacement!”) and a laptop with custom targeting software. Once in range, the system can take over from the human operator and control targeting and tracking automatically. Though current prototypes are meant to be used from static positions, the new weapon could be used on a moving vehicle or ship with minimal upgrades.
“This represents a low-cost way to deal with the threat,” said David DeYoung, director of Boeing Laser & Electro-Optical Systems. Boeing wouldn’t reveal a total price of the system, but says it’s a one-time purchase. Once you’ve got the system, the only cost is electricity. The company expects the system to run for “years” with basic maintenance (the gimbal is the only moving part) and near-zero ongoing costs since there’s no traditional ammunition.
The necessary electricity can come from standard 220 volt outlet, a generator on a military vehicle, or a battery pack for ultimate portability. Boeing has several battery solutions depending on situational need, but all should give enough juice for at least a few shots.
The company hopes to have the Star Wars-inspired weapon ready for market in a year or two, with many refinements and developments to come over the next few years. But don’t expect lasers to replace traditional armaments like Raytheon’s Patriot missile defense system and Israel’s Iron Dome. “There will be times where it makes sense to use a missile and there will be times where it makes sense to use a laser,” says DeYoung.
As with any military weapon, Boeing would need to work through export control regulations before selling to foreign governments. It’s also not clear whether civilian agencies running prisons and airports could deploy the system under current regulations, or even what regulations might apply to something like this.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the laser doesn’t make any noise. A Boeing rep did say the company’s planning to add a number of sound effects to the control station, to help multi-tasking operators keep an eye on what’s going on when it’s in an automated tracking mode. Hopefully they’ll hire Industrial Light and Magic to appease disappointed laser-lovers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

There’s a Massive Battle Brewing Over the Future Of Wi-Fi

As reported by TimeVerizon and T-Mobile are planning to use Wi-Fi networks to broadcast their cellular signals — a move that could clog up the airwaves and lead to fierce competition, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The two wireless carriers are set to introduce LTE-U, an iteration of the LTE cellular standard that will switch to the least congested channel, which includes Wi-Fi frequencies. It eases the load on the carriers’ networks, but it could also burden Wi-Fi networks, reducing speed and quality. It’s also an inexpensive way to transmit signals, since Wi-Fi uses free, unlicensed airwaves, as detailed in a recent Fortune story.
This should worry companies such as Google, Cablevision, and Republic Wireless, who use Wi-Fi either as hotspots for users or to offer wireless services of their own. According to the Journal, Google officials recently wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, remarking that LTE-U was “particularly worrisome” because wireless carriers “may view some Wi-Fi providers, such as cable companies offering Wi-Fi hotspots to their customers, as competitors.”
Verizon and T-Mobile are adamant their technology won’t degrade Wi-Fi connections. “Every test that we’ve done shows that LTE-U is as good of a neighbor to Wi-Fi as Wi-Fi is to itself,” Patrick Welsh, director of federal government affairs at Verizon, told the newspaper.
Wi-Fi usage is already growing rapidly among mobile users, and this development could lead to network congestion. In a report last year by Mobidia Technology, those on Android phones consumed 6.8GB and those with iPhones consumed 8.9GB of Wi-Fi data from July to September, 2014. In comparison, 1.8GB of cellular data were used by cellular subscribers over the same period.

Should Police Be Able to Take Control of Self-Driving Cars?

As reported by SlateA few lines in a seemingly routine RAND Corp. report on the future of technology and law enforcement last week raised a provocative question: Should police have the power to take control of a self-driving car?
Here’s a hypothetical scenario from the report’s introduction:
The police officer directing traffic in the intersection could see the car barreling toward him and the occupant looking down at his smartphone. Officer Rodriguez gestured for the car to stop, and the self-driving vehicle rolled to a halt behind the crosswalk.
That seems like a pretty plausible interaction. Human drivers are required to pull over when a police officer gestures for them to do so. It’s reasonable to expect that self-driving cars would do the same. To look at it another way: Self-driving cars are programmed to stop at red lights and stop signs. Surely they should also be programmed to stop when a police officer flags them down. It is, after all, the law.
It’s clear, then, that police officers should have some power over the movements of self-driving cars. What’s less clear is where to draw the line. If a police officer can command a self-driving car to pull over for his own safety and that of others on the road, can he do the same if he suspects the passenger of a crime? And what if the passenger doesn’t want the car to stop—can she override the command, or does the police officer have ultimate control?
A brief section on connected and autonomous cars later in the report outlined other ways police could take advantage of the technology:
Imagine a law enforcement officer interacting with a vehicle that has sensors connected to the Internet. With the appropriate judicial clearances, an officer could ask the vehicle to identify its occupants and location histories. … Or, if the vehicle is unmanned but capable of autonomous movement and in an undesirable location (for example, parked illegally or in the immediate vicinity of an emergency), an officer could direct the vehicle to move to a new location (with the vehicle’s intelligent agents recognizing “officer” and “directions to move”) and automatically notify its owner and occupants.
Again, that all sounds benign enough, in itself. But if police have the capability to glean personal information from a sensor-equipped car, who will ensure that they have the appropriate clearances before doing so? And what if police want to direct the movements of a self-driving car when it does have humans inside?
The RAND study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice, did not attempt to answer those questions directly. Rather, it asked a panel of 16 experts in criminal justice and technology to identify imminent changes in information technology that might have an impact on law enforcement policies and procedures. What control police should have over self-driving cars was just one of numerous questions raised in the 32-page report, and it merited only a few paragraphs of discussion. Still, it’s clearly an issue that is on the radar of law enforcement already. And it’s likely to become more urgent in the coming years as self-driving cars attempt to cross the bridge from research project to commercial reality.
The report acknowledged that “the dark side to all of the emerging access and interconnectivity is the risk to the public’s civil rights, privacy rights, and security.” It added, “One can readily imagine abuses that might occur if, for example, capabilities to control automated vehicles and the disclosure of detailed personal information about their occupants were not tightly controlled and secured.”
You don’t even have to imagine it, really: Hackers are already taking control of cars via their onboard computers even without a built-in mechanism designed to allow it.
I asked the report’s lead author, RAND Corp. operations researcher John S. Hollywood, whether he got the sense that the law enforcement representatives on the panel were eager to push for law enforcement control of Internet-connected and self-driving cars. He told me they weren’t. Rather, in ranking their priorities, they put “developing policies and procedures for self-driving unmanned and automated vehicles” at the top of the list. Among the policy and procedure questions they may ponder: Will they need a warrant before accessing a self-driving car’s data? John Frank Weaver discussed that issue in more depth in a recent Future Tense post.
The panelists’ lowest-ranked priority: “Develop an interface for officers to directly take control of unmanned vehicles.”
While the ranking is reassuring, it’s a little unnerving that such an interface would register as a priority at all. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however. Given how hard the federal government and its spy agencies have pushed for backdoor access to our social networks and email servers, there’s little doubt they’ll want the same with our cars.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

These Electric Powered Surfboards can Surf on Flat Water

As reported by Business InsiderIf you want to surf on flat water, you either need to be towed by a boat, or have a built-in motor on your board. It used to be that the latter option was impossible, but now that batteries and electric motors are smaller than ever before, surf startups all over the globe are building self-propelled boards that you can ride anywhere — not just the ocean.

onean electric jet board 2 640x427 cThe latest entry into this burgeoning category comes from Onean Electric Jet Surfboards. The company has recently unveiled a pair of boards equipped with powerful electric engines — effectively allowing you to surf without waves.
The Carver and the Manta, as they’re called, both sport onboard 4400-Watt brushless motors under your feet. The boards are sandwich style with a CNC and EPS shaped core, and while their top speed is still being tested, they look pretty damn quick in the video below. The axial water pump powered by the motor is controlled with a wireless remote. The motor is silent and, since it’s electric, both of the company’s boards are safe for use in protected areas.
With more of an elongated oval shape and a tapered nose, the Carver is made to slalom, or “carve” up the water. The top speed is still being tested, but the battery can handle about 20 minutes at full thrust. It has two foot straps to keep you safely on-board.
The Manta is a little heavier and has a square shape that makes it more stable. It’s designed for smooth cruising at lower speeds, topping out at 8 kilometers an hour. It’ll cruise for two hours before the battery dies, which makes it perfect for exploring. In either case, the battery takes about two hours to charge, so you can charge it in the morning before you head out to the water. Onean does offer extra batteries for $1,300 each.

Tesla Motors Inc Model S Gets 450 Miles on a Single Charge [Video]

As reported by Green Car ReportsA pair of Danish drivers claim to have set a new record for Tesla Model S electric-car range.

Over the weekend, the pair covered 728.7 kilometers (452.8 miles), after a marathon drive beginning and ending at the Supercharger DC fast-charging site in Rødekro, Denmark.

The drivers claim to have used 77.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to cover that distance, meaning there was potentially still some range left in their 85-kWh Model S P85D at the end.

The trip involved 18 hours and 40 minutes of driving, plus one hour of rest stops.
Achieving the remarkable range figure required some drastic measures that average drivers probably wouldn't tolerate.

Average speed was just 39 kph (24.2 mph). Signs were taped to the back of the car advising other drivers of its slow speed.

As seen in a video of the drive posted on YouTube, the air conditioning was also used sparingly.
Apparently that's what it takes to achieve a range that significantly exceeds the EPA-rated combined 253 miles of the P85D.

With its focus on performance, the P85D has the lowest range of any 85-kWh Model S.
The rear-wheel drive Model S 85 is rated at 265 miles, while the all-wheel drive 85D is rated at 270 miles.

Tesla is in the midst of introducing a 90-kWh battery-pack option, which should bump range up somewhat over corresponding 85-kWh models.

The company expects a 6 to 7 percent increase, roughly equivalent to the increase in energy capacity of the new pack.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also said that a Model S 90D will achieve close to 300 miles of range in highway driving, when driven at a steady 65 mph.

The final battery-pack option in the Model S range is the smaller 70-kWh unit, which has now replaced the previous 65-kWh base pack.

The 70-kWh pack can provide 230 miles of range in the rear-wheel drive Model S 70, and 240 miles in the all-wheel drive Model S 70D.