The Economist Magazine: Ultralight Solar Powered Drones Replace Satellites

The August 30, 2014 Issue of Economist Magazine has an article entitled “The West Wind Blows Afresh” that describes high-altitude psuedi-satellites or “HAPS”. These are high-altitude drones that could replace satellites currently used for Earth observation and communications.

Airbus is designing a HAPS named Zephyr (after the Greek God of the West Wind). According to the article, the Zephy is an ultra-light, solar powered, propeller driven drone. The drone is designed to fly over the same part of the Earth for very long periods of time. Because HAPS like the Zephyr fly so much lower than satellites, they can carry less expensive camera equipment to obtain the same quality of Earth surface photos.

Fast Company Magazine: Using Cars to Track Potholes

The September 2014 Issue of Fast Company Magazine has an article about a group at Northeastern University that has developed a system to track potholes from sensors placed on cars. According to the article the system is called “Versatile Onboard Traffic Emebedded Roaming Sensors” or (VOTERS). The system works by combining data from three (3) sensors. The first detects changes in tire air pressure caused by bumps in the road surface. The second is a microphone that records noise from the vehicle suspension. The second is a radar system that scans the road surface beneath the vehicle. The sensor data is sent to a central computer system that performs analysis to determine the location and priority level of repair sites. According to the article, the team at Northeastern University is hoping to spin off a company that helps cities use the system.

Early detection of flaws in the road surface produced by VOTERS help reduce the cost of road repairs and damage to vehicles using the road.

Bloomberg Businessweek: World’s Largets Patent Troll Trys to Invent Stuff

The September 8 Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has an article that describes the attempt by one of the world’s largest patent trolls to actually invent stuff. The company is Intellectual Ventures, which has been paid billions of dollars by tech companies (large and small) for alleged patent infringement. The patent troll is now using that money to actually fund attempts at real innovation.

The article describes the company’s Seattle lab facility. It is a 50,000 square foot facility with 170 scientists that have access to 8,000 different pieces of scientific equipment. The company seems to be having some success with its new lab. Inventions produced there include a small thermos-sized unit that can keep material cold for long periods without electricity.

The article says Intellectual Ventures has filed over 50 patent infringement lawsuits, but that returns on the patent licensing and patent settlement parts of its business have been a meager 2.5 percent. The company recently laid off staff members that work in the patent infringement part of its business.

Kotlin: New Static Programming Language for the JVM

I discovered Kotlin today. It is a new statically type programming language for the Java Virtual Machine. Kotlin is developed by the same company that makes the IntelliJ IDE.

I don’t have any immediate plans to try Kotlin, but from what I read it seems like a cool little programming language. It is too bad it doesn’t have built-in GUI support yet.

At any rate…I wanted to share a link to Kotlin with my blog readers.

Landon Blake

The Economist Magazine: 100 Year Old Pipeline Made Los Angeles Urban Growth Possible

The November 9, 2013 Issue of The Economist Magazine had an article about the 100 year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The 233 mile pipeline carries water from the Ownes Valley to the north tip of the San Fernando Valley. The pipeline made the huge growth in the Los Angeles basin possible. Thanks to water conservation efforts and use of the pipeline water to support the environment, the pipeline now accounts for just a 1/3 of the City’s water supply. Los Angeles now consumes less water per person than any other large American City.

This story is a good example of how Geography Matters, and highlights the important connection between urban growth and water supply in the American Southwest.

Landon Blake

Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine: Saving Elephants In Kenya With Drones and Google Earth

The November 4, 2013 Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has an article about park rangers using drones and Google Earth to help save elephants in Kenya, where poaching is a serious problem. The rangers use radio collars with GPS to track important members of elephant herds, and then plot this information on Google Earth. When the herds get close to known locations of poachers, one of three drones is sent out to scare the animals in the other direction.

The article quotes James Hardy, the manager of Mara North Conservancy: “Drones are basically the future of conservation…A drone can do what 50 rangers can do.”

This is a great example of the application of GIS, drone technology, and actual decision making based on spatial data.

Landon Blake