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.
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.
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
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.
The folks at MapBox have posted a couple of short articles about using aerial photos from drones in their product. The first article is here. The second article is here.
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.
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
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.