Category Archives: Technology

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.

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.

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

APOGEO Magazine: Applications of GIS for Wildfire, Diamond Mining, and Wind Farms

The Summer 2013 Issue of APOGEO Magazine has multiple articles that highlight the application of GIS technology around the world. These articles include:

  1. An explanation of how GIS technology is used to manage wildfires in the United States. The article explains the phases of a wildfire that GIS can be used to manage and lists the data themes that are important in Wildfire GIS. It also talks about the types of sensors used to collect the data needed to support a Wildfire GIS.
  2. An article that shows how satellite imagery is used to track the location, size, and distribution of illegal diamond mines and mining activity in the alluvial deposits of Africa.
  3. An article that shows how wind farm planners use GIS to track long term studies of wind speed, direction, and duration on potential wind farms sites. It also describes the sonar/LIDAR technology that can be used to collect this wind data.

All of these are great examples of the application of GIS to real world challenges.

Landon Blake

GPS World: First Galileo Position Fix With Open Source Receiver

GPS World recently reported that researchers had obtained the first position from Galileo satellite signals using an open source GNSS receiver design. The position fix was obtained by a research team at the Statistical interference Department at the CTTC. The work done by the research team was part of the open source GNSS SDR Project.

The article also talks about the benefits of an open source GPS receiver. It says:

“With GNSS-SDR, researchers and technology enthusiasts can easily change the implementation of a certain functional block and assess the impact of that change on the whole receiver performance,” said Pau Closas, GNSS-SDR scientific advisor and Head of the Statistical Inference Department at CTTC. “This paves the way to innovative mass-market, industrial and scientific applications that could make use of Galileo signals but require non-standard features which are not present in mass-market receivers nor in costly professional equipment.”

An open source GPS receiver…That is super groovy cool!

Landon Blake