‘Drone’ That Hit Plane in London May Have Just Been a Plastic Bag

A few days ago it was reported that a drone may have hit a British Airways jet flying out of Heathrow. The transport minister Robert Goodwill has yet to confirm if that’s the case, saying that it could have just been a plastic bag.

The incident is believed to have occurred at around 1,700 ft, over four times the legal limit for people who want to fly their drones in the open air and while the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is investigating the incident alongside the Metropolitan Police there has been little in the way of information released to the public.

Goodwill did respond to comments regarding “geo-fencing”, a technique where drones would be blocked from entering restricted areas by means of having ‘no go zones’ installed on their devices by the manufacturers. Goodwill didn’t show great promise or belief in that option as he said it would be vulnerable to “somebody who could get round the software”.

With people speculating that the plane struck a drone, a thought that has occurred many times before and almost happened on several occasions, Goodwill did say that it “has not been confirmed it was actually a drone”, instead saying that the original story came from a local police force who tweeted the news about a reported drone colliding with a plane. “There was no actual damage to the plane and there’s indeed some speculation that it may have even been a plastic bag or something”, the latest news seems to be that if it was a drone or unmanned electronic device, they don’t even know what it could have been.

Going on to explain the current information, Goodwill explained that “there was no actual damage to the plane and there’s indeed some speculation that it may have even been a plastic bag or something”.

So no confirmed Drone could mean that people are overreacting to what has been a nightmare scenario for many groups for a while now, with incidents involving everything from illegally flying their drones during major events to even crashing into famous landmarks.

UN Aviation Want Real-Time Tracking Of Aircraft

In recent years, we’ve had tragic incidents in which aircraft have gone missing, leaving many wondering what happened to the people on board. To prevent further loss, the UN’s international civil aviation organization (ICAO) want to create a system to enable real-time tracking of aircraft.

The three most significant tweaks to Annex 6 of the Chicago Convention (the document outlining how aircraft, airports and anything operating in their airspace needs to work) are as follows:

  • Aircraft must carry “autonomous distress tracking devices” that can “transmit location information at least once every minute in distress circumstances.”
  • The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) must be able to store at least 25 hours of recording, “so that they cover all phases of flight for all types of operations.”
  • Aircraft must be “equipped with a means to have flight recorder data recovered and made available in a timely manner.”

These moves mean that even if you were unable to locate the plane immediately and recover the CVR or flight recorder, the information and details regarding the flight would still be accessible. ICAO’s president Olumyiwa Benard Aliu states that in the case of an accident “the location of the site will be known immediately to within six nautical miles”.

While this may be late for some, the new rules which airline operators have until 2021 to adopt, could prevent others from asking the question of where.

CAA Warns That Reckless Drone Pilots Could Face Jail Time

After another close miss between a drone and a commercial airplane, the CAA warns that you not only could be fined but also face prison time if you fly your drone recklessly. An Airbus A320’s wing passed just 6 meters below a drone that was hovering at Heathrow airport and this news comes just days after a Lufthansa jet nearly collided with a drone on the approach to Warsaw’s airport.

There have been 6 other incidents with drones that nearly missed commercial planes between March 2014 and March 2015 in the UK alone and users of these toys need to be aware of the rules surrounding them. The drones become more and more sophisticated and also easier to afford, thus the amount of drones in the air is rapidly increasing.

Recklessly endangering an aircraft is a criminal offense and you could face a five-year jail sentence. The general drone code of conduct is: Always keep your drone in sight which is about 500 meters and never fly higher than 122 meters. You should also stay at least 50m away from people, vehicles, and structures due to privacy laws and up to 150m away from large groups of people.

The British Airline Pilots Association also urges owners of drones to exercise common sense when flying their crafts and remember that they are entering one of the busiest areas. There are a lot of flying objects in our airspace and they’re getting more every day.

Thank You BBC for providing us with this information

Man Flies Into The Air Using Balloons

Pixar’s fantastically animated film Up was a major success at the box office, but this notion of a man floating in mid-air using only balloons could not possibly happen in real life. Well yes it can and it has as one man has decided to undertake a stunt which looks wonderful but also landed him in trouble.

An individual by the name of Daniel Boria who is from Canada, attached 110 large balloons which were around 2 meters in diameter to lift him skyward in a lawn chair reports Canada’s CBC. This event was a publicity stunt for of all things, his cleaning products company which certainly became noticed after he floated past people’s windows in a deck chair. After landing, Daniel Boria stated that “it was the most surreal experience you can ever imagine.

Below is the image and it certainly shows how high, no pun intended, he managed to achieve, so much so that when he looked down, he could spot a few 747 planes landing and also taking off. Once he landed he was arrested with Police officers confiscating Boria’s parachute and his video which he recorded while aloft, although what he will be charged with is anyone’s guess.

This story does show the ingenuity of people if their minds are put to it, it’s great publicity although it did cost $20,000 (£12948.96) after he spent cash hiring an airplane to carry a banner advertising his company to make circles around the Stampede grounds. Next time you would like a cleaning company, remember the man floating up in the air.

Thank You RT for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of HDW

Airbus A400M Disaster Blamed on Faulty Software Configuration

As software continues to grow more complex, the chance for critical errors to emerge increases. Airbus has found out the hard way after a Spanish A400M suffered a fatal crash just last month. Investigators have determined that a software configuration error for the engines led to nearly full engine failure, leading up to the crash.

Airbus was able to determine from the flight data recorder that the plane had not suffered any physical malfunction. Rather, software controlling the fuel supply erroneously adjusted the fuel tank trim due to faulty software configuration. Starved of fuel, the engines shut down, causing the plane to eventually crash. The software fault was not inherent to the code in the engine control unit but was due to it’s erroneous configuration settings.

While fly by wire has become very common in the plane industry, the continued reliance on software raises some concern. Checking for issues in software can be more complex than discovering and diagnosing physical problems with planes. Boeing, Airbus’s main competition,  recently discovered a serious software bug that could have led to crashes due to bad software, also relating to power and engines. It’s important for firms to take as much care to make secure and reliable software as it is for ensuring the physical integrity of the plane. These issues are sure to crop up more and before I get on a 100% software reliant plane with a windowless cockpit, that software better be free of errors and configured properly.

FBI Claims Security Researcher Was Able to Issue Commands to Engines

Security on planes has always been an issue, be it from people leaving their electronic devices on during flights or people making threats via social media. So when the FBI received a message from a security researcher claiming to have hacked an in-flight plane you can see why they might be concerned.

Chris Roberts is an aviation computer security researcher, that is he attempts to access and assess the security regarding plane’s as to prevent people from doing the same for more malicious reasons than to get paid. Apparently in his message Roberts claimed to have accessed the in-flight entertainment system. He then was able to overwrite code on the airplane Thrust management system, allowing him to control the engines on the plane in question.

Using his new access Roberts claims to have given an engine a climb command, resulting in the plane going sideways while still in flight. This isn’t the first time he’s been in trouble with the FBI because of his actions though, in 2015 he was detained after tweeting a joke about sending EICAS messages and toggling the oxygen masks. This resulted in him getting his iPad, MacBook Pro and his electronic storage devices confiscated for fear he was going to misuse them.

To the best of our knowledge Roberts has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime for the most recent claims, luckily for him I guess. Given the nature of the claims it’s a serious issue if he did manage to command the in-flight engines, especially if he hasn’t alerted the Airplane company regarding the issue. Ethical hacking is a serious issue these days, with some people crossing the line between ethical hacking and hacking just to make a point in order to get a payday.

I’ve always been comfortable on flights but should I take a second guess about taking my phone or laptop out while in flight?

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information.

Image Courtesy of Airlines

Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Fly Around the World

The solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 is about to take off on a journey around the world after years of planning. The aircraft has been designed from the ground up with the latter mission in mind, having over 17,000 solar cells line in its wings which supply a series of electronic motors and charge four on-board lithium batteries.

The aircraft is said to be designed in such a way as to be endlessly powered by solar energy and thanks to its batteries, the plane is said to be able to fly day and night. The trip is going to take around 25 days split into 12 legs, starting and ending in Abu Dhabi.

Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are the project’s organisers, who stated that energy efficiency testing is the main objective here. While this project seems to be a step towards testing how renewable energy could help fly planes in the near future, Piccard and Borschberg stated that the project is more of a publicity stunt rather than a technological milestone.

Gathering more information on the plane itself reveals that it boasts only one seat with a built-in toilet, with no heating or oxygen. In terms of food provisions during the flight, “dehydrated and vacuum-packaged” seems to be the key description of what the pilots should expect. No wonder the trip has been broken down into smaller chunks.

Summing it up, the aircraft has a long way to go in order to compete with the more comfy Boeings and Airbuses everyone is accustomed to. However, the project does reveal the potential of renewable energy and its impact in the near future. If the project will come to be a success, industry scepticism regarding future powered solar planes might dissipate and debates regarding its future could reopen.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

Need to Land a Plane? There’s an iPad App for That

Xavion, an iPad app used by pilots to plan flight paths, is due to receive an update that will allow it to land a plane without its pilot.

The app is designed for pilots of small aircraft and has traditionally given them data to help them on their way. Xavion can provide detailed weather updates so pilots can avoid turbulence for example. But this new update, due to arrive early next year, will do something no app update has done before. The update promises to be able to bring an aircraft to a point just before landing, so even the least experienced pilot can land an aircraft and “walk away”. By subscribing for $199 a year, the app can help guide a plane in to landing in the case of an engine failure, lack of fuel or even if the pilot is incapacitated.

“In practice, pilots would use this app to guide them down to just before the threshold of the runway,” Meyer says. “At that point, any pilot can take over and land the airplane. Our tests today took us practically all the way down to touchdown. If the pilot didn’t take over, he would have just had a hard landing, broken the landing gear, and everyone would have walked away.” – The Creator of the app Austin Meyer speaking to Popular Science.

Check out the video at the source link to see the app in action.

Source: Popular Science Via: The Verge

Man Asked to Leave Plane after Critical Tweet

A man from Minnesota and his two sons were asked to leave their plane last Sunday after a critical tweet about rude gate agents.

Mr. Duff Watson was flying from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday with his sons ages 6 and 9. As a frequent flyer privilege holder he tried to board early together with his sons despite them not having the same privileges. The gate agent following the rules told him, that if he wanted to board together with his kids, he would have to wait. Watson replied that he had previously boarded planes early with them that way and sent out a tweet that read: “RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA.”

After they boarded the plane they were asked to exit the airplane again via an announcement. When they arrived at the gate, they were told that they weren’t allowed back on the plane and the police would be called unless he deleted his tweet again. Watson agreed to delete the tweet and was allowed back on the plane and was able to return home with his family.

Duff Watson told the TV Broadcaster KARE in Minneapolis on Wednesday: “We get bounced off the plane, and it turns into a completely different situation and escalated for reasons that are quite honestly silly.”

Southwest Airlines has offered a statement that a customer was briefly removed from the flight and that they as an airline have no intention to stifle customer feedback on social media. They have also offered the customers vouchers as a gesture of good will and stated: “Our decision was not based solely on a customer’s tweet.”

This just goes to show that the old phrase ”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” still is valid. Or wait until you’re at home. However it is to keep in mind, that in situations like this both sides were probably at equal fault, it could however have been resolved in a different way right away.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

HondaJet Reaches Major Milestone, Takes to the Skies For the First Time

Honda successfully tested the company’s first business jet, flying near the Honda Aircraft headquarters located in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The aircraft flew for 84 minutes after taking off from Piedmont Triad International Airport – and has the ability to fly at speeds up to 483 mph (773 km/h), with a maximum range of 1,357 miles (2,183km) and maximum altitude of 43,000 feet.

The jet has a number of custom features, such as over-wing engine mounting and a composite fuselage, with the company hoping to shake up the current small business jet market.

Here is what Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft CEO, said in a statement:

“With this first flight, the HondaJet program has entered the next exciting phase as we prepare for delivery.  This is an important achievement in bringing the world’s most advanced light jet to market.”

Initial research started in 1993, and the turbofan engine emerged in 1998, while the company wanted to enter commercial production in 2006.  However, numerous research setbacks caused delays, but there is still ample opportunity for the company to create success.

Looking ahead, Honda wants to qualify for aircraft certification and begin entry-level service in 2015.  The company is reportedly already in the final stage of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) testing right now.

Thank you to USA Today for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of HondaJet

Working RC Plane Created Using 3D Printing Pen

Last year we brought you news of the 3Doodler, a pen that draws in plastic, allowing you to do some free-hand 3D printing of your own, without the need for a larger base standing unit. We had pretty much forgotten about this little gadget until today, but we’re glad it’s back!

Drawing a picture of an plane is one thing, but picking up your picture then actually taking it out to fly is certainly something new. Matt Butchard created his own remote controlled toy plane with the 3Doodler and this one really flies.

Of course he had to add a few extras to the plastic frame, such as a prop, motor and some special material to cover the wings, but the framework is all done by hand with the 3Doodler and it’s a great demonstration of who someone could mock up a super quick prototype by hand.

The plane stalled and crashed after a few seconds, but it’s not like it would be hard to fix given the construction methods. At just $99 each, these 3D pens have a lot of potential for goofing around and could even just offer a quick way of patching up your items, much in the same way we use superglue or duct tape.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/tXaUMU8D4vE[/youtube]

Thank you PopSci for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of PopSci.