‘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.

It Has Finally Happened – A Plane Has Hit A Drone

While drones are a lovely piece of technology, they are often misused and prove a danger to not only their owner but the public at large. Two years ago a drone was hacked and it resulted in athletes at an event being injured since then we have constantly been warned about drones and the dangers that could happen if someone used them irresponsibly. The time has finally come when a plane has hit a drone, with no injuries we were fortunate.

Heathrow has had some close calls with drones before, this time, the plane is reported to have stuck an object, reported as possibly a drone, as it approached the airport near London. The plane was flying in from Geneva with 132 passengers and five crew when the mysterious object stuck the front of the plane.

While British Airways, the company behind the plane in question, have stated that the aircraft was “fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight”, you can help but fear that this could have gone worse.

With near misses constantly happening thanks to drone users ignoring common sense and flying their craft not only near but in front and around areas with heavy airplane traffic, it was only a matter of time before something happened and fortunately, nothing bad came of this incident but the police are still looking for the drones owner.

TSA Spent $47,000 on a Random Lane Picker

Governments and companies often contract out work to help create app’s and software to make systems. The problem is that the app’s and software comes at a price, it would now seem that the TSA spent quite a bit on a random lane picker.

It’s being reported that the TSA spent $47,400 on a piece of software that would help TSA staff pick lanes to separate and ease up congestion at Airport terminals, as shown in the video below.

The information comes as part of a freedom of information request revealed by Kevin Burke, revealing a contract with IBM totaling $336,413.59. Included in this documentation was a document relating to “randomizer software”.

The deal could have included more than just the software, with the iPad’s and tablets used for the software possibly also included in the deal. People are hoping this is the case, with the software being considered entry-level programming. The app itself was a random number generator, assigning people to the right or left lane (1 or 2) at airport security.

It’s got to be embarrassing that such a simple piece of software would come at such a high cost, all while governments are being scrutinized for their spending, higher taxes and budget cuts. The app is no longer in use, with the process of being randomly allocated lanes also being removed from their processes.

The “Entry Experience Solution” Could Make Airport Checks a Lot Less Stressful

So remember all that excitement for going on holiday? Your up early and get to the airport, checking your tickets and your luggage weight and then stand in a line waiting for people to search all those tightly packed bags, knowing you’ll have the same again when you get back. A new system by Qylur hopes to make that trip one step closer to peaceful.

The “Entry Experience Solution” looks like something out of Tron, with hexagonal pods placed in between two clear gateways. The system works on a basic principle, as you approach the machine you place your carry-on bags into one of the pods provided. The machine then uses everything from X-rays and chemical sensors to an artificial intelligence based system to search for everything and anything that may be considered a risk. If it does pick up something naughty though it locks the pod, making it impossible for the user to remove their bag until the security staff have responded to the risk.

The entry experience solution has already been installed at Disneyland Paris and the World Cup in Brazil, with the hope that the system can be tested across the US throughout 2016 before finally being considered for standard use in airports and major attractions.

Able to pass through 600 passengers within an hour and needing only four people ready to assist it, the machine could not only free up people to work in other areas of airports but could make your holiday run that little bit smoother.

Windows 3.1 System Shuts Down Paris Airport

Last Saturday, the Orly airport in Paris was forced to ground all flights due to a computer glitch and not just any glitch, but one caused by a system running Windows 3.1 – Yes, the early 1990s operation system.

This glitch was brought to light by French satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchaîné, which reported that the error that cause the shutdown was traced back to a system called DECOR. DECOR is used to communicate Runway Visual Range to pilots during takeoff and landings, which during adverse weather conditions such as the fog at the time, is almost invaluable. Unfortunately, this critical system runs on the once popular Windows operating system from 1992.

The use of a 20-year-old system to run a critical system is just the tip of the iceberg, which was revealed by Alexandre Fiacre, the secretary general of France’s UNSA-IESSA air traffic controller union. “The tools used by Aéroports de Paris controllers run on four different operating systems, that are all between 10 and 20 years old,” he said “Some of ADP’s machines run on UNIX [an operating system favored by universities and start-ups in the ’80s], but also Windows XP”. Frighteningly, ADP is the company responsible for running two of France’s busiest airports: Orly and Charles de Gaulle.

His further statements only serve to make me think flying to France may not be the safest prospect, stating that the dated systems are ill maintained, a lack of staff qualified to maintain them and that they are forced to resort to scouring eBay for the parts they need to keep the systems running. And even the promises made by France’s transport minister that the systems would be replaced by 2017 are doubted by Fiacre, believing 2019 would be the earliest it could be done.

I for one, worry about the safety and security of systems that are used in critical systems, when they continue to be run on poorly maintained, dated systems. I might even be thinking twice about using air travel…

Podulator – A Sign of Future Transport?

James May is known for a lot of things, amongst which is the show Top Gear of which he only recently stopped hosting. Known to have a keen interest in motorised vehicles, James’s latest twitter post is of a different type of vehicle.

As seen above, James seems to be at Heathrow, advertising the future of transport displayed at Terminal 5. The pod-based system allows you to travel between the station at terminal 5 and the two based in terminal 5’s car park. The system is not a new one, with it celebrating over 1 million autonomous miles back in 2013.

Featuring 3.8 kilometers of one-way track for the pods, it’s almost like a personal train between the stations. The one comparison I can draw is with trains, but the private and personal carriage like nature reminds me of the old cabin based trains, for those who have never experienced this, think about the Hogwarts train (shown below).

With companies like Google making automated cars, we could soon see Pod like cars working on a large scale, across an entire city or maybe even a country? Could companies like Uber and your local taxi soon be replaced by automated cars which you call at the press of a button?

Thank you Ultra Global PRT for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Ultra Global PRT and Harry Potter Wiki.

Indian Airport Paves The Way For a Solar Power Future

The world’s resources are becoming more and more finite in its capacity to provide for an ever-increasing population. Countries which previously had been considered as small and unassuming are now experiencing their version of an industrial revolution. As the planet becomes more hi tech, so the need for electricity becomes greater to the point where it is unsustainable and alternate solutions are in need of implementation.

This is where a pioneer of solar panels arrives with the aim of powering a whole airport using this technology. The airport in question is located in India and is called the Cochin International airport and has become the first airport in the world which completely operates on solar power. The feat is quite impressive considering the implementation of 46,150 solar panels laid across 45 acres near the cargo complex, which in turn generates a staggering 50000 to 60000 thousand units of electricity per day. This is with the aim of being consumed for all its operational functions, which in turn allows the airport to be power neutral.

This project is without a doubt a step in the right direction for the use of renewable energy, I am slightly surprised that India would be the first country in the world to envisage such a project which started way back in 2013, when CIAL ventured into the Solar PV sector by installing a 100 kWp solar PV Plant on the roof top of the Arrival Terminal Block, which turned out to be the first of many additions. Let’s just hope there are not any glitches in the system as passengers really do not like the idea of waiting for the sun to appear before landing.

Thank you cial for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of engadget

Optical Nanotechnology Sensor Claimed to be as Good as a Dog’s Nose

Researchers for the Oregon State University have created a new technology by combining optical tech with nanocomposite thin-films to develop a new type of cheap sensor, which is said to be fast, highly sensitive and able to detect and analyse a wide range of gases.

The sensor is said to be suited to detect carbon dioxide and may find potential use in industrial applications or systems designed to store the gas underground.

However, there are many other applications for the sensor. The researchers have filed a patent on the invention and are working in collaborating with a variety of industries to perfect and help commercialize the product.

“Optical sensing is very effective in sensing and identifying trace-level gases, but often uses large laboratory devices that are terribly expensive and can’t be transported into the field,” said Alan Wang, a photonics expert and an assistant professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.”By contrast, we use optical approaches that can be small, portable and inexpensive,” Wang said. “This system used plasmonic nanocrystals that act somewhat like a tiny lens, to concentrate a light wave and increase sensitivity.”

The sensor works by having a metal-organic framework of thin films which can quickly absorb gases within material pores and be recycled by simple vacuum processes.

After the thin-film captures the gas molecules near the surface, the plasmonic materials act at a near-infrared range, help magnify the signal and precisely analyze the presence and amounts of different gases.

Detecting gas can also find its use in the explosive diffusion industry, with further applications seen in public places with high risk of terrorism and explosive use, such as airports or border security.

However, a lot of gases required to be monitored in the lab before the sensor can do its job in the field. Other fields that might find potential use for the technology include healthcare, automobile engines and prevention of natural gas leakage.

Thank you Phys.org for providing us with this information

Google Now API Will Soon Be Available to Developers to Put in Their Apps

Director of Product Management for Google Now, Aparna Chennapragada, has announced at SXSW that an open API will soon be available to all developers to include in their apps. This means that Google Now will have the ability to search for information in more apps that just the ones allowed by Google.

The idea came when Chennapragada went to Disneyland and show how queues can eat up most of your day. This is why she now has the Google Now team working on displaying cards that would show how long the average waiting time is at various theme parks. But the feature will not stop here, having Google Now focusing on personalized user experience. This means that, for example, an individual wants to arrive at the airport early to catch a flight, the knowledge can be built in Google Now cards.

There is still the matter of what Google Now would display if it finds the same information from different sources. This is where “individual user app usage patterns” comes in, comparing the app’s personal usage and determining from which app to display the information based on the individual’s preferences.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information

Let RAY, the Robot Valet, Park Your Car

Here’s a valet you won’t feel obliged to tip: RAY, the robot valet, has started parking cars for visitors of Dusseldorf Airport in Germany. RAY is an automated forklift truck that will lift your car and park it into pre-designated parking bays.

The machine was developed by Serva Transport, and is designed to help travellers who are in a hurry. Slots can be booked in advance via a smartphone app. The traveller then drops off their car at a designated area, books in on the touchscreen monitor, and RAY does the rest. When the traveller returns, the car is brought back to the designated area – RAY has access to flight itineraries, so knows when you’re due back at the airport – and the owner drives away.

Since the drivers enter and exit their vehicle at the designated area, there is no need to for door clearance when parking, which saves space, meaning that RAY can squeeze 249 cars into its parking area.

Source: CNN

Flat Phone Battery? Time to Re-Book Your Flight!

What’s going to get you kicked off a flight faster than carrying a pair of nail clippers or a replica Katana? According to this TSA announcement, a flat phone battery is the answer. The full release reads:

“Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.

As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.

TSA will continue to adjust security measures to ensure that travelers are guaranteed the highest levels of aviation security conducted as conveniently as possible.”

Unfortunately, this statement isn’t exactly direct nor points out an obvious issue, but we’ve learnt from NBCNews that this is likely due to a terrorism scare:

“The Transportation Security Administration will not allow cellphones or other electronic devices on U.S.-bound planes at some overseas airports if the devices are not charged up, the agency said on Sunday.” NBCNews

And it’s not just your phone that’s on the line either:

“A U.S. source familiar with the matter said laptop computers are among the devices security screeners may require passengers to turn on.” NBCNews

As far as targeted devices go and where the actions will be taken place are, we’ve learned:

“U.S. officials singled out smartphones including iPhones made by Apple and Galaxy phones made by Samsung Electronics for extra security checks on U.S.-bound direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.” NBCNews

Whether this is another crazy security measure, or a legitimate concern is up to you to decide – but we know those with a flat device due to too many Tumblr updates are sure to create a scene at the security checkpoint.

Image courtesy of Mobiles.co.uk

Bose Announces SoundTouch Wi-Fi Music Systems

Bose has rolled out the SoundTouch Wi-Fi range of music systems that based on the foundation of Bluetooth-based wireless music systems, with the adopting Wi-Fi. The system connects to the home Wi-Fi network, giving it permission to stream music from any device, such as PC, Laptop, mobile device, tablets, etc. For added flexibility, SoundTouch music systems are also AirPlay enabled, so owners can stream content from their iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

“With SoundTouch systems, Bose has made Wi-Fi music easier and better — for any need, any room and anyone,” said Hess. “They offer performance only available from Bose, and continue our nearly 50-year history of innovation.”

Among the three models launched today are the The SoundTouch 30 Wi-Fi, the SoundTouch 20 Wi-Fi, and the SoundTouch Portable Wi-Fi; which measure 10″H x 17″W x 7 “D, 7″H X 12″W and 4″D, and 6″H x 10″W 3″D, respectively. The 30 and 20 are big enough to take up a permanent spot in your home/office, and rely on external power supply, while the Portable tucks in a Lithium Ion battery, and can go places. The three are priced at $699, $399, and $399, each. They are available in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific through Bose retail stores, Bose.com, authorized Bose dealer.

Thank you NextPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NextPowerUp.