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.

F-35 Radar Glitch Requires Pilots to Turn it Off and On Again!

At this point in its development, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is almost infamous due to the countless problems that have caused huge delays and taking it vastly over budget. Now another problem has been found with the software used for the F-35’s radar. The solution to this problem? Just turn it off and back on again!

In modern air battles, combat takes place beyond the visual range of the pilots, requiring extensive use of radar in order to locate and evade or attack enemy targets. As a result, in an aircraft touted as the most advanced jet fighter ever built, a flaw in its radar would put it at a huge disadvantage against vastly less developed jets. US Air Force Major General Harrigian spoke to analyst firm IHS Jane’s, telling them “What would happen is they’d get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail – something that would force us to restart the radar.”

Thankfully Lockheed Martin has discovered the cause of the glitch and are working towards a solution to the problem as well as running it through the software testing labs. The fixes are expected to be delivered to the US Air Force by the end of the month, however, this new problem has caused countries such as Australia to reconsider their orders of the plane. Keith Joiner, the one responsible for evaluating the plane’s performance for the Australian defence force said in a discussion with Radio National Background Briefing: “Some systems like the radar control are fundamentally worse than the earlier version, which is not a good sign.” With the next major software version for the plane, Block 4, not due until 2020, all development of the plane’s software since 2013 has been bug fixes, which hardly instills confidence in the original quality of the code. According to Joiner, the plane does not even have competent cyber security in place, with the only system that has undergone such testing being the logistics software, which did not have promising results.

With each F-35 jet approximately priced at about £100m, it is no wonder that nations are starting to lose faith in the 15-year long project. Each new flaw discovered in the F-35 just adds to a laundry list of past issues making other offerings seem far more attractive to the armed forces. The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier is expected to take on a complement of 36 F-35 jets by 2018, but whether this ever comes to pass seems less likely with every new flaw and delay.

Active Stealth Material Developed by Chinese Scientists

Stealth is currently the big strategic advantage in aerial combat, after all, how can weapons systems target a craft they can’t see. And now, the next chapter in the development of stealth aircraft could begin, with the details of a new material that allows for active stealth against an array of radar types being published publicly in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Modern stealth aircraft use a combination of special materials or radar absorbent paint and shaped panels that dissipating radar waves, limiting the amount that radar systems can receive back. This allows them to limit their visibility (or cross-section) to most types of super high-frequency waves used in search radars and homing missiles’ fire control systems. However, as stealth technology has advanced, more powerful ultra high-frequency radars able to more keenly search for aircraft and defeat common radar absorbent materials.

The active stealth material developed by scientists from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology is different, being able to tune its absorption to wide variety of frequencies, even those in the ultra high-frequency ranges. The material is far from bulky too, being as little as 7.8mm in thickness. The material is made of a layer of FR4, a common material used in circuit boards covering a second layer of the “active frequency selecting surface”, which is packed with varactor diodes (a type of  semiconductor capacitor) and PIN diodes (semiconductors that act as variable resistors to electromagnetic radiation). These are held together and separated from any underlying metal by a thicker honeycomb material. The scientists claim that their material is functional in absorbing frequencies from 0.7 to 1.9 GHz, giving up to 40 dB of reflection.

This shows the structure of the absorber and it’s cell pattern

And while the US military may worry that this technology was developed by researchers funded by the Chinese government, they can be relieved that this technology was made public, allowing their own researchers to fast-forward development of active stealth materials and gaining an insight into what next-generation Chinese stealth aircraft may use. With the world’s premier stealth aircraft, the F-22 Raptor already being over 15 years old, it is interesting to see a development that could shake up the designs of future planes.

Image credit to Wikimedia

Safe-Stop Technology Can Shut Down A Car Engine Using A Radio Pulse

A British company has created a new security device that can disable the engine of a car by blasting it with electromagnetic waves. These waves effectively confuse the vehicle’s electronic systems causing the engine to stall and coast to a stop.

This makes it an ideal non-lethal weapon for stopping vehicles at roadblocks, or an alternative to more aggressive tools such as spike strips. One of the many issues with spike strips is that they’re too dangerous to use against motorbikes and since the Safe-Stop will work on almost any modern engine, it’s easy to understand why police forces are showing an interest in this new device.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), who has evaluated the tech, said the machine had “potential, but it’s very early days yet”.

The device is effectively a small radar transmitter, the pule from the unit couples into the wiring of the car, which in turn disrupts the electronic systems and stalls the engine. There are some fears that it would also effect safety features such as steering and breaking, but one can only assume these potential issues can we weighed against the potential benefits.

It is early days just yet, but the technology could be fitted to police cars, road barriers and areas that require high security.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of BBC.

Asus Unveil Their Z87 Lineup – Including Never Seen Before Models

With Haswell on a close horizon and Intel still holding the fort under close guard with regards to their 4th Generation chips, we’ve been seeing the lid slowly lift from each of the motherboard vendors on what their new boards will have to offer. Asus is next in line to show off some of their new boards from their Series , TUF (The Ultimate Force) and ROG (Republic of Gamers) lines and at each level they are offering up the best they can in terms of performance, user experiences, stability and upgrade paths.

Jackie Hsu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Worldwide Sales commented “ASUS possesses the best research and development expertise, and as always we are confident that we offer our customers the finest quality with these new motherboards. We’re including a variety of media-praised exclusive features with each model, and are proud to announce that we have the most comprehensive Z87 motherboard launch line-up, all available simultaneously”

On the bottom end of Asus’ new line-up is a completely re-branded set of Series boards. The most notable part of this re-brand is the drop of the blue and black colour scheme that we have come to know with Asus entry level boards – the new colour scheme is based around a two tone yellow/gold, but thankfully this is not a shiny gold which would be rather displeasing to the eye. Whilst there are a number of boards in the Series range, looking at both ends of the range, Asus have covered all the grounds when it comes to compatibility – something which we have seen previously on their Z77 boards of a similar level. Between this board is a number of models that make a transition from a board for more mainstream builds, offering all the Z87 features. These include the Z87-C, Z87-PRO, Z87-PLUS and the Z87I-Delux (a mini ITX offering).

Top top end of the Series range see native PCI fully replaced with PCIe amongst other subtle changes. All the new series boards will see the integration of Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-way optimisation, DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 2 amongst other now offerings from Intel.

Moving up one stage and on to the TUF line of boards, this line only see some subtle changes with a full ATX board that in some respects looks very similar to the previous generation Z77 board. This is all because of the thermal armour that is laid across the PCB to keep the board as cool as possible and keep dust away from all empty slots with a series of Dust Defender plugs that fill empty ports. On the back of the PCB we see a new Fortifier metal plate that reinforces the PCB to prevent it warping whist in use and an airflow boosting valve design around the CPU power areas.

Making a fresh appearance to the TUF line-up is one of Asus’ many new boards. The Gryphon is a mATX version of the Sabertooth and like its bigger brother, it features all the same top quality components and features as well as the extended expected lifetime from its higher temperature tolerance. What is missing though is the thermal armour, however Asus will be supplying this separately and the two piece kit can be quickly mounted to the Gryphon’s PCB.

Top top of the new Z87 range is Asus’ top end ROG boards. These boards for a number of generations now have been renowned for their top end performance and overclocking abilities. New to the ROG line of boards and sitting mi-range is the HERO. This new board’s purpose is to offer mainstream the gamers the stepping stone into the ROG brand, but at a price point that is far more manageable compared to the flagship Maximus IV Extreme. As well as these two boards, Asus will also be launching an updated Maximus IV Gene and all these boards will feature Supreme FX audio as well as a new on-screen ‘Sonic-Radar’ that works as a viual overlay to any game to indicate the direction a proximity of a gun fire for example in a visual format.

The flagship Extreme board see a new overclocking tool, that unlike the previous generations OC-key is set to be far more user friendly and intuitive to use and alongside this in the Extreme box, users with find a 5.25″ drive bay adaptor to allow the OC Panel to operate as a fan control panel from the front of a case.