GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – JULY 2020

First Electric Passenger Plane Wins Flight Approval

Non-polluting air travel has come a step closer after the European aviation regulator granted the world’s first approval of an all-electric aircraft.

The plane manufactured by Pipistrel, a pioneer in electric flight, is a two-seater intended for pilot training and could clear the way for battery-powered planes to be used commercially.

The certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency follows the take-off in the United States last month of a larger experimental electric plane that could carry a dozen people. “This is the first electric aircraft Easa has certified, but it won’t be the last,” Patrick Ky, the chief executive of Easa, said.

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro, which was evaluated by Easa for three years, performs like a conventional light trainer, cruising at 100mph with its electric motor driving a propeller. It emits no gases and makes little noise but its batteries can keep it aloft for only an hour. A liquid cooling system prevents the motor and batteries from overheating.

Pipistrel, based in Slovenia, expects to produce 31 this year with more than 120 on order, mainly for flight schools.

Mild Electric Shocks Cure Tourette’s Symptoms

 A watch-style device that delivers electric pulses to the wrist could transform the lives of people with Tourette syndrome by suppressing their physical and vocal tics.

Researchers found that applying a rhythmic electrical current to the median nerve in the wrist freed patients from the involuntary movements and sounds that can make the condition debilitating. One of 19 participants in the trial, Charlie Barnett, 21, said that he wanted to “cry with happiness . . . I am not trapped in my own body any more”.

The syndrome subjects Mr Barnett to bursts of involuntary profanity as well as physical tics. When the electrical pulse was switched on these suddenly stopped.

“The whole experiment was very surreal,” he said. “When the electrical pulses on the wrist started to increase, the tic urges decreased, which was a completely shocking experience for me. I was silent and still. Finally I could be free of a condition which can be extremely disabling, which is potentially life-changing.”

Italy Builds First Floating Wind Farm

 Italian developers have begun work on a 750-million-euro (840-million-U.S.-dollar) plan that would create the Mediterranean Sea’s first floating wind farm.

The so-called 7Seas Med project will involve 25 floating wind turbines producing up to ten megawatts of power each. They will be located around 35 kilometres off the coast of the Sicilian city of Marsala, but will not be visible from land.

Italian officials said it is necessary to invest in the kind of cutting-edge technology the wind farm represents, despite the drop in oil prices during the coronavirus pandemic that makes that energy source unusually inexpensive.

The Balloon That Can Take You Into Space

 In recent years, people have used balloons to carry items ranging from teddy bears to chicken sandwiches to the edge of outer space. Now, Cape Canaveral, Florida-based start-up Space Perspective has announced its plans to do the same thing with paying human passengers.

When and if the service is up and running, up to eight passengers (plus a pilot) would start by boarding the company’s Spaceship Neptune pressurized capsule, before sunrise. They would do so at the Shuttle Landing Facility, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, although additional launch sites may be added in places like Hawaii and Alaska.

New Antibiotic Solves Resistance Problem

 Scientists have landed a blow in the fight against superbugs with an antibiotic that can wipe out some of the most dangerous bacteria without them developing resistance.

Researchers from Princeton University in the US said that the new compounds, which are being called irresistins, act like a “poison arrow”. They pierce the outer wall of the bacteria and destroy a substance that lies inside called folate, an essential building block of the microbe’s genetic material.

In the laboratory they killed off a strain of gonorrhoea resistant to all other antibiotics. They were also effective against gram-negative bacteria, which have an outer layer that shrugs off most antibiotics. No new classes of gram-negative-killing drugs have come to the market in nearly three decades.

Safe Form Of UV Light Kills COVID-19

 More than 99.9% of seasonal coronaviruses present in airborne droplets were killed when exposed to a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light that is safe to use around humans, a new study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center has found.

“Based on our results, continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people,” says the study’s lead author David Brenner, PhD, Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Ford Asks Vodafone To Build 5G Network At UK Plant

 Ford has reached an agreement with Vodafone to install a private 5G network at its electric vehicle battery site in Essex, becoming the first automotive centre in Britain to be upgraded to the next-generation technology.

The project at the US carmaker’s research and development facility in Dunton will replace older wi-fi networks and reduce delays and improve security and reliability. The venture is part of a £65 million investment in 5G backed by the government.

The new network is to be installed in the autumn and will use technology from Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms infrastructure company. It will link to a separate network at a site operated by TWI, a welding research company in Cambridge.

Ford will focus on the connectivity of the welding machines in the manufacture of electric vehicles. It said that the batteries and electric motors within a vehicle require about 1,000 welds and a single product could generate more than a half a million pieces of data every minute.

Yet Another VTOL Air Taxi Start-Up

 A Palo Alto start-up has popped up out of stealth mode to lay another eVTOL air taxi design on the growing pile. Archer proposes a transitioning, winged aircraft powered by a large lithium battery pack, and promises a 60-mile (96-km) “worst-case” range and 150-mph (240-km/h) top speed.

The aircraft has six forward rotors along its fixed wing, and according to eVTOL news, there are another six for vertical lift that aren’t visible in the images. Unusually for an eVTOL startup, the company has published details on its battery pack: a meaty 143-kWh pack that Archer says will break down into 26 kWh of VTOL and hover energy, 80 kWh of high-efficiency cruise energy and a 37-kWh emergency reserve on a 60-mile (96-km) flight. That battery takes up a third of the weight of the airframe, which will seat four.

While not a ton of other information is public at this stage, this is an outfit to be taken seriously based solely upon the calibre of its team. Archer has absorbed a lot of lead talent from the closure of Airbus’s Vahana program, which shut down early this year, and has also attracted serious top-level talent away from Wisk Aero and Joby Aviation. These guys have all worked on flying, transitioning eVTOL prototypes and are now starting with a clean sheet. The team currently stands 44-strong, with a modest recruitment campaign underway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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