GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – MARCH 2021

United Airlines Orders $1 Billion Worth Of E-VOTL Aircraft

Palo Alto’s Archer Aviation might’ve been a fairly late entrant into the emerging eVTOL market, but its brute-force approach to grabbing top talent has made big waves in the industry, and it has become the first eVTOL company with a major order on the books.

United Airlines might be hurting like the rest of the aviation industry in the Covid era, but it’s still looking ahead, and wants in on the electric VTOL game. United has now put in a (highly provisional) US$1 billion dollar order for “up to 200” of Archer’s Maker eVTOL air taxis, with an option for an additional 500 million’s worth down the track. As part of the deal, United will “contribute its expertise in airspace management to assist Archer with the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft.”

The news comes as Archer moves to list on the New York Stock Exchange, so it’s part of an investment drive and should be treated as such.

How To Make “Meat” Out Of Thin Air

 Using space-age technology to make “meat” out of thin air is now real science, not fiction.

A new entrant to the edible protein scene, the Berkeley-based start-up Air Protein makes a meat alternativeusing NASA-inspired fermentation technology to transform CO2 — what we exhale into the air — into a complete edible protein.

While other well-known meat alternative companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat make plant-based protein from soy and peas, Air Protein is the first to make “air-based” protein by farming carbon from the air with microbes.

The start-up’s recent $32 million Series A funding round, closed in January and led by investors ADM Ventures, Barclays and GV (formerly Google Ventures), secures its spot in the rapidly expanding field of meatless meat in the new wave of alternative protein technology — fermentation.

Apple Already Working On 6G

 Apple launched its first iPhones with 5G wireless speeds a few months ago. Now it’s looking to start work on sixth-generation cellular connectivity, or 6G, indicating it wants to be a leader in the technology rather than relying on other companies.

The Cupertino, California-based company this last month posted job ads seeking wireless system research engineers for current and next-generation networks.

The listings are for positions at Apple’s offices in Silicon Valley and San Diego, where the company works on wireless technology development and chip design.

“You will have the unique and rewarding opportunity to craft next generation wireless technology that will have deep impact on future Apple products,“ according to the job announcement. “In this role you will be at the center of a cutting-edge research group responsible for creating next generation disruptive radio access technologies over the next decade.”

World’s First eVTOL Sky Port To Be Built In Coventry

Hyundai is serious about its eVTOL air taxi division, and has partnered with the UK Government, the Coventry City Council and Urban Air Port (UAP) to open a dedicated eVTOL and drone launch facility – the “world’s smallest airport,” in England later this year.

The infrastructure in question will be built by UAP on a thin wedge of land just over the A444 highway from the Ricoh Arena and Coventry Arena tube station.

It’s described as a “pop-up” piece of modular architecture that can be lifted and shifted as necessary.

The retractable landing platform itself is 40 meters (131 ft) in diameter, bigger than the largest H3 helipads, so it can certainly accommodate choppers if necessary.

Finally: A Definitive Diagnostic Test For Depression and Bi-Polar Disease

 Australian scientists have developed and validated a world-first test that is claimed to accurately measure levels of a brain protein known to be associated with depression and bipolar disorder. The new research suggests this test could offer doctors an objective diagnostic tool to assess patients for a variety of mood disorders.

A great deal of research in recent years has circled around a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This important protein plays a role in replenishing brain cells and promoting healthy neural functions and low levels of it have been linked to Alzheimer’s diseaseschizophreniamultiple sclerosis and mood disordersSome research has also suggested one way exercise exerts beneficial effects on the brain is by boosting levels of BDNF.

Global Warming Has Already Reached “Worst Case Scenario”

 The climate emergency is already hitting “worst case scenario” levels that if left unchecked will lead to the collapse of ecosystems, with dire consequences for humanity, according to the chief executive of the UK Environment Agency.

Warning that this is not “science fiction”, Sir James Bevan said on Tuesday that in recent years several of the “reasonable worst-case scenarios” had happened in the UK, with more extreme weather and flooding. And he urged politicians to take action to reduce emissions and adapt to the “inevitable” impacts of the climate emergency.

“Much higher sea levels will take out most of the world’s cities, displace millions, and make much of the rest of our land surface uninhabitable or unusable,” Bevan told the annual conference of the Association of British Insurers. “Much more extreme weather will kill more people through drought, flooding, wildfires and heatwaves than most wars have.

“The net effects will collapse ecosystems, slash crop yields, take out the infrastructure that our civilisation depends on, and destroy the basis of the modern economy and modern society.

Bevan’s dire warning comes nine months ahead of the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow, where the UK will host delegates and climate experts from around the world, aiming to drive action on adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis, reduce emissions and protect and restore nature.

NHS Scotland Is Flying COVID Drones In Western Isles

 Drones are being used to carry Covid-19 test samples and other medical materials up to 40 miles (64km) across four locations in western Scotland.

London drone firm Skyports has become the first operator to receive permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry diagnostic specimens by drone.

Cargo – including test samples, medicine, personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing kits – is being transported by the drones in the Argyll & Bute region.

A whole fleet of the drones are carrying up to 3kg of the supplies each, improving services for patients and healthcare staff in one of the UK’s most remote areas.

Drones can complete a journey that takes a whopping 36 hours by road and ferry to just 15 minutes, while increasing the frequency of pick-ups.

The initiative was trialled last summer, with drones travelling between the town of Oban and the nearby Isle of Mull, but it’s now been expanded.

It will now operate between Lorn & Islands Hospital in Oban, Mid-Argyll Community Hospital in Lochgilphead, Easdale Medical Practice in Clachan Seil and the Mull & Iona Community Hospital in Craignure for the next three months.

Contact Lens Monitors Health

 A contact lens that can improve sight while also monitoring for conditions including diabetes and strokes, has been developed.

The device, designed by British, American and Chinese scientists, can also check for the risk of heart disease by measuring chemicals in tear fluid, researchers said. It contains an electronic mesh equipped with light, temperature and glucose detectors. Two years ago, Google abandoned research to produce a similar lens.

Researchers hope that the invention could help to tackle medical emergencies. Dr Yunlong Zhao, from the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the entire scientific community, with many of us asking how our work could help those suffering from similar future medical emergencies.

New Hydrogen Paste Offers A Novel Way To Store Energy

 In Germany Fraunhofer researchers have demonstrated a magnesium-based “Powerpaste” that stores hydrogen energy at 10 times the density of a lithium battery, offering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles the ability to travel further than gasoline-powered ones, and refuel in minutes.

Typically, of course, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles carry their H2 fuel in gaseous form, stored in tanks at pressures around 700 bar (10,150 psi). These tanks are fairly large and heavy, which counteracts one of hydrogen’s key advantages over today’s lithium batteries – its higher energy density. The high pressures involved also make hydrogen an impractical option for powered two-wheelers like motorcycles and scooters.

But a team based at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden have come up with an interesting new way to store and carry hydrogen energy, in the form of a magnesium hydride-based “Powerpaste” that stores the hydrogen in a chemical form, at atmospheric pressure, ready for release when needed.