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The evolving airspace ecosystem

The evolving airspace ecosystem

August 2, 2019

Imagine a world where drones deliver emergency medical supplies to people in need. Or shuttle commuters from place to place avoiding ground traffic and breaking down the geographical divide between cities and suburbs.

Autonomous drones could spray pesticides on crops, monitor construction sites, or film adventure seekers skiing down mountains.

Potential drone applications are limited only by our imaginations… and our ability to operate them safely.

Right now the FAA is working together with the tech industry to build new rules of engagement to ensure that these unmanned aerial vehicles avoid a collision without the eyes of human pilots.

These regulatory hurdles are the last obstacle to letting the market for autonomous drones soar.

The current airspace ecosystem

Aircraft, from Cessna 152s to Airbus 380s, are the most common vehicles that populate and cruise the airspace. And they all require a pilot’s eyes to operate.

In the case of commercial aircraft, they also require a Mode C Transponder, which determines the aircraft’s altitude. All commercial and most private aircraft also have to communicate with Air Traffic Control (ATC), people on the ground who logistically coordinate which aircraft taxi, take off, and land at airports.

This is a system with three layers of protection and vigilance to avoid horrific and often fatal crashes: ATC, Mode C, and the pilot’s eyes. With unmanned aircraft, this universally accepted system for keeping the National Airspace System safe will have to change.

Digitizing the airspace for drones flown by artificial intelligence

Objects that don’t have humans on board can’t use eyes to avoid collision, or communicate and …

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Team TUM wins SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition with record 288 mph top speed

Team TUM wins SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition with record 288 mph top speed

July 22, 2019

SpaceX hosted its fourth annual SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition finals on Sunday at the test tube it built outside its Hawthorne HQ. We were on site for the competition, and watched as Team TUM, from the Technical University of Munich, took home the win thanks to achieving the top speed overall of any team to run in the finals.

TUM (formerly known as team WARR Hyperloop in past competitions) is a repeat winner, and achieved a top speed of 288 mph in this year’s finals. That’s the fastest overall for a Hyperloop pod thus far – it beat its own record from last year of 284 mph set during the third SpaceX student run-off. It wasn’t without incident, however – near the end of its run, there was a spark and some debris appeared to fly off the craft, but it still survived the run mostly intact and satisfied SpaceX judges to qualify for the win.

TUM beat out three other finalist competitors, including Delft Hyperloop, EPFL Hyperloop, and Swissloop. Delft unfortunately had a communication error that cut their run short at just around 650 feet into the just over 3/4 mile SpaceX Hyperloop test track. EPFL managed a top speed of 148 mph and Swissloop topped out at 160 mph.

SpaceX Hyperloop Pod test track at its Hawthorne HQ. This is the end where student teams load in their test pod during the annual competition.

For the teams that did get to run on Sunday, the process involved loading their pod, which are roughly the size of bobsleds but little more than engines on wheels, onto the single track which runs the length of the interior of the Hyperloop test tube. The tube is then sealed and de-pressurized to near vacuum, which is essentially how Musk’s original Hyperloop concept …

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Airbus-owned Voom will compete with Uber Copter in the US in 2019

Airbus-owned Voom will compete with Uber Copter in the US in 2019

June 21, 2019

The U.S. air taxi market is heating up: Aeronautics industry giant Airbus will be among the companies operating on-demand air travel service in 2019 in American skies, FastCompany reports. Airbus’ Voom on-demand helicopter shuttle operation will set up shop in the U.S. starting this fall, after previously providing service exclusively in Latin America.

Uber announced its own Uber Copter service earlier this month, which will provide service from Manhattan to JFK airport starting in July, and Blade also already offers similar service between New York City and its three area airports, as well as Bay Area air shuttle routes. Airbus’ Voom is also going to expand to Asia in 2019, the company confirmed to FastCompany, and intends to cover 25 cities globally by 2025 with an anticipated passenger volume of two million people per year.

All of these companies see their helicopter service as an entry point for planned shifts to use of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) craft. Airport shuttles seem to be the perfect use case for these early instantiates of air taxi services, as they greatly reduce travel times at peak hours, and also cater to clientele who are likely frequent travelers and can either expense or afford the ~$200 trips.

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