NASA’s ‘X-Planes’ Use Less Fuel and Reduce Emissions
Nov17

NASA’s ‘X-Planes’ Use Less Fuel and Reduce Emissions

A new era of aircraft technology is on its way, with a focus on energy efficiency and economic impact. The aerospace industry is continuously adopting innovative technologies, but there’s a new interest in exploring alternative propulsion systems and energy sources. This new interest is giving aircraft engineers an opportunity to develop cutting-edge technology that will not only drastically cut fuel usage, but also open up potential new markets and business opportunities. NASA is working with the aviation industry on the development of unique vehicle concepts that will use different fuselage shapes. They will be longer, skinner, with more blended wings. They are also using innovative materials and components. Airplanes are typically made of aluminum or steel, which has a 90% recycled content, making it the most recycled material on the planet. These new materials and components will provide better efficiency with fewer emissions and less noise. “I feel we are at a tipping point in commercial aviation,” says Jim Heidmann, manager of NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology Project (AATT). “We are exploring and developing game-changing technologies and concepts for aircraft and propulsion systems that can dramatically improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact and accelerate the introduction of new aircraft.” Through NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, the development of a series of experimental planes (X-planes) is being tested and hopefully validated. These X-planes will achieve the agency’s goal levels for fuel consumption, emissions, and noise. The Single-aisle Turboelectric AiRCraft with an Aft Boundary-Layer (STARC-ABL) will allow the X-planes to use the air flowing along the fuselage to reduce fuel consumption. With 24 million flight hours being logged by aviation aircrafts every year, there is a big concern with harmful emissions. In a traditional airplane, the boundary layer consists of slow-moving air that clings to and flows along the fuselage. This layer helps to reduce friction as it flows off the rear of the aircraft. However, this layer also breaks up into turbulence. The new concept would consists of a giant ducted fan that goes around the stern of the fuselage, allowing it to collect the boundary layer and accelerate it to turn into thrust. According to NASA, with this new technology, the plane’s engines will use 10% less fuel. NASA is working with industry and academic leaders to turn this idea into reality. The agency issues grants to the University of Georgia, Boeing, and Liberty Works with ES Aero to begin developing working designs using the STARC-ABL concept. Meanwhile, other X-place concepts will be explored during a year-long study to create a next generation, turboelectric, or hybrid aircraft concept. These concepts could be implemented and running within 20 years and...

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Bike Lights Equipped With Cameras, A.I. Could Save Lives
Nov17

Bike Lights Equipped With Cameras, A.I. Could Save Lives

Numbering at upwards of 1 billion, there are now twice as many bikes in the world as there are cars. But just because there are more bicycles on the road these days doesn’t mean they’re always a safe form of transportation. In fact, cyclists are vulnerable for many reasons, including subpar infrastructure, dangerous motorists, and simple lack of visibility. Although cyclists may not always have control over driver behavior or non-bike-friendly roads, they can improve how well they’re seen by using a bike light. And the newest forms of illumination are smarter than ever before, able to capture events around you on video or even adjust based on real-time road conditions. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, more than 37,000 U.S. residents die in road crashes every year. Even worse, two cyclists die each day, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Their data shows that in 2015 alone, 818 cyclists died in accidents. The increasing number of accidents can be at least partially attributed to the fact that there are more bikes out there on the road today, but the acceptance of this form of transportation isn’t necessarily widespread among motorists. Unfortunately, cyclists are often seen as a nuisance on busy streets, and many drivers don’t seem to possess the patience to share the road safely. The American Automobile Association, or AAA, has found that aggressive driving is a factor in 66% of fatal traffic accidents, or two out of three deadly crashes. Unfortunately, cyclists are all too familiar with the hazard posed by aggressive and angry drivers. When drivers take it upon themselves to scare bicyclists or engage in unsafe driving behaviors around them, filing a police report may prove ineffective; after all, it’s the cyclist’s word against the driver’s. But some bike light manufacturers are granting more power to the cyclists in the form of video cameras housed inside powerful bike lights. Not only will these lights allow both motorist and cyclist to see more clearly, but they’ll also capture movement in front and behind the bike. The Cycliq Fly6 and Fly12 come equipped with wide-angle HD cameras that capture anywhere from six to 10 hours of footage. Because there’s so little area on a bike for extra devices, Cycliq co-founder Kingsley Fiegert — who got the idea after being hit with slingshot ammunition while on a bike ride with his son — decided to combine lights and cameras and get in on the action. The cameras aren’t perfect (the more affordable versions aren’t really able to capture license plates), but a lot of cyclists want in. These camera lights can act...

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