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Sc. & Tech.

Uber, Airbus working on Japan’s flying car plans

NEW DELHI: Japan is making a push to develop flying cars, enlisting companies including Uber Technologies and Airbus in a government-led group to bring airborne vehicles to the country in the next decade, according to people familiar with the matter.

The group will initially comprise about 20 companies, including Boeing, NEC Corporation, a Toyota Motor-backed startup called Cartivator, ANA Holdings, Japan Airlines and Yamato Holdings. Delegates will gather August 29 for the first of their monthly meetings, the people said, asking not to be identified citing rules. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Transport Ministry plan to draft a road map this year, they said.

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the company’s participation in the group, but declined to comment further. Representatives for Airbus, Boeing and others declined to comment, as did those for the trade and transport ministries.

Flying cars that can zoom over congested roads are closer to reality than many people think. Startups around the world are pursuing small aircraft, which were until recently only in the realm of science fiction. With Japanese companies already trailing their global peers in electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the government is showing urgency on the aircraft technology, stepping in to facilitate legislation and infrastructure to help gain leadership.

Many have already had a head start in the race. Uber, which will invest 20 million euros ($23 million) over the next five years to develop flying car services in a new facility in Paris, has set a goal of starting commercial operations of its air-tax business by 2023. Kitty Hawk, the Mountain View, California-based startup founded and backed by Google’s Larry Page, in June offered a glimpse of an aircraft prototype: a single-person recreational vehicle.

Other global companies envisioning this new form of transportation include Volkswagen, Daimler and Chinese carmaker Geely Automobile Holdings. Japanese carmakers have not yet announced their plans to develop flying cars.

Japan’s Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters this month that flying cars could ease urban traffic snarls, help transportation in remote islands or mountainous areas at times of disasters, and can be used in the tourism industry.

Japan pushes for flying cars, Uber and Airbus in the list

The technology, just like aviation, would need to win approvals from several regulators that can take many years. That would also happen only when safety standards are set by agencies, without which commuters won’t embrace the flying craft.

Japan wants to take a lead in writing the rules for this nascent industry, as policy makers think the current aviation regulations are mostly set by Europe and the US, one of the people said.

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The term “flying car” is often misused to describe passenger drones, which are simply aircraft at their core, but the term is appropriate for Terrafugia, which makes vehicles that can both drive on roads and fly in the sky.

Now Geely, the Chinese automotive company behind Volvo, announced that it acquired the company in order to bring their technology to market.

Terrafugia was founded by 5 MIT graduates and they have been working on their flying car technology for a decade during which time they’ve built several prototypes.

They first started with internal-combustion engine vehicles, but they also unveiled an electric version last year: the TF-X.

Terrafugia’s vision for the future is the TF-X™: a mass-market flying car with the potential to revolutionize the way we all get around. An all-electric vehicle with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities and computer-controlled flight, the TF-X™ is the flying car of the future”

The plug-in hybrid vehicle has a range of 500 miles (800 km) according to the company.

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Geely wants to leverage its own knowledge and technology through its other subsidiaries, which are also going electric, like Volvo and Lynk & Co, in order to bring Terrafugia’s flying cars to market.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Founder and Chairman Li Shufu commented on the acquisition:

“The team at Terrafugia have been at the forefront of believing in and realizing the vision for a flying car and creating the ultimate mobility solution. This is a tremendously exciting sector and we believe that Terrafugia is ideally positioned to change mobility as we currently understand it and herald the development of a new industry in doing so. Our investment in the company reflects our shared belief in their vision and we are committed to extending our full support to Terrafugia, leveraging the synergies provided by our international operations and track record of innovation, to make the flying car a reality.”

They didn’t disclose the terms of the acquisition, but they say that in anticipation from Geely’s support, they are already tripling their engineering staff and plan to bring their first vehicle to market in 2019 – followed by their first VTOL aircraft, like the TF-X, in 2023.

Electrek’s Take

Obviously, there are a lot of problems with flying cars or any of those new types of “passenger drone” personal aircraft being unveiled lately.

It’s a nightmare from purely a regulatory standpoint. What kind of course or license do you need to have to operate those vehicles? Where can you operate and land them? And then even if you have the right to operate them, is it safe to significantly increase the number of flying objects over our heads?

Nonetheless, those technologies have just so much potential to reduce traffic and traveling time that it’s still worth exploring and it’s certainly interesting to see a large and serious company like Geely getting behind a startup like that.

After this announcement and Daimler investing $30 million in an all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft earlier this year, I’m starting to think that we are going to start to see things move faster in this space soon.

Are we finally going to see the long-promised flying car future? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Sc. & Tech.

Chandrayaan 1 Helps NASA Confirm Water Ice On Moon: 10 Things To Know

NEW DELHI:  India’s Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft helped NASA confirm the presence of frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon. Chandrayaan 1 was India’s first lunar mission that was launched on 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation. NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument, aboard the Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties of ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infra-red light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapor and solid ice. One of the objectives of Chandrayaan 1 is to design, develop, launch and orbit a spacecraft around the Moon.Here are 10 things to know how NASA and Chandrayaan found ice on the Moon:

  1. Most of the newfound water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles. Because of the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.
  2. With enough ice on the Moon’s surface – within the top few millimeters – water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions and even enable stay on the Moon, says NASA.
  3. The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient, according to the study published in the journal PNAS.
  4. The team of researches included Richard Elphic from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
  5. In 2017, using data taken from M3, scientists had created the first global map of water in the Moon’s soil.
  6. A day after NASA unveiled its analysis of data collected from lunar orbit by Chandrayaan 1, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “We know that there is hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the surface of the moon.”
  7. Although the moon was long believed to be entirely dry or nearly devoid of moisture, scientists have found increasing evidence in recent years that water exists there. A NASA rocket sent crashing into a permanently shadowed lunar crater near the moon’s south pole in 2009 kicked up a plume of material from beneath the surface that included water.
  8. Some of the specific areas of Chandrayaan 1 study are searching for surface or sub-surface lunar water-ice, especially at the lunar poles, identification of chemicals in lunar highland rocks and providing new insights in understanding the Moon’s origin and evolution.
  9. The Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft started suffering from several technical issues and stopped sending radio signals on August 28, 2009.  Shortly after this, ISRO officially declared the mission over.
  10. In 2016, NASA used ground-based radar systems to relocate Chandrayaan-1 in its lunar orbit. Repeated observations over the next three months allowed a precise determination of its current orbit.
Sc. & Tech.

With human space flight, India to push frontiers

ISRO chief says most of the critical technologies are ready

Gaganyaan, the human space flight Programme green-flagged and set for 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is highly doable, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation K. Sivan said here soon after it was announced on Wednesday.

V.R. Lalithambika, a specialist in advanced launcher technologies, will helm the project as Director of the Human Space Flight Project.

The mission is estimated at ₹9000 crore. Most of the critical technologies and hardware required for the project are ready or have been demonstrated by its centres. ISRO would now stitch them up into a complete project and present a comprehensive project report to get a formal approval of the government, Dr. Sivan said. “We have tested the necessary critical technologies required for the Human Space Flight Programme (HSP) and are confident of achieving it as stated by the Prime Minister,” he said.

“We will now speed up the paper work and submit a project report for formal approval. We may immediately need around ₹ 2,000 crore for enhancing infrastructure and technologies at two or three centres and we will be asking for this amount,” he told The Hindu.

With human space flight, India to push frontiers

Describing it more as a national mission than ISRO’s alone, Dr. Sivan, who is Secretary, Department of Space, said it would be the pride of India. It would raise scientific and technological temper across the country and inspire youngsters. “We are excited by this announcement. It is a gift to the nation and we feel proud. It actually energises us across our centres. We do not feel intimidated or tense. We have seen many challenges in our work,” Dr. Sivan said.

When it achieves the mission, India would be the fourth nation to circle Earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese. In 1984, India’s first astronaut Wing Commander (retd.) Rakesh Sharma orbited Earth as part of a Soviet mission.

A 15-year-old space dream coming true

ISRO revealed the first germ of an HSP in November 2004 and got incremental funds for supporting projects over the next few years. It could not go ahead mainly because the GSLV MarkIII vehicle was not ready until last year. ISRO has also met most of its regular needs. Dr. Sivan said, “In the last few years, we did a lot of groundwork as part of R&D at our centres. We have developed most of the critical technologies needed for a human mission. We demonstrated the flight of a crew module and its re-entry in 2014. On July 5 this year, we conducted an experiment for emergency escape of astronauts called the Pad Abort Test. It will be repeated at higher distances. The rest of the technologies are getting ready and will be realised in time.”

Before his elevation in January this year, Dr Sivan was the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre that handled most of the HSP activities.

The most critical elements of the human mission are the Environment Control and Life Support Systems that make the crew capsule liveable and the flight safe for the astronauts. Food and hygiene are other aspects. These technologies are getting ready while space suits are being developed at ISRO, he said.

Facilities are being added or upgraded at a few centres that work on the HSP. The spacecraft will be monitored 24/7 from the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Centre in Peenya. A new dedicated control centre for HSP would be set up at ISTRAC. It must be tracked globally through ISRO stations or of other countries.

The launchpad at the Sriharikota spaceport, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, would be enhanced for the human mission. The Space Applications Centre which makes electronic devices and instruments for ISRO missions will also get refurbished.

While formal agreements are not yet in place, ISRO will collaborate with the Indian Air Force and its Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, to train astronauts. Various defence labs will be tapped for crew support systems.

Much of the work related to ramping up of infrastructure and supply of hardware would be outsourced to industry in a major way and academia would be involved.

Madhumathi D.S

Sc. & Tech.

This India selfie trend is going viral worldwide…

Drones can be difficult to get into as a beginner in this day and age given the multitude of options that have recently flooded the market.

That’s not even including the restrictive price tags most top-of-the-line drones in the market come with – even the entry-level drones of some of the most well-known manufacturers will cost you upwards of US$300-400. It’s just the nature of the game.

On the other hand, some of the more cost-effective options in the market today are seriously lacking either in functionality or durability – you’ll need to buy a camera for the cheapest models, anyway. Not exactly “cost-effective”, isn’t it?

It’s hard to find a good, solid drone packed with features that gives you excellent value for money, and without having to break the bank for one.

It’s all the more difficult to find one that’s perfectly suited for beginners who want more than just the most basic of drones – one that is affordable, easy-to-fly, compact, and fully set-up packed with a camera as well as features that make it versatile enough for most use cases of drones, without all the unnecessary bells and whistles (and exorbitant price tags, for that matter) of the leading brands in the market today.

Well, at least we thought so…until we found this German-designed, cost-effective, and affordable drone with all the necessary features the great majority of drone users will ever need, and more – with an HD camera perfect for taking aerial shots and selfies, all from a body that weighs and measures no more than a smartphone!

The DroneX PRO: Made for Everyone

We’re talking about the brand-spanking new DroneX PRO, a drone that was specifically designed for all flyers, such that anyone and everyone can easily fly it.

It was designed for every user: one who needs one to take majestic, splendid aerial shots and videos, as well as fun, creative, and daring selfies. You can even run your own livestreams and record video clips straight on your smartphone!

The best part? It’s only about the same size as a smartphone, and designed for maximum ease of use.

Literally anyone can master its use within minutes – it’s that easy to use. And it literally fits in your back pocket.

DroneX PRO’s sleek, cutting-edge design was crafted by a couple of German engineers who are passionate about drone technology. The proliferation of clunky, oversized, and heavy drones in the market was the spark that led them to design this highly-compact, immaculately-designed drone, without losing any of the features that today’s best drones possess.

Don’t let the ultra-compact body fool you – the DroneX PRO is designed to handle regular wear and tear.

And it wouldn’t even set you back hundreds of dollars – you can own one for less than US$100.

Just check out the quality of the photos you can take with the DroneX PRO – and imagine all the awesome selfies, photos, and videos you can take!

UPDATE: The folks at DroneX PRO are extending a special offer to our readers! Now with 50% off and with FREE SHIPPING worldwide for a limited time! Order more and get another DroneX PRO….for FREE! Order now!

See DroneX PRO in action:

Foolproof setup and operation

Setting up and operating the DroneX PRO is a breeze.

All you’ll need to do is to install an application by scanning the QR code found on the manual.

The rest is academic – just plug in the battery, open the application, and connect the DroneX PRO – you’ll be up in the skies within 10 seconds.

Flying it is the easy part. The controller it comes with is very responsive and intuitive, and the DroneX PRO is just a pleasure to fly – its handling is absolutely superb and fluid. You will surprise yourself at how simple it is to take to the skies the first time, every time!

You’ll also find yourself taking amazing photos and videos from angles and positions you never thought you’d manage to – all at a simple tap of the button.

Possibly the world’s most portable drone – at your fingertips

The main thing that sets DroneX PRO from the multitude of its competitors is its portability. There is simply nothing in the market that comes close to how easy it is to carry around. It fits your jeans pocket and is no larger than a smartphone. Try fitting any of its closest competitors in your pocket!

Drones in this price range often get a bad rap for being flimsy, but the DroneX PRO will exceed your expectations – it’s made of high-quality ABS plastic, making it light as possible to fly and to handle, but just as much makes it strong enough to withstand regular wear and tear.

The same is true about how easy it is to set up and to fly, regardless of your experience level. You’ll look as though you’d been flying drones forever, even when you just started minutes ago. The easiness of how to fly it frees yourself to concentrate fully on finding the perfect angle for your selfie, your photo, or your video.

Furthermore, quality of the photos and videos you get from its built-in camera will give any of its more expensive competitors a serious run for their money in the quality department. This is as good as quality gets from such as small, affordable, and easy-to-use package.

Lastly, the value this drone gets you for your money is unmatched – try finding a drone that has its features and its design, and you’ll be lucky to find one in its price range. It wouldn’t cost you $400, $300, and not even $200…you can have it for less than $100. The manufacturers are offering it at an absolute steal of a price of just $99…for a limited time only! You will never find a drone of this quality at that kind of price in the market – never.

You just can’t go wrong with the DroneX PRO, no matter what your experience level is – and all the more so if you are a beginner. If you’re still on the fence about buying your first drone, the DroneX PRO is what should get you off of it. It’s available from the official website!UPDATE: The folks at DroneX PRO are extending a special offer to our readers! Now with 50% off and with FREE SHIPPING worldwide for a limited time! Order more and get another DroneX PRO….for FREE! Order now!