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Airlines might not be thinking about pilotless airplanes for commercial use, but the technology seems to be there to make it happen. Following the recent tragedy of Germanwings, in which the co-pilot allegedly steered the plane into a mountain, has helped add fuel to the fire of autonomous flight.
Even though flying has become significantly safer in recent years, human error leads to around 80 percent of plane crashes, according to Mary Cummings, former US Air Force pilot and current engineering professor and director of the Duke University Humans and Autonomy Lab. In addition, planes already are fairly autonomous, with human pilots actually only flying a few minutes per flight.
Realistically, many air passengers probably aren't ready to fly on a pilotless flight, with reliance on human pilots - sharing their fate in the air - along with a pilot available in case the autonomous system fails. It's a discussion that we may get to enjoy hearing about more in the future, especially after major air crash events.
Stena Line, a Swedish ferry operator, is running one of its fleet using methanol, after converting to the more environmentally friendly fuel.
The dual fuel technology uses methanol for the main fuel, but has traditional marine gas oil if needed. The Remontova shipyard in Poland is where the Stena Germanica ferry was converted, with a complete cost of 22 million euros.
"Stena Line is steering a sustainable and particularly environmentally friendly course," said Dr. Dirk Claus, managing director of Seehafen Kiel GmbH & Co., in a press statement. "We are proud that the route between Kiel and Gothenburg was chosen and that we are part of this outstanding pilot project."
Drones could one day be launched from the bottom of the ocean, remotely activated for operation even after being in hibernation for years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) expects to help the US military launch faster surveillance or attack missions anywhere in the world.
The drones wouldn't require fuel, as they would be powered with energy generated by ocean currents. Ocean drones would be difficult to manufacture, however, because researchers would need to figure out how to activate the drone, how to help the drone breach the surface, and making sure the drone is protected in salt water for large periods.
"Today, the US Navy puts capability on the ocean floor using very capable but fairly expensive submarine platforms," said Steven Walker, DARPA deputy director, when speaking about the program. "What we'd like to do in this program is preposition capability on the ocean floor and have it be available to be triggered [in] real time, when you need it."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is causing problems for companies trying to test commercial drones, but can find less bureaucratic headaches in Canada.
Amazon is now using land within 2,000 feet of the US-Canada border for its drone tests. The drones are working on basic flight features that include the following: obstacle avoidance, self-landing efforts, what happens if a drone loses connection, and other easier tasks.
Amazon hopes to be able to deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds in just 30 minutes or less after an order is processed. However, the FAA is dragging its feet in regards to legislation so they can fast track testing - making outdoor flight tests extremely difficult.
Activists believe the Obama Administration and city leaders across the country should begin ordering "smart guns" for police officers. If nothing else, some type of custom lock should be in place so people struggling for an officer's weapon are unable to fire it even if they get control of the sidearm.
"Look at the situation where the cop in Ferguson last summer shot Michael Brown not long after he was allegedly trying to grab the officer's gun as he sat in the patrol car," said Joel Mosbacher, from the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation community organization, in a statement published by The Guardian. "And the homeless guy who was shot dead in Los Angeles earlier this month, where you could hear the cop saying he thought he was going to take his gun."
Advocates are careful not to recommend full smart guns - or locking mechanisms - for all handguns and rifles sold in the United States. Instead, they hope to see these solutions embraced by police agencies, so officers are the only ones capable of firing weapons.
Science for the Masses, an independent "citizen science" organization has theorised that Chlorin e6 (Ce6), a natural molecule that can be created from algae and other green plants, can be used to create an eye drop that would give wearers amplified eyesight in dark environments.
This molecule is found in some deep sea fish, and forms the basis of some cancer therapies, and has been used in previously prescribed intravenously for night blindness. The lab's medical officer, Jeff Tibbets, said: "There are a fair amount of papers talking about having injected it in models like rats and it's been used intravenously since the 60s as treatments for different cancers. After doing the research, you have to take the next step".
After that, the scientists had to moisten the eyes of biochemical researcher Gabriel Licina, with 50 microliters of Ce6. The effect was reportedly almost instantanous, and after an hour, Licina could distinguish shapes from 10m (32 feet) away in the dark, and after a little while longer, even further distances. Licina said: "We had people go stand in the woods. At 50 metres, I could figure who they were, even if they were standing up against a tree".
Google has partnered with Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon medical device company to help develop advanced surgical robotics technology for surgeons, patients and health care providers. Increased collaboration could also mean better information delivery for surgeons and medical practitioners during surgeries.
Both companies look to create a robotic-assisted surgical platform that is able to utilize advanced technologies, making surgeries more efficient for surgeons - and hopefully safer for medical patients.
"For more than 60 years, Ethicon has developed products and technologies that have transformed the way surgery is done," said Gary Pruden, Worldwide Chairman of the global surgery group at Johnson & Johnson. "This collaboration with Google is another important step in our commitment to advancing surgical care, and together, we aim to put the best science, technology and surgical know-how in the hands of medical teams around the world."
Russia said it will work with NASA and other partner space programs to develop a next-generation space station, after the International Space Station (ISS) is retired in 2024. It's possible the ISS could be utilized for additional time past 2024, but decisions will be made on projects underway close to the deadline.
The announcement was made alongside NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a Russian launchpad in Kazakhstan.
"Roscosmos together with NASA will work on the program of a future orbital station," said Igor Komarov, head of the Roscosmos space agency, told Interfax. "We agreed that the group of countries taking part in the ISS project will work on the future project of a new orbital station."
The escalating cost of the already expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) increased $4.3 billion in 2014 alone - as the project already racked up more than $113 billion than original expected costs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered.
The US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy all will have F-35 aircraft designed to one day replace legacy fighter jets. However, the F-35 designed for the USMC won't be operational until this summer, if all goes according to plan, while the Navy won't receive aircraft until 2018.
"Affordability is our number one priority, making the F-35 affordable... there's been a lot of improvements and a lot of changes," said Joe DellaVedova, Pentagon F-35 program spokesperson, when asked by ABC News regarding major cost issues. "We have done a lot to reduce the cost of the program... it is going to be able to deliver on the capabilities that the warfighter is going to need."
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is known for sometimes outlandish project ideas, is reportedly very interested in developing an alternative to GPS. The US government wants a more dependable real-time position tracking technology, seeking something that is unable to be jammed and won't have blind spots.
The new system will be able to track position more effectively, along with increased time and direction of motion. To contribute, DARPA is working on new self-calibrating gyroscopes, accelerometers, and high-precision clocks - and wants to create real-time tracking technologies.
"The need to be able to operate effectively in areas where GPS is inaccessible, unreliable or potentially denied by adversaries has created a demand for alternative precision timing and navigation capabilities," DARPA has noted.