Flash forward 20 years. Everyone has access to an open-source personal rapid prototyper (notwithstanding a fabber equivalent of Bill Gates…) and can rustle up one of these homebrew UAVs: at the drop of a futuristic ambient computer thing:
Combined with a RC plane, this makes it easy to build a complete UAV for less than $500, which is really kind of amazing. As exciting as that it is, it’s also sobering to know that a technology that was just a few years ago the sole domain of the military is now within the reach of amateurs…
As Charles Stross points out, ready-to print Saturday night specials could be only a decade away, and along with the UAVs and the fabbers it makes the next few years an interesting time to be alive.
[via Warren Ellis][image from tanakawho on flickr]
Boeing’s making a series of firsts in aviation, with the latest being a manned flight powered by fuel cells (though batteries helped the plane take off). While it’s unlikely they’ll power commercial airliners, they may see usage in secondary power capacities or they “could power small manned and unmanned air vehicles.”
This seems to be a more likely future for fuel cells in aviation. The main benefits here are lighter weight than batteries (since they’ll consume hydrogen, making the plane lighter) and a chance to keep the combustible fuel far from quickly moving parts like the propeller.
(image from Wikipedia Commons)
On Virgin America’s new planes you can build a private playlist from the 3,000 on-board MP3s, play Doom, watch satellite TV, chat with other passengers or order lunch, all from the seat back in front of you. The computers that make this possible run Linux, booted over the network from one of the three servers at the back of the plane. Artur Bergman of O’Reilly Radar has a more detailed description of the experience, and a Flickr photoset with a bunch of cool pics.
Bruce Schneier, that pragmatic and insightful observer of the so-called security state, is interviewing Kip Hawley, the head of the Transportation Safety Administration. The interview is going up on Schneier’s blog in 5 installments. Read part 1 to start.
Kip Hawley comes out sounding almost reasonable, though Schneier demolishes most of Hawley’s points (or at least those points that don’t reduce to, “it’s secret, so just trust me”).
The RoboSwift is a remote controlled micro airplane with wings that can reconfigure in flight, mimicking the flight characteristics of swifts. There are four “feathers” on each wing that can fold over one another to increase or decrease lift and speed, and a propellor that can turn off and fold against the fuselage for better gliding performance. Cameras in the nose allow the operator to know what the plane’s doing and where it’s going.