New Passenger Drone can fly you to work hands-free with zero-emissions

September 28, 2017 by  
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Get ready to commute in style. For the past three years, Passenger Drone has been developing a zero-emissions , easy-to-use passenger drone that has the potential to eliminate stressful commutes. With 16 electric engines, the drone can travel up to 80 km/h while barely making a noise. Not only will the Passenger Drone limit air and noise pollution , it could reduce stress levels and improve the general health of commuters around the world. Daily commutes to the office can be quite burdensome to the average worker. In the United States, the average travel time to work is 25.4 minutes. Most of that time is spent sitting in traffic or in public transportation — environments that can produce stress even before the workday has begun. Passenger Drone seeks to improve the overall health of the populace and reduce pollution by improving daily commutes. The newly-unveiled electric aircraft is slightly larger than a car and allows commuters to select their destination, then sit back and relax. The quick-flying drone can travel up to 80km/h, and it features a lightweight body made of carbon fiber composites. The Passenger Drone’s 16 electric engines offer some distinct advantages – according to the company, the “engine system sheds the complexity of most quad-copters providing enhanced safety, performance, greater payload and range, and less noise than anything else available on the marketplace.” Related: Drones are planting an entire forest from the sky Passenger Drone envisions the aircraft becoming the “go-to” form of daily transportation for hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of commuters in the future. Said the company, “Air travel has historically been seen as an expensive proposition, due in great part to the small volume of production seen in today’s aerospace industry. Mass production of the Passenger Drone could potentially revolutionize traditional notions of transport .” + Passenger Drone Images via Passenger Drone

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New Passenger Drone can fly you to work hands-free with zero-emissions

Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

July 28, 2017 by  
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This 100% solar-powered home has been sitting in Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the past ten years – but the tiny aluminum structure will soon serve a new role as a permanent home. The net-zero MiSo House was built for the 2005 Solar Decathlon , however it will soon be home to Lisa and Matt Gunneson, who are moving the 660-square-feet green energy machine piece-by-piece to their property in north Michigan. Designed by architecture students and faculty from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan , the compact, aluminum-clad home is completely powered by solar energy . The aluminum-clad exterior and rounded shape were inspired by the monocoque designs from the aircraft and automobile industries. After debuting in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, the MiSo House was installed as an exhibition in the university’s botanical gardens, but after ten years on-site the home is being shipped to its new location. The home features a number of solar energy systems including rooftop PV panels, solar thermal panels connected to radiant flooring, and even an energy recovery ventilator system. One unique feature is the home’s “solar chimney”, which heats air in glass spaces along the home’s south facade. The heated air is then circulated through the curve of the roof to provide heat for the interior in winter time. Excess energy is stored in batteries installed underneath the structure’s flooring. The MiSo’s solar systems provide enough power for 100% of the home’s electricity needs – from appliances and lighting to heating. Many of the home’s furnishings, such as the eco-friendly sunflower-board kitchen cabinets, were constructed using low-chemical processes , which further reduced the home’s overall footprint. After purchasing the home at auction, the Gunnesons hired remodeling contractor Meadowlark Design + Build to break down the home’s modular components in order to transport it to their home in Evart, Michigan. In a fun twist of fate, two students who worked on the home’s original design now work on the Meadowlark team. + The MiSo House + Meadowlark Design + Build Via Homecrux

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Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

Last orca bred in captivity at SeaWorld dies, aged 3 months

July 28, 2017 by  
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Keepers and animal rights activists are mourning the passing of the last orca bred in captivity under SeaWorld’s breeding program, which ended in 2016. The calf, named Kyara, was just three-months-old when she perished at the establishment’s San Antonio, Texas, park due to an unknown illness. Regrettably, she is the third killer whale to die at a SeaWorld park in 18 months. According to a statement made by SeaWorld on July 25, the exact cause of Kyara’s death is presently unknown. Additionally, the results of the post-mortem will take several weeks to be completed. Leading up to the calf’s death, however, she was being treated for a serious case of pneumonia . The marine park establishment is adamant the illness is not a result of living in captivity. In a statement , SeaWorld wrote that pneumonia is “the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales in dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.” “We’ve also had a lot of questions about how the orca pod in San Antonio is doing. We’ve checked in with the trainers, veterinarians and staff who all say that Takara and the orca pod are doing well,” the statement added. “They have been active all day and are engaging with the trainers, and we will continue to monitor any changes in their behavior.” SeaWorld announced it would end its controversial captive breeding program three years after the controversial documentary Blackfish was produced. The BAFTA-nominated film informed the public of the serious ethical concerns which result from keeping orcas in captivity and the questionable tactics used by employees to “train” orcas. Due to public outcry and plummeting ticket sales, the enterprise had no choice but to shut down the program. It is assumed that Kyara’s mother, Takara, became pregnant with the calf around the same time, as gestation in an orca lasts between 12 to 18 months. Because Kyara was the last killer whale bred in captivity, she was a treasure at SeaWorld . However, there is a reason the public requested SeaWorld end its breeding program, and that is because the mammals have been known to thrive beyond 100-years-old in the wild . Sadly, the young calf survived only three months in captivity. Related: Meet the 103-Year-Old Granny Orca That Spells Bad News for SeaWorld’s PR Upon hearing the news, John Hargrove, a former orca trainer at SeaWorld who appeared in Blackfish, tweeted : “I am grateful Tiki’s calf only lived for 3 months in a concrete box deprived of all things natural. For Takara, my heart is broken in pieces.” He added , “It’s an absolute insult to every one of us that they keep saying ‘healthy and thriving’ as they are dying from disease right in front of us.” Via NBC News Images via SeaWorld , Pixabay

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Last orca bred in captivity at SeaWorld dies, aged 3 months

This earth-sheltered Australian hobbit home stays cozy all year

July 28, 2017 by  
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Nigel Kirkwood worked in the mining industry for 25 years and it was his fascination with the natural sustainability of tunnels that led him to build his own underground, earth-sheltered home to live out his retirement years. Located in Quindalup, Western Australia, Kirkwood’s self-built hobbit house is buried under nearly 1,000 tons of soil and covered with greenery. Working in the mining industry taught Kirkwood a thing or two about the sustainable features of underground structures. Using the tunnel layout as inspiration, he built the home on two large concrete footings and covered the structure with 19 tons of high-quality steel. He then sealed the structure with a Polyurea water- and fire-proof coating and, as the final step, buried his new home under 1,000 tons of locally-sourced loam sand. Along with the protection against fires and storms that underground homes offer, the earth-sheltered structure has natural insulative properties, requiring require no heating or cooling. Additionally, the interior is virtually sound-proofed against outdoor noise. Related: This cute little hobbit home cost just $100 to build The interior of the home is surprisingly bright and airy, thanks to the all-glass entranceways on either side of the home. The rooftop is covered in natural plants and beautiful flowers that bloom in the summertime. The greenery is drip irrigated and fertilized throughout the year. Mr. Kirkwood will be opening his house to the public in September for Sustainable House Day in order to inspire others to consider sustainable building options. Via Homecrux Images by ABC South West: Roxanne Taylor, via Homecrux

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This earth-sheltered Australian hobbit home stays cozy all year

Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric aircraft with 600-mile range

June 23, 2017 by  
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Though flying via airplane is a fast and fun way to travel, it is one of the least environmentally-friendly methods to do so. That may soon change, however, as Eviation Aircraft (a member of NASA’s on-demand mobility program) recently unveiled the first prototype of an all-electric aircraft that has a range of up to 600 miles (965 km). Presented at the 52nd International Paris Air Show, the prototype could be ready to move into certification and commercialization as soon as next year. “At a time when we are more connected than ever, our mobility options must adapt to reflect this new, efficient future,” said Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation Aircraft, in a statement. “Whether it is zero emissions , low-cost trip from Silicon Valley to San Diego, or Seoul to Beijing, our all-electric aircraft represents a chance for people to move with the speed and impact our global economy now demands.” The electric aircraft could potentially fly six to nine passengers, in addition to two crew members on long distances. With the intention to commercialize the plane by 2018, Eviation by far has the most aggressive timeline of any company intent on producing an electric plane. Due to the energy density of batteries, electric air transport has been limited. However, the company says it has developed a new aluminum-air battery that will make it possible for consumers to fly without harming the environment . Related: eGenius Plane Sets World Record for Electric Aircraft Speed “Based on an aerial application of  Phinergy Ltd’s Aluminum air battery, coupled with a high power rechargeable battery buffer, and managed by a clever mission specific power analytic algorithm, EViation’s energy system is unique. Providing a true solution to both energy density and utilization, at a cost that beats gas, and with zero emissions,” said Eviation Aircraft. Rather than compete with traditional aviation companies, Eviation will position itself as an Uber-like on-demand transport service. Mark Moore, Uber Engineering Director of Aviation, commented on the Eviation  technology : “We are witnessing a new age in aviation as advances in energy storage and aircraft design bring electric, on-demand air transit within reach. Our focus at Uber is in galvanizing the ecosystem necessary for urban VTOL electric vehicles to thrive for 20-60 mile trips that can provide massive time savings over ground transportation for long trips in cities. In parallel, we are encouraged to see bold new players like Eviation tackling challenges in different sectors using electric aviation; these players will help catalyze demand for new battery and rapid recharging technologies that are crucial to enable electric flight.” Via Elektrek Images via  Eviation Aircraft , Pixabay

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Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric aircraft with 600-mile range

MIT and NASA unveil "morphing" airplane wing that could revolutionize aviation

November 7, 2016 by  
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NASA and MIT just unveiled a new “morphing” aircraft wing that could revolutionize aviation . The flexible wing designed by NASA’s MADCAT team could be used to create super-efficient plans that use much less fuel. An Airbus aviation expert uninvolved with the research said the approach pioneered by MADCAT ” is a philosophical revolution, opening the gate to disruptive innovation .” Wing shape greatly impacts how efficiently an aircraft can operate, and according to NASA , rigid wings aren’t always the most efficient. They describe the search for a better wing as the quest for the holy grail. MADCAT, comprised of researchers and students from MIT ; University of California, Davis; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Santa Cruz; Cornell University; and NASA may have found that long-awaited green wing. Related: Meet Maxwell, NASA’s zero-emission 14-motor electric airplane According to MIT, the wing is made of “a system of tiny, lightweight subunits” that robots could assemble. The subunits are covered by overlapping parts reminiscent of scales or feathers. The wing components are made from advanced carbon fiber composite materials. Computers and motors can help change the shape of the wing for better efficiency even while an aircraft is flying. The new wings could also be manufactured using much simpler and more streamlined processes. NASA is dedicated to green aviation “by dramatically reducing its environmental impact; improving efficiency, while maintaining safety in more crowded skies; and paving the way for revolutionary aircraft shapes and propulsion,” according to a statement on the morphing wings. The MADCAT team is still working on the design of the groundbreaking wing, but they’ve already experimented with the concept at a Modesto, California test airfield. The journal Soft Robotics published the innovative work earlier this year. + MIT News + NASA Images via Kenneth Cheung/NASA

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Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak

November 7, 2016 by  
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Ebola is a terrifying disease, and a new analysis of the virus’s genome has revealed some chilling information: during the 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa, Ebola mutated to become even deadlier than before. According to two new papers in the journal Cell (published here and here ), a series of mutations allowed the virus to more easily infect human cells. This particular strain, the research teams say, has never been seen before in humans or animals. It’s believed this new strain was able to develop due to the unusual nature of the recent outbreak. In the past, Ebola outbreaks have been fairly short-lived, making it difficult for the virus to mutate. However, this particular epidemic involved tens of thousands of new infections, allowing the virus to adapt better to its human hosts. Perhaps that’s part of why it was so difficult to control – in the end, it infected a staggering 28,616 people across 10 countries, killing 11,310 of them. Related: The first ebola victim might have been infected by bats When it’s not causing disease in humans, Ebola generally resides in an animal “reservoir” – what type of animal harbors the disease is unknown, but it’s suspected to be fruit bats. This makes it difficult for the disease to develop human-specific adaptations. The West African Epidemic essentially allowed the virus refine its ability to infect us. The two teams of researchers, hailing from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Nottingham , both independently conducted their studies using publicly available Ebola gene sequences to track changes to the virus. The key change appears to be in the gene that encodes Ebola’s glycoprotein , a protein that affects cell-to-cell interactions. This makes it easier to spread between humans and other primates. Related: New IBM-designed macromolecule could be a ‘magic bullet’ in the fight against viruses It’s unclear whether this new, more infectious Ebola virus still exists. Some people could possibly continue to harbor it in their bodies long after they recover from the infection. However, it’s unlikely that it escaped back “into the wild,” given that the new mutation makes it much harder for the virus to infect non-primate animals. Further research into this unique strain will give scientists more information on how to handle the virus in future outbreaks. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and NIAID

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Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak

Tokyo factory is transformed into an industrial-chic Blue Bottle Coffee cafe

November 7, 2016 by  
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Topped with a triangular roof, the Blue Bottle Coffee Nakameguro Cafe comprises a cafe on the first floor, as well as a tasting room and a workshop—two kinds of spaces new to Blue Bottle. Wooden countertops, an open floor plan , plants, and transparency temper industrial elements, such as the tall ceilings and concrete surfaces. The coffeehouse serves a community gathering space for workshops or coffee sampling sessions. The Blue Bottle Coffee teams from Japan and the U.S. occupy the upper two floors. Related: Tokyo’s first multistory building made of 100% wood overcomes rigid fire regulations “Since this neighborhood is located far from the station, the streets are lined with many unique and small-sized shops,” writes the architect. “In order to continue the sense of small scale into the space, floors are divided in a stepped-floor style, while utilizing the existing openings formerly used for loading/unloading and storing. Horizontal pivot windows installed on the front glass façade help defining the boundary between the interior and the surrounding environment, while establishing a visual relationship of “see and be seen” so that people become aware of each other’s presence wherever they are in the space.” + Schemata Architecture Office Images via Schemata Architecture Office , by Takumi Ota

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Tokyo factory is transformed into an industrial-chic Blue Bottle Coffee cafe

ESA-funded SABRE aircraft to travel 5x faster than the speed of sound

July 13, 2016 by  
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Flights on Earth and beyond are about to get really fast. UK company Reaction Engines just signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop their revolutionary SABRE engine, which uses cutting-edge technology to speed up travel. The 10 million Euro ($11 million) deal could not only help change the way astronauts reach space , but could also transform the way we get from place to place on our own planet. SABRE, which stands for Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, utilizes ” atmospheric air ” to propel it at first before switching to “rocket mode” to reach space. According to the ESA, “The end result of this made-in-Europe technology would be low-cost, reliable, and reusable engines, potentially enabling future vehicles that could perform the equivalent job of today’s rockets while operating like an aircraft – revolutionizing access to space.” Related: Air-Breathing SABRE Rocket Could Allow Aircrafts to Cruise at Five Times the Speed of Sound SABRE would also allow aircrafts on Earth to jet around at five times the speed of sound . According to Reaction Engines, that means a trip from Brussels to Sydney with 300 passengers would take only 4.6 hours instead of 21. The new ESA funding will allow Reaction Engines to continue developing a ” ground demonstrator ” SABRE engine, which they hope to have ready by the close of this decade. Reaction Engines CEO Mark Thomas said in a press release, “We’ve had valuable support from ESA and UKSA to date, and today’s agreement is a further vote of confidence not only in the revolutionary potential of this technology , but our ability to deliver it. We are now entering an exciting phase where we can accelerate the pace of development to get SABRE up and running.” In total, Reaction Engines received 60 million pounds of grant funding from the British government (that’s close to $80 million). Money came from ESA and the UK Space Agency . UK Space Agency Acting CEO Katherine Courtney said, “We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and the SABRE engine program has the potential to change air and space travel forever.” + Reaction Engines Images via Reaction Engines

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ESA-funded SABRE aircraft to travel 5x faster than the speed of sound

Hybrid Airship Being Readied for Flight

March 8, 2016 by  
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The “world’s largest aircraft,” the Airlander 10, is being readied for flights to begin later this year . The Airlander 10 is a massive hybrid aircraft that combines helium lift, aerodynamic lift, and direct thrust for flight. As we’ve noted before, we are big fans of airships (and even if there are tradeoffs in time and energy costs , we think that there is definitely a place for them in certain niches of air transport), so this is exciting news. Company information from Hybrid Air Vehicles cites a number of reasons for finding this airship so appealing to EcoGeeks: “The revolutionary Airlander 10 combines lighter-than-air technology with the best of aeroplanes and helicopters to bring brand new capabilities to aircraft. We produce less noise, less pollution, have a lower carbon footprint, longer endurance (remains airborne for up to three weeks) and better cargo-carrying capacity than virtually any other flying vehicle, with the ability to land and take-off from any surface, including ice, desert and even water.” At over 300 feet (92 m) long, the Airlander 10 [pdf] is roughly the length of an American football field, and its total envelope is 1.34 million cubic feet (38,000 cubic meters). But the aircraft itself weighs only about 20 tons (20,000 kg). It is the latest in a series of hybrid airship concepts that have been in development over the past several years, and the Airlander itself is the continuation of the now-cancelled US Army LEMV airship . We are certainly glad to see that the civilian uses of this technology continue to be pursued. It’s also good to see the apparent improvements in the technical performance of the craft. When we covered this in 2012, it had a cargo capacity of 7 tons, while the current payload is up to 10 tons. The Airlander 10 has an endurance of 5 days for manned flights and a cruise speed of 80 knots (148 km/hr). via: @hottopicnz

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Hybrid Airship Being Readied for Flight

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