Another Nail in Privacy’s Coffin

This January, the FAA will be proposing new rules on the use of drones in American airspace — a possibility some see as positively Orwellian, but others, including some journalists, see as an opportunity.Drones play a controversial role in a largely unseen U.S. war carried out beyond the country’s declared battlefields. Iran claimed to have shot down a U.S. drone along its eastern border Sunday. In Pakistan, U.S. drone strikes target terrorist networks in the northwest. In Yemen, a U.S. drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a propagandist for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and killed his 16-year-old American son. But drones are moving outside the military sphere and into the private sector. The FAA has allowed for more the two hundred permits on civilian drone applications, the Los Angeles Times reports. And though it has not opened the national airways to everyone, it seems less a question if they will allow drones, and more a question of when they will…

read more

FAA approves use of iPads

Pilots won’t have to rely on old-school paper maps and charts anymore, moving into the age of the tablet. That’s because the FAA has approved iPads for pilots to use for cockpit documentation. The rule only applies to pilots for charter company Executive Jet Management at the moment, but now that they’re allowed to do it, look for commercial pilots to follow suit before too long. It’s great news for pilots who have traditionally had to lug around 20 pounds of charts with them, but potentially bad news for passengers who will have to deal with pilots distracted by Angry Birds. It’s a tradeoff, I guess.

read more

Tatooine’s twin suns on Earth’s Horizon?

IT’S the ultimate experience for Star Wars fans – staring forlornly off into the distance as twin suns sink into the horizon. Yet it’s not just a figment of George Lucas’s imagination – twin suns are real. And here’s the big news – they could be coming to Earth. Yes, any day now we see a second sun light up the sky, if only for a matter of weeks. The infamous red super-giant star in Orion’s nebula – Betelgeuse – is predicted to go gangbusters and the impending super-nova may reach Earth before 2012, and when it does, all of our wildest Star Wars dreams will come true. The second biggest star in the universe is losing mass, a typical indication that a gravitation collapse is occurring. When that happens, we’ll get our second sun, according to Dr Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland.

read more

Is A Cyborg Beatle Still A UAV?

Hi-Mems – What? Back in December of 2008 (issue 47) we spoke of pilotless aircraft in general. We wondered why, given images of science fiction pilot Col. Wilma Deering (Erin Gray from the TV series Buck Rogers), they’re so intent on ridding the sky of pilots. And regular readers of these columns know we have also touched on UAV’s a time or two (Issue 48). But it’s been two years and although much work has been accomplished in both fields; perhaps more intense have been the efforts to develop micro UAVs.

read more

US Air Force set to fly Mach-6 scramjet

The US Air Force said it was looking to launch its 14-foot long X-51A Waverider on its first hypersonic flight test attempt May 25. The unmanned X-51A is expected to fly autonomously for five minutes, after being released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern coast of California. The Waverider is powered by a supersonic combustion scramjet engine, and will accelerate to about Mach 6 as it climbs to nearly 70,000 feet. Once flying the X-51 will transmit vast amounts of data to ground stations about the flight, then splash down into the Pacific. There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, the Air Force stated.

read more

Mind-Reading Systems Could Change Air Security

On Thursday, in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit, President Barack Obama called on Homeland Security and the Energy Department to develop better screening technology, warning: “In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.” The ideas that have been offered by security experts for staying one step ahead include highly sophisticated sensors, more intensive interrogations of travelers by screeners trained in human behavior, and a lifting of the U.S. prohibitions against profiling. Some of the more unusual ideas are already being tested. Some aren’t being given any serious consideration. Many raise troubling questions about civil liberties. All are costly. “Regulators need to accept that the current approach is outdated,” said Philip Baum, editor of the London-based magazine Aviation Security International. “It may have responded to the threats of the 1960s, but it doesn’t respond to the threats of the 21st century.”

read more

ET Text Home

An Australian website is giving texting an intergalactic touch and allowing users to send short mobile phone-type messages into space. From Wednesday and until August 24, people hankering for an out-of-this-world experience can visit www.HelloFromEarth.net to post messages no longer than 160 characters that will be transmitted to Gliese 581d, the nearest Earth-like planet outside the solar system likely to support life. Expected delivery time, however, is some 20 years, the website said. And there’s no guarantee of a response. “It’s like a ‘message in a bottle’ cast out into the stars. What’s interesting is not just whether there’s anyone listening, but what the public will say to intelligent life on another planet,” said project spokesperson Wilson da Silva. “Hello From Earth is our way of showing that science can make the impossible possible. We have been to the moon and now, we can speak to the stars,” he said in a statement.

read more