Solar-powered plane finishes global circuit

Image: Solar Impulse

The Solar Impulse 2 plane heads toward its landing in Abu Dhabi. (Credit: Solar Impulse)

Solar Impulse’s history-making 22,000-mile flight around the world ended tonight with a solar-powered landing in the dark in Abu Dhabi, where it all began more than 16 months ago.

After two straight days of flying, Swiss psychiatrist-adventurer Bertrand Piccard aced the landing at Al Bateen Executive Airport just after 4 a.m. local time Tuesday (5 p.m. PT Monday), The touchdown marked the conclusion of the first-ever round-the-world journey completed by a solar-powered airplane.

“We made it!” Piccard told the cheering crowd on the runway just after landing.

Prince Albert of Monaco, one of Solar Impulse’s biggest backers, joined other dignitaries, scores of well-wishers and a bagpipe band at the finish-line celebration.

Piccard and Solar Impulse’s other pilot and co-founder, Andre Borschberg, organized the $170 million sponsor-funded effort to show off clean technologies – and potentially blaze a trail for fuel-free solar electric aviation.

“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” Piccard told the crowd.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Solar Impulse starts last flight of global odyssey

Image: Solar Impulse rollout

The Solar Impulse plane rolls out of its Cairo hangar for its flight to Abu Dhabi. (Credit: Solar Impulse)

The Swiss-built Solar Impulse 2 airplane rose into the skies over Cairo, Egypt, tonight to finish off its 16-month, 22,000-mile, fuel-free journey around the world.

The 17th and final leg of the odyssey began at 1:29 a.m. Sunday local time (4:29 p.m. PT Saturday). If the itinerary proceeds according to plan, the solar-powered plane should arrive about 48 hours later in Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse started out in March of last year.

This last flight had to be postponed for a week because the winds were too strong, and because the pilot – Swiss psychiatrist-adventurer Bertrand Piccard – wasn’t feeling well enough to take on the grueling flight. Tonight, Piccard said such setbacks just came with the territory.

“This is an adventure,” Piccard told reporters before takeoff at Cairo International Airport. “It’s not a business plan, it’s an adventure.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Watch a year’s worth of Earth views in 3 minutes

DSCOVR view of Earth

The DSCOVR satellite keeps tabs on Earth from a million miles away. (Credit: NASA GSFC)

It’s been a year since NASA unveiled the first image of Earth’s sunlit side captured by the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, and to celebrate the occasion, you can see an entire year’s worth of DSCOVR’s view in less than three minutes.

The scientists behind DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, assembled more than 3,000 images to create this week’s video clip.

“The colors shown are our best estimate of what a human sitting at the location of EPIC would see,” EPIC lead scientist Jay Herman says during the video.

DSCOVR keeps watch on our planet from a gravitationally stable vantage point known as Earth-Sun L1, about a million miles above the planet. The DSCOVR mission started out in 1998 as the brainchild of then-Vice President Al Gore, who loved the idea of having a satellite that could provide a continuous full-disk view of our home planet.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 tech tidbits from ‘Star Trek Beyond’

Image: Star Trek starship

A starship takes on a swarm of foes in “Star Trek Beyond.” (Credit: Paramount Pictures via YouTube)

Spoiler Alert! This post doesn’t reveal any major plot twists, but it does explore some new twists seen in “Star Trek Beyond.” Stop reading now if you want it to be completely surprised.

The latest big-screen saga about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, “Star Trek Beyond,” pays tribute to all the Trek technologies we’ve come to know and love over the past 50 years. In fact, the crew members go old-style when it comes to the communicators they use to stay in touch, the transporters that beam people back and forth, and the tricorder that Bones uses to check Spock’s medical condition.

One slight upgrade is that the tablets they use on the bridge look more like an iPad Air and less like an Etch-a-Sketch.

There are a few new twists to the science and technology on view in “Star Trek Beyond,” blending the totally fictional with the somewhat factual. To find out how the movie universe resonates with the real world, read on. But if you’re super-spoiler-phobic, stop right now and wait until you’ve seen the movie.

Get the 5 tech tidbits on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The promise and politics of the Internet of things

When U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene and a Republican colleague set up a congressional caucus focusing on the Internet of Things, also known as IoT, some of her colleagues were puzzled.

Suzan DelBene

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene

“We got many responses back to our office saying, ‘What’s the ‘Eye-Ott’ project?’” the Washington state Democrat recalled today during a Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce roundtable about “Eye-Ott” … that is, IoT.

Even now, a year after the IoT caucus was formed, a lot of policymakers aren’t up to speed about the implications of having everything from airplanes and refrigerators to the assembly lines where they’re made connected to the internet.

“Technology is moving quickly,” DelBene said. “Policy is not moving as quickly.”

You could say that about a lot of technological issues, of course, but the Internet of Things is a particularly tricky and fast-moving concept. The engineers at Kymeta – a venture that has its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., and has the backing of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates – are finding more and more things that can be connected to the Internet of Things. Some experts estimate that as many as 38 billion devices around the world could be part of the IoT by 2020.

“IoT is a moving target,” Cate van Oppen, Kymeta’s business development manager, told GeekWire.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Facebook shows off its solar-powered drone

Facebook Aquila drone

Facebook’s Aquila drone soars over Arizona’s Yuma Proving Ground. (Credit: Facebook)

After more than a year of development, Facebook unveiled a video showing the first flight of its full-scale Aquila drone, which is designed to stay aloft for months and potentially connect billions of users to the internet.

A one-fifth-scale version of the pilotless plane has been undergoing flight tests for months, but the full-scale Aquila – with a wingspan wider than that of a Boeing 737 jet – had its first outing over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on June 28. The details came out today in a posting by Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, and in an inside report from The Verge.

“This first functional check was a low-altitude flight, and it was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes — three times longer than originally planned,” Parikh said.

Eventually, the Aquila is meant to fly for as long as three months at a time, powered day and night by solar cells and batteries. Facebook says it weighs only a third as much as an electric car, and is designed to use a mere 5,000 watts of power to stay in the air and relay data.

“When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems,” Parikh said.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Elon Musk unveils new Tesla master plan

Image: Tesla and Powerwall

Tesla’s lines of business include the Model S electric sedan as well as the Powerwall home battery system, seen at left. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has just shared his once-secret master plan for the electric-car company, which he now casts as a solar power and energy storage company as well. Here is the plan, as summarized by Musk in a post on the Tesla site.

  • Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
  • Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
  • Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  • Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

The expansion of Tesla’s product line will include “heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport,” Musk says in the post. “Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

Story by Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment