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Mars Helicopter gets a new name: Ingenuity

Picking up on a suggestion from an Alabama high-school junior, NASA has given an ingenious name to the first helicopter due to take flight on Mars.

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Boeing reveals its design for new attack helicopter

Boeing has taken the wraps off its closely held design for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a new type of helicopter that’s being proposed as a replacement for the U.S. Army’s now-retired Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

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Voom’s Seattle office redefines working remotely

Voom helicopter service
Voom, a subsidiary of Airbus, offers helicopter booking services in Brazil and Mexico. (Airbus Photo)

Add the Airbus subsidiary Voom to the list of tech startups with engineering centers in the Seattle area — and to the list of pioneers in co-located and distributed workplaces.

Both of those talking points are highlighted in a blog posting on working remotely, written last month by Robert Head, a senior software engineer at Voom. The posting was brought to light today by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The California-based startup has been offering its app-based, on-demand helicopter taxi service in Mexico City and São Paulo, and last month it stealthily expanded its trials to the San Francisco Bay Area in league with Coastal Helicopters.

In his blog posting, Head, who works remotely from Ashland, Ore., talked about software development rather than flight plans. “When Voom decided to grow our own internal team of developers, we chose to locate the office not in San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but rather in Seattle, which has a similarly booming technology scene and an ecosystem of great talent,” he wrote.

Today LinkedIn lists 16 Voom employees as working in the Seattle area, and the company’s careers webpage has seven openings for Seattle workers, including a spot for a vice president of engineering. But the point of Head’s posting wasn’t how Voom conducts its operations in Seattle. Instead, he focused on how the Seattle office serves as a springboard for a far more widely dispersed team.

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NASA adds a drone to its 2020 Mars rover

Mars Helicopter
An artist’s conception shows the Mars Helicopter. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has given the thumbs-up to putting a helicopter on Mars.

The Mars Helicopter, which is actually more of an autonomous drone, will be packed into the belly pan of a Red Planet rover that’s due for launch in 2020.

For months, mission planners and scientists have been debating whether it’d be worth flying the 4-pound rotorcraft for a 30-day test campaign.

Adding the drone to the rover potentially takes away from the space and time that can be devoted to other scientific experiments. But in today’s announcement, Bridenstine said the helicopter would build on NASA’s “proud history of firsts.”

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Airbus and Uber plan on-demand copter rides

Image: Airbus H130 helicopter
Airbus says its H130 copters will be on duty for the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. (Credit: Airbus)

Independent films aren’t the only things that’ll be previewed at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week: Airbus Group and Uber Technologies are launching a pilot project that offers on-demand helicopter rides to the show.

But if the project gets picked up for further development, it may require some tweaks to Uber’s standard rideshare model.

Airbus Group’s CEO, Tom Enders, provided a teaser over the weekend at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Germany. “It’s a pilot project, we’ll see how it goes — but it’s pretty exciting,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal quoted an Airbus spokesman as saying that the flights will be provided by Airbus’ H125 and H130 helicopters, in partnership with a Utah-based helicopter operator named Air Resources. Uber would dispatch cars to pick up clients for the rides at Sundance.

Uber has been testing an on-demand helicopter service called UberChopper for about three years, primarily for vacationers or for special events where traffic gets tangled.

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