Idaho company hopes for agricultural drone approval

vineyard drone
Students fly a research drone over Bitner Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho

You can buy drones, but you can’t fly them – not legally, not yet.

Brad Ward made that point this week at a University of Idaho forum on geographic information systems. Ward is co-owner of Advanced Aviation Solutions LLC, or Adavso, a Star company seeking to become an authorized user of commercial drones in agriculture…

Ward introduced several drones – varying in size from less than 2 pounds to 8 tons – describing their costs, availability, capabilities and uses in agriculture. He then told his listeners about the spider web of legalities surrounding their use.

Although all could be called unmanned aircraft systems or drones, the names can describe some very different aircraft, he said.

“One is 16,000 pounds, flies over 50,000 feet for 32 hours and is very large, bigger than a 737,” Ward said. “The other is one and a half pounds, you literally shake it three times and the motor starts, and you’re ready to go.”

It’s unfortunate that the poor reputation of the military drone has been applied to the tiny crafts with various commercial uses, Ward said. “And that’s where the FAA came in,” he said.

Most unmanned aircraft cannot be used as intended at this point, except by hobbyists and for research and emergency response by not-for-profit educational and governmental organizations, Edgar said.

Though not linked solely to the American Persona, our character as a nation is thoroughly distorted by both libertarian and religious threads in our history that seem always to link the uses of a device to the device itself. Though, the literate in our society have at least learned to use the term “Luddite” appropriately.

Those so accused usually try to disabuse themselves by countering with a straw man argument like, “I’m not against all technology – just this one!” Completely missing the point of a Luddite definition – which says the technology is to blame for something people do with it. Genetically-modified botanicals or animals being the strongest example in current trends.

RTFA for the hopes and desires of someone simply trying to make a buck from aiding agriculturists in their business. Flying drones over crops to record data which will aid production and quality.

Our government in turn will regulate any use to death rather than try to understand what can be safely accomplished and how. We’re back to laws which required those newfangled automobiles to be preceded along the road by a man carrying a warning lantern.

Thanks, Mike

Shopping in a Twizy

A little less than four years ago, the first 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car was delivered to eager buyer Olivier Chalouhi in San Francisco.

Earlier this month, Nissan and its partner the French carmaker Renault delivered their 200,000th electric car.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance now claims a 58-percent share of the market for vehicles with no tailpipe emissions.

And it doesn’t bother sales at all – in most of the world – to roll out a commercial showing a couple of Formula One drivers galavanting around one of the biggest shopping malls in the world – in a couple of Twizys. Renault’s cutesy electric city car – the smallest of the four electric models they offer.

Gizmag’s Top 10 sustainable houses

You can click over to the article to wander through all ten. I’d like to feature a few I really like.

The ZEB Pilot House

International architecture firm Snøhetta has partnered with Norway’s Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB) and to design and build a remarkable experimental house that helps move the development of very efficient buildings forward. The ZEB Pilot House is claimed to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires, with the significant surplus available to help run an electric car, for example…

A lot of sustainable technology was used on the build. The roof sports a 150 sq m (1,614 sq ft) photovoltaic array, and a 16 sq m (172 sq ft) solar thermal panel array, in addition to a rainwater collection system that provides water for toilet and garden use. In order to ensure all available rays are caught, the roof also slopes 19 degrees toward the southeast.

A Snøhetta representative told Gizmag that the photovoltaic array is expected to produce 19,200 kWh annually, while the home’s total electricity needs are calculated at just 7,272 kWh per year.


Pop-Up House

Whatever kind of home you live in, the chances are it took longer to build than the Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod, which was erected by a team of builders in just four days with no more tools than a screwdriver. The firm likens the construction process to building with Lego.

The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000). Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the home in its location in Southern France, and it meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard.


The S House

Vietnam’s Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing practical, sustainable, and most importantly, cheap, homes. The result is the S House, a US$4,000 dwelling part-built using local, easily-obtained materials, including Palm leaf thatching and bamboo.

The interior of the S House is very basic and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft), with one large interior space. The building is prefabricated and can be disassembled into multiple small pieces for easy transport by local builders. Vo Trong Nghia Architects is still working on the design of the S House but the eventual plan is to mass market it.

I could wander off into the tech of these three. I shan’t. Wander through the series and reflect on your own choices – and why.

The last two, the S House and the Pop-Up are my favorites of these three because of size. I firmly believe smaller is usually better. My wife and I [and a dog, of course] first lived together in a 2-bedroom guesthouse that encompassed 650 sq.ft. – and we didn’t use one of those bedrooms. We lived day-to-day in about 450 sq.ft. and that still was more than we needed.

We live in more space, now, and once again have a room we don’t use at all. The guesthouse is back to being a guesthouse. A functional design when you live within a destination. It’s convenient to have two bathrooms; but, still, the main room could be smaller and that would simply encourage sitting closer to the TV set watching a football match or a movie. 🙂

“This invisible shield” protects against a radiation belt


This image shows a colour-coded representation of ultra-relativistic electron fluxes

High above Earth’s atmosphere, electrons whiz past at close to the speed of light. Such ultrarelativistic electrons, which make up the outer band of the Van Allen radiation belt, can streak around the planet in a mere five minutes, bombarding anything in their path. Exposure to such high-energy radiation can wreak havoc on satellite electronics, and pose serious health risks to astronauts.

Now researchers at MIT, the University of Colorado, and elsewhere have found there’s a hard limit to how close ultrarelativistic electrons can get to the Earth. The team found that no matter where these electrons are circling around the planet’s equator, they can get no further than about 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles) from the Earth’s surface – despite their intense energy.

What’s keeping this high-energy radiation at bay seems to be neither the Earth’s magnetic field nor long-range radio waves, but rather a phenomenon termed “plasmaspheric hiss” – very low-frequency electromagnetic waves in the Earth’s upper atmosphere that, when played through a speaker, resemble static, or white noise…

The team’s results are based on data collected by NASA’s Van Allen probes – twin crafts that are orbiting within the harsh environments of the Van Allen radiation belts. Each probe is designed to withstand constant radiation bombardment in order to measure the behaviour of high-energy electrons in space…

Instead, the group found that the natural barrier may be due to a balance between the electrons’ slow, earthward motion, and plasmaspheric hiss. This conclusion was based on the Van Allen probes’ measurement of electrons’ pitch angle – the degree to which an electron’s motion is parallel or perpendicular to the Earth’s magnetic field. The researchers found that plasmaspheric hiss acts slowly to rotate electrons’ paths, causing them to fall, parallel to a magnetic field line, into Earth’s upper atmosphere, where they are likely to collide with neutral atoms and disappear.

Useful for anyone up for near-Earth space research. One of the crappiest military/political notes in the research is a discussion of nuclear warheads that US military detonated in space to play with using artificially-created radiation belts to blind other nation’s satellites.

I guess we’re lucky once again to have survived War Department experiments which had a potential failure forecast which might have turned us all into mutants glowing in the dark.

Thanks, Mike

Folks are starting to tell the boss — Take this job and shove it!

BLS, quitting

More Americans are leaving their jobs voluntarily…

The number of people quitting their jobs has risen sharply this year, even as relatively few people have been laid off or fired.

One of the more predictable consequences of the terrible economy over the last several years was that people who had a job were holding onto it for dear life. But in a sign that the job market is coming to life, the number of people quitting their job voluntarily has soared this year, even as the number being fired or laid off has remained low.

In other words, Americans appear more confident that they can find a better job than they did even a few months ago, giving them more freedom to escape terrible hours, an obnoxious boss or a too-low salary for something else. That could be a harbinger of workers having stronger leverage in pay negotiations in the months ahead.

RTFA – click the link above and wander through a larger article entitled “Five Economic Trends To Be Thankful For”. This portion tripped my trigger more than the others. Though, they all make sense.

Most of this is the result of what has become traditional Keynesian economic policies – mostly as tweaked by Ben Bernanke who took a very courageous leap. Especially since he kept warning throughout the passage of time – punctuated by idjits voting NO – the ultimate responsibility of rebuilding our economy was political and legislative.

The White House types get a smaller piece of the credit – since they rarely acted up as much as they should have and could have in early days when even the dolts in the Republican Party were close to admitting their share of responsibility for the disaster that has become the Great Recession.

Rising anthropogenic nitrate levels in North Pacific Ocean

Human-induced changes to Earth’s carbon cycle — for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification — have been observed for decades. However, a study published this week in Science showed human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. This anthropogenic addition of nitrogen has reached a magnitude comparable to about half of global ocean nitrogen fixation (the natural process by which atmospheric nitrogen gas becomes a useful nutrient for organisms). David Karl…teamed up with researchers from Korea, Switzerland and…NOAA…to assess changes in nitrate concentration between the 1960s and 2000s across the open North Pacific Ocean.

Their analysis, which could discern human-derived nitrogen from natural nitrogen fixation, revealed that the oceanic nitrate concentration increased significantly over the last 30 years in surface waters of the North Pacific due largely to the enhanced deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere.

“This is a sobering result, one that I would not have predicted,” said Karl. “The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle.”

…Their assessment revealed a consistent picture of increasing nitrate concentrations, the magnitude and pattern of which can only be explained by the observed increase in atmospheric nitrogen deposition.

Enhanced nitrogen deposition has several potential ecological ramifications. Because biological activity is limited by nitrate availability in the North Pacific Ocean, the input of new nitrogen from the atmosphere may increase photosysnthesis in the sunlit layers and export of carbon-rich organic material out of the surface ocean into the deep.

“The burgeoning human population needs energy and food — unfortunately, nitrogen pollution is an unintended consequence and not even the open ocean is immune from our daily industrial activities,” said Karl.

Given the likelihood that the magnitude of atmospheric nitrogen deposition will continue to increase in the future, the North Pacific Ocean could rapidly switch to having surplus nitrate. Thus, past and future increases in atmospheric nitrogen deposition have the potential to alter the base of the marine food web; and, in the long term, the structure of the ecosystem.

…If similar trends are confirmed in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, it would constitute another example of a global-scale alteration of Earth system. Further, the findings of this study of the North Pacific highlight the need for greater controls on the emission of nitrogen compounds during combustion and agricultural processes.

The short answer is – if we don’t succeed in wresting control of the politics and power of our nation from the Know-Nothings – we’re screwed. We will be no different from fishes swimming in a steadily heated cauldron until they are killed and cooked. And the Koch Bros, the John Boehners and Rand Pauls of our political world ain’t even dropping in some onions and garlic to make our end a savory one.

Cartoon of the Day

fortyoneshots
Click to enlarge

The lies, the rationales, the bullshit reasons offered up by coppers who know they’re absolutely in the wrong – never change. Quite literally, I have been hearing this crap for over 60 years. I have been on the streets confronting the delusions of fairness and equity that everyone knows we’re supposed to have – even back in the day of Jim Crow laws around this hypocritical nation – since I was a teenager.

We’ve never had a government that could be counted on at any level, city, state or federal, that voluntarily took up the fight for equal opportunity for all Americans. Yes, there were laws passed after noisy battles in law-making bodies. Politicians pat themselves on the back for getting things done.

What you and I have to remember – and the political hacks, Republican or Democrat, will never admit – is that ordinary folks in the company of hundreds and thousands of our peers pushed and shoved, marched and confronted death and danger for decades to get any movement at all from the heroes who get their paintings on the walls of government. They needed their arms twisted then. They still do.