Newsletter | June 15th, 2017
This week we’re talking about innovative air taxis, a CityTree🌲 that’s more than a tree, smart beacons helping the visually impaired, Boeing’s dream for self-flying planes ✈️
Air taxis, for real, and… safer? 🚕 🚁
We know you’re anxiously following the latest developments in the burgeoning air taxi industry, yes, like the flying vehicles out of Blade Runner or the Jetsons. So, we have to share a new air taxi from a company in Ohio. Surefly, is a part-electric, part-gasoline powered air-taxi from a company called Workhorse. What’s impressive about their new air-taxi is that having two sources of power is likely to reduce consumer anxiety of… running out of power. It is also designed with eight counter-rotating blades on the sides of the structure, instead of on top.
This means that, in the worst, worst case scenario, you can casually release their ‘ballistic parachute’ up into the air without the blades shredding it apart. They will be doing a demo flight later this year. A dozen other companies from Zee Aero, backed by Larry Page, to Toyota, Uber (Uber Elevate) and Aeromobile will be watching Workhorse closely. Though the technology may be right around the corner, some major regulatory battles will need to be fought. I’m sure they can take pages out of Uber and Airbnb’s playbooks.
Smart nature cleaning up our cities air
According to the World Health Organization the largest single environmental health risk is air pollution. It causes seven million premature deaths a year. We’ve heard of urban dwellers in China needing to check the air quality before leaving their homes, and needing to wear air masks. So let’s talk solutions. Last week’s newsletter mentioned air purifiers the size of buildings that capture carbon dioxide. But what about something more natural, like trees?
When it comes to environmental benefits, trees do more than emit oxygen. They also absorb carbon dioxide, and even absorb harmful gasses such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. A new mobile installation called ‘CityTree’ takes this principle and instead uses moss cultures. The installation is only 4 meters tall and 3 meters wide, but it has the same environmental benefit of 275 trees. CityTree is sprouting up in Brussels, Hong Kong, Paris and Oslo. And an obvious added benefit, an additional patch of green within a concrete jungle always looks really nice. 🌲🌆
Tech that helps everyone get from A to B 🔊
Heads up, this is going to be a very transportation-focused newsletter. This bit, is focusing on where the latest technology is being applied to make transportation more accessible to the disabled. One example is Wayfindr, which uses audio technology to help those with vision impairment navigate train stations. There are around 285 million people worldwide with sight loss. In the UK alone, nearly half of those with sight loss say they would like to leave their home more often.
Wayfindr looks at smartphones as the key. The non-profit partners with city transportation systems to install Beacons. The Beacons use Bluetooth to determine the location of a user, and then provide spoken instructions to tell the user their distance from a staircase, where trains are located, or when they are approaching the end of an escalator. Another interesting app, is the UberWAV app, which is essentially Uber with specially-outfitted cars for wheelchair users. Pretty awesome to see examples of technology applied towards improving everyone’s lives.
This is your Robot Captain speaking…
One of the biggest aviation events is next week, the Paris Air Show, and so a lot of companies are making grand announcements. Boeing announced that it will be looking into autonomous flying. Where is the technology currently? Already, the autopilot system handles takeoff, cruise, and landing. At the moment pilots are required for rough flying conditions or to make different heading adjustments.
Pure automation still looks to be pretty far in the horizon, as the autonomous flight system would need to be able to account for all sorts of random externalities. Though even as a long term play, the aviation market is expected to continue to grow rapidly and drive this type of innovation forward. A sign of the current confidence in the autopilot system – Asian airlines prohibit pilots from taking control of the planes in certain situations. Now that’s interesting! 🤖👨✈️✈️