On a state-of-the-art assembly line in Fremont, California, 400 cars a day are being created by 3,000 workers and 160 robots. This is Tesla Motors, and the cars they’re making are currently the most advanced electric car on the market. Plus, you know, their factory has giant robot arms installing batteries, motors, seats, windshields, cabling, and components with a delicate ease you might not expect from a giant robot arm.
The goal of the competition: hover for 60 seconds, reach a height of 3 meters, and stay within a 10m x 10m area. Dozens of teams tried and hadn’t (yet) succeeded, until the AeroVelo Atlas team from the University of Toronto met the challenge on 13 June 2013:
This incredible flight was 64.11 seconds in duration (World Record for “Duration on Hover”), reached a 3.3m peak altitude, and drifted a maximum of 9.8m…
We would like the public to understand that with innovative engineering and creative design we can find sustainable and environmentally conscious solutions to many of the technological challenges facing our generation…
Full screen, volume up! This is SpaceX’s Grasshopper on June 14, 2013, using its state of navigation capabilities to execute a precision hover and landing sequence:
Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, this highly-controllable, reusable rocket technology could significantly cut-costs in space travel.
It was a demonstration of a technology that is slowly keeping its promise to revolutionise the way we travel. And for the first time in half a century, motor sport seems to be showing itself capable of making a significant contribution towards accelerating the development of that technology.
"I really think that the changes that are taking place in the car industry need to be reflected in motor sport," Drayson said shortly before setting off on his record-breaking run.
"We’re seeing this huge shift to the electric drivetrain in the mainstream industry, so motor sport has got to pioneer this technology, too. It’s got to lead on the innovations and help reset people’s expectations about what an electric car can do."
Above, A Basic Demonstration of Optical Cloaking. Cloaking is a term for hiding an object from view at specific frequencies, but evidently one can cloak things DIY-style with four mirrors and their precise placement.
So before reading further, how is the illusion above happening? Any guesses?
Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester John Howell and his 14 year-old son Benjamin built three uni-directional optical cloaking devices with everyday materials. For around $150, they put together “one made of Plexiglass and water, another of inexpensive lenses, and a third constructed using ordinary mirrors.” The video demonstration above shows one of the devices and two of his sons… sometimes.
What might this small feat of optical engineeringbe used for? Since it’s uni-directional it has limitations, but in theory, it could hide satellites orbiting Earth. You can read more about how Professor Howell’s devices work in the videos notes,here on arXiv.org, or on MIT Technology Review.