Whenever a tech giant gobbles up another company, there’s always tons of speculation about what the tech giant has up its sleeves, and how the acquired company’s expertise will find its way into an actual product.
So when Google acquired high-altitude drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace in 2014, the tech world blew up with Google’s big plans of sending Internet drones to space. Those plans became much clearer today, following a Guardian report about another top secret Google project called SkyBender.
But let’s backtrack. To understand SkyBender it is imperative to understand Titan.
Titan has been known for its solar-powered super drones “Solara” which can function as atmospheric satellites. The unmanned aircraft can operate at 65,000ft (20 km) altitude about 50% higher than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. At this height, the drone operates for up to 5 years independently and uninterrupted by weather patterns.
A single Solara drone uses thousands of solar cells producing enough energy to keep it flying. Each drone is equipped with lots of sensors opening up a range of possible use cases including acting as GPS replacement satellites in case of terror attacks or to produce real-time Google Map images that are always fresh and available on-demand.
More interesting to Google are the drones’ high-speed millimeter wave technology to deliver Internet 40 times faster than 4G/LTE which is even faster than what might become 5G. The problem of millimeter wave technology is its range as it spans only a short distance before fading out creating a unique challenge.
This is where Google’s new secret project “SkyBender” comes in. Project SkyBender could make Google a global Internet provider using Titan’s drone technology together with a new wave-spectrum completely different from today’s clogged cellphone spectrum.
Since last summer several high-tech drones have been built together with a “pilot optional” aircraft called Centaur and are now tested at Spaceport America located in the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico.
You might remember Virgin Galactic, the ambitious commercial space travel project of Virgin Airline founder Richard Branson which operates from Spaceport America. Google is currently renting a hanger from Virgin Galactic and pays the Spaceport America a monthly fee.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) licensed the testing of the new millimeter-wave drone-based technology until July 2016. It has yet to be seen where the project will evolve from there.
Before Google, the U.S. military had been testing a similar drone-based technology to provide high-speed connectivity for troops in remote areas.
This isn’t the company’s first foray into providing Internet to remote areas from above. Back in 2013, Google announced its Project Loon initiative that involves sending up hundreds if not thousands of Internet balloons into the stratosphere, bringing Internet to areas that were previously unconnected.
Who doesn’t dream of buffer-free Netflix anywhere on earth?
Paradise captured by the DJI Mavic Air
Many consider Baler to be paradise. A haven for those jaded by city life, the place offers a quiet escape for people who want to dip their toes in sand and sea or a chance to conquer the waters by learning to ride the wave. What better way to capture it than through the bird’s eye view of the DJI Mavic Air.
The DJI Mavic Air was officially launched a few months back but has only made its way to the Philippines recently. Compact but not lacking in features, it’s the perfect companion for travelers who want to capture the beauty of the archipelago. In a DJI Mavic Air bootcamp, members of the media learned that flying this drone is relatively easy but it does require some practice — just like learning how to ride waves in the beaches of Baler. You’ll need patience and perseverance but there’s nothing stopping you once you figure it out.
Drones fly luxury Dolce & Gabbana handbags on the runway
Who needs models when you have drones?
Dolce & Gabbana stepped up their game this year during their fashion show in Milan. The Italian luxury fashion house flew drones carrying handbags on the runway, stunning the crowd.
See the spectacle for yourself:
— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) February 25, 2018
The show ran nearly an hour late for the big surprise. According to Fashionista who attended the event, “Signs and announcements in several different languages pleaded multiple times for audience members to turn off their personal Wi-Fi and hot spots.”
Of course, it isn’t easy to ask a 600-strong audience to turn their internet connections off before a spectacle, resulting in these quadcopters flying a bit craggy. It’s possible that those reluctant to follow the organizer’s requests caused an interference with the drone flights. Who wouldn’t want to capture a surprising performance and share it on social media? We live in the social media age, guys!
But the fashion house was prepared for any unfortunate accident if the drones were to malfunction and crash on someone’s head. People dressed in white walked alongside the drones, ready to intercept or offer help if an incident occurred.
Fortunately, the show went on without a hitch. As the drones buzzed off, actual human models were back on the runway wearing D&G clothes for the Fall Winter 2018/19 collection. Maybe it isn’t time yet for technology to enter the world of high fashion, but it’s a great start.
Airbus’ drone taxi successfully flies autonomously
This is the future!
Just last month, European aerospace company Airbus flew its autonomous air taxi for the first time. The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft hovered for 53 seconds on its own and we only got a glimpse of it through photos. Well, the company has just released a video showing what it’s capable of.
A giant drone taking off and hovering for less than a minute before coming back down isn’t really an astounding sight. Although, this is quite an achievement since it’s a totally different aircraft from what Airbus has been producing and the fact that it’s all-electric is already a feat in itself.
As you can see, this less-than-a-minute demonstration of autonomous flight is actually a breakthrough since it’s one of the first to ditch the use of an engine or a gas-electric hybrid and relies solely on a battery to fly. The company said it aims to produce an array of autonomous eVTOL aircrafts that fly from rooftop to rooftop to help alleviate traffic on the road. Airbus envisions this through the use of the latest technologies.
“Our goal is to democratize personal flight by leveraging the latest technologies such as electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision,” said Vahana Project Executive Zach Lovering.
It might not happen anytime soon, but we’re one step closer to realizing a future where you hail flying taxis that don’t need their own drivers.
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