Amazon wins patent for flying warehouse to deploy delivery drones

Amazon has plans to use an air blimp as a flying warehouse to launch drones for delivery. The company has been awarded a patent for the flying warehouse which is described as an “airborne fulfillment center”.

The warehouse would float at an altitude of 45,000 and be stocked of products. The products would then be delivered via drone, potentially within minutes. When a customer orders a product, a drone, using little power, would glide down and fly to its destination.

“When the UAV departs the AFC, it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends,” the patent filing explains.

The airship would be refueled using a shuttle, so that means it would be constantly airborne.

While the patent may have gone through, getting permission will be complex and may take awhile for approval so we may not be seeing these anytime soon.


Waymos autonomous minivan

Chrysler has finished 100 autonomous Pacifica minivans to join Googles Waymo fleet in 2017. The minivans use Waymos self driving rigs of hardware and software, as a partnership between Waymo and Fiat Chrysler.

The prototypes are being tested in Waymo facilities in California and FCA’s facilities in Michigan and Arizona.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement “With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we’ll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology.”

The autonomous Pacifica minivans should be seen next year in California, Arizona, Texas, and Washington.

Apple investing 30% stake in wind power in China

Apple has bought a 30% stake of Goldwind, based in China, for wind energy that will produce 285 megawatts of power. Apple invested in four subsidiaries located in different provinces where the power will come from: Henan, Shandong, Shanxi, and Yunnan provinces in China.

Goldwind, one of the largest wind turbine makers based in Xinjian, made the announcement last week. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, told local chinese media that the investments in wind turbines will collectively yield 285 megawatts of clean energy. The company hopes to direct the power toward manufacturers connected to Apple’s supply chain.

Apple has been progressively moving towards alternative forms of energy by heavily investing in solar and wind. Apple previously invested in a 40 megawatt solar power project in Sichuan, including three other solar projects to generate 170 megawatts of power.

France to stop all coal power plants by 2023

France is shutting down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2023, announced by president Francois Hollande.

At the annual UN climate change conference on Wednesday, president Francois Hollande announced to stop the use of fossil fuel by 2023.

President Hollande praised President Barack Obama saying  “The role played by Barack Obama was crucial in achieving the Paris agreement.” He went on to say “We need carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Many countries are planning to cut carbon emission and stop using fossil fuel. UK plans to stop using fossil fuel by 2025, Germany wants to cut greenhouse gas emission by 95% by 2050, and many others such as China are already progressing on cutting pollution levels.


Amazon will now truck massive amounts of data to the cloud

Amazon has announced a new service to haul massive amounts of data called AWS Snowmobile. The company is storing hard drives full of data in  a 45-foot-long shipping container, which is transported to an Amazon data center to be transferred to Amazon’s cloud data storage services.

Amazon’s existing Snowball service allows secure 80TB storage. This new services allows the transportation of 100 petabytes (1 million gigabytes) of data. Snowmobile attaches directly to the data center, using network fiber to transfer data, which can transfer 1 terabyte of data per second.

While the data is shipped it is secured. All data is encrypted with AWS Key Management Service keys and Amazon offers dedicated security and a vehicle escort to protect the truck and the massive amounts of data. The containers have GPS tracking and video surveillance with cellular and satellite connectivity.


Meet Teslas Powerwall 2.0

The Tesla Powerwall 2 is not just an updated home battery, its part of a new ecosystem by Tesla Energy.

Elon Musk introduced the Powerwall 2 after introducing Tesla’s new Solar Roof tiles. The Powerwall 2.0 has more than twice the energy storage capacity with 14 kWh capacity. Musk said the Powerwall 2 has enough power to charge lights, sockets, and a refrigerator for a 4 bedroom family home for an entire day.

The Powerwall 2.0 is similar to the previous version. It’s a large, rectangular, box thats usually depicted being mount in the garage, next to a Tesla Model S, and now Tesla Solar Roof tiles. The design is now flatter and more angular looking, but essentially the same.

The Powerwall 2.0 will be available for $5,500 per unit.

Uber’s Otto self-driving truck made its first delivery

Uber and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV teamed up to deliver a shipment of beer using a self-driving truck, the first time a self-driving truck has made a commercial delivery.

The truck, an 18-wheeler, traveled more than 120 miles on its own, of course a truck driver was present to navigate the truck in the city but let go of the wheel during the highway route. A police cruiser also escorted the truck during the trip. The technology used was Uber’s Otto and is capable of level 4 autonomy. Uber acquired Otto last year but is running under Uber on a separate brand.

Otto’s autonomous technology can work with any truck with an automatic transmission. It uses LIDAR laser detection units, a radar that’s attached to the bumper, and a high precision camera that’s attached above the windshield.

Uber worked with Colorado regulators to obtain permission for the delivery and the arrangement for a police cruiser to follow the truck. The delivery was made from Fort Collins, CO to Colorado Springs.

Teslas Autopilot 2.0 now available on all Models

Tesla said last Wednesday that all of its vehicles that are being produced will be equipped with hardware needed for full self-driving capability and as stated by Tesla at a “safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”

Autopilot 2.0 is the second generation autonomous driving hardware that will offer full level 5 autonomy, according to CEO Elon Musk. It’s available in future Models S and X and every Model 3.

Autopilot 2.0 will equip the vehicles with 360 camera coverage up to 250 meters range for level 5 autonomy. It will have 8 cameras, 3 front facing, 12 ultrasonic sensors, a forward facing radar, and 40x more powerful on-board computers, using the Nvidia GPU Titan supercomputer.

Musk noted that at first the new hardware will not offer Autopilot 1.0 capabilities, though it will after a few software improvements over the coming months. By early next year, it should outperform Autopilot 1.0. Level 3 autonomy will be coming in a few months while levels 4 and ultimately level 5 will be coming in 2018.

Autopilot 2.0 will come at a price much like the Autopilot which costs $3,000, Tesla Vision will of course be more expensive at around $8,000. Some new capabilities that will come with are automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding, and active cruise control, and all of these will be enabled using the over-the-air updates.

The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli lander are about to reach Mars

The ExoMars mission is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The mission is to figure out if Mars had life or has life. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will take orbit around Mars, which will take about a year, and in 2018, by analyzing the gases in the Mars atmosphere, it will gather data to find any signs of life. It will look for compounds such as methane, which indicates biological activity.

The Schiaparelli will be landing on the Red Planet. Its mission is to demonstrate that the ESA and Roscosmos have the technology that is necessary to safely land hardware on Mars. The next step would be to send a rover in 2021 on a mission to explore the surface and look for signs of biological life.

At 9 am ET, the TGO will ignite its main engine to slow down and the orbiter will move into Mars’ gravity. The TGO’s engine will burn for two and a half hours and during that time, Sciaparelli will move towards Mars and start its descent around 10:42 am ET all the while sending back data to the TGO. A few days after landing the Orbiter may shut down, since it does not have a way to generate its own power.

Urban Crops aims to grow up with vertical farms

Urban Crops, founded by Maarten Vandecruys, has set out a goal to creating an efficient and sustainable farming environment that allows food to be grown in any climate and any location around the world.

Urban Crops developed their own demonstration factory to show their capabilities in growing food using a vertical system, a new trend used by many startups. The factory has 8 cultivation layers and is built as a climate chamber with a closed controllable environment. A robot has access to crates that hold the crops.

Each layer has 4 rows of crates with 10 crops per crate and the factory can hold 448 creates. In the near future a system can be built with up to 25 layers.

In the future we may see many of these systems that may be able to produce hundreds of thousands of crops per day to be able to feed our ever growing population.