Showing posts with label emergency technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emergency technology. Show all posts

Skin And Drones: Could Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Deliver Organs To Those In Dire Need?

Technology is often at its most fascinating (and effective) in the most remote regions, be it space, the deep sea, or the far-flung areas still mostly untouched by human civilization.  We say "mostly", because people still live in these outbacks and backwoods, and those people have needs that only modern society can satisfy.  To help these folks, a whole new usage of technology can be tested...

Special delivery!  Handle all hearts with care...
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World Peace / Space Pieces: Russia Could Convert Missiles To Destroy Asteroid Threats

Remember that whole Cold War thing between the US and Russia, with all the missiles and arming up and whatnot?  Yeah, all those spare, fortunately-unused weapons didn't exactly vanish.  However, scientists in Russia are working to put them to another effective (if hopefully unnecessary) purpose...

Because pointing these at the sky is still better than pointing them at America.
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Police Tape: New App Records Cops Gone Wild; Instantly Submits Clips To ACLU

As the tensions regarding civilian/police interactions heat up faster than the nice weather, it's good to know there are ways of keeping your cool.  One such method is a new app from the ACLU, designed to document and immediately report unethical police action...

Fire at will.
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This Stamp-Sized Explosives Detector Stops Bombers From Going Postal

Dangerous times call for crafty innovations.  When it seems like all hell could break loose at any moment, it's nice to know that somewhere, unseen tiny detectors are keeping you safe from the unimaginable horror of a random explosive detonation...

If only we could someday put this guy out of a job...
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Truck + Helo = Multicopter!

Truck and helicopter:  two great methods of transport that, for the first time, can be even greater - together.  That's the idea behind the Black Knight Transformer, a new aircraft/vehicle designed by Advanced Tactical Systems, Inc.

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According to, the Black Knight is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) "multicopter", which began development in 2010 and completed successful flight tests in March of 2014.  The largest multicopter in the world, the Transformer is capable of lifting off with 4,400 lbs of cargo.  This is a major benefit to military investors who are interested in having adaptable means of transporting wounded troops to safety from battle zones, and the Transformer has both the power and dexterity to accomplish exactly this.

With the flight tests proving its ability to fly autonomously, the Transformer could not only rescue troops without endangering human pilots, but could also make large cargo deliveries to embattled areas.  However, daring pilots can still take the controls and fly the Transformer manually, all while knowing they're in a well-designed craft.  According to Advanced Tactics' website, the U.S. Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate and NASA Ames contributed research to the Transformer's development.

Advanced Tactics indeed.
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Plans are already in motion to make the Transformer technology applicable on a smaller scale, such as the Panther two-man unit that could fit inside a larger aircraft (like an Osprey) for easier deployments in faraway areas.  Requiring minimal training to fly, the Panther could transport two special operations soldiers (plus their gear) quickly and with multi-terrain adaptability.

As for specs, the Transformer tops off at 70 m.p.h., and can fly up to 10,000 ft.  Oh, and one more totally awesome feature:  the ground drivetrain can be removed and replaced with a boat hull, should a mission demand it.  So basically, our soldiers are going to be a little safer ANYWHERE thanks to the Transformer.  Ramble (and float, and fly) on!

"It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a truck!  It's a Transformer!"
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Space Station Sunday: More Than Just Chillin'

Good evening, space fans!  There was some drama (but thankfully a safe resolution) on the ISS this week, when an alarm roused the astronauts from sleep to indicate that an ammonia leak was possibly taking place.  Fortunately, this was not the case.

According to the New York Times, the alarm sounded not once but twice on Wednesday, when pressure had built up in a water coolant loop on the ISS.  Normally, the water keeps the space station cool by circulating in the loops and then transferring the heat to external ammonia loops, which then radiate excess heat into space.  Thusly cooled, the external ammonia loops keep the station chill from the outside, though due to ammonia's toxicity, it is not used to cool the station interior (hence the water loops.)  The overburdened loop signified that perhaps ammonia was leaking into the water coolant loop, which would put it in dangerous proximity to the air inside the station.

Even the smallest bits of space work need constant attention.
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NASA spokeman Bob Jacobs summed it up calmly, stating that, "We saw an increase in water loop pressure, then later saw a cabin-pressure increase that could be indicative of an ammonia leak in the worst-case scenario...So we protected for the worst-case scenario and isolated the crew in the Russian segment of the space station while the teams are evaluating the situation."

Nonessential systems were temporarily shut down to prevent any kind of overheating on the station.  This included scientific freezers aboard, but no data was lost due to the fact that the freezers are designed to remain cold for eight hours, independent of power supply.  The power was restored well within the eight-hour window.

According to the deliciously in-depth technical account of event posted on, after the initial high-pressure/possible leak alarm went off, the astronauts followed procedure by donning their PBAs (Portable Breathing Apparatus), cutting off the IMV (Inter-Module Ventilation), and quarantining themselves in the RS (Russian section) by sealing the Node 1 Aft CBM hatch.  Atmospheric tests for ammonia were then conducted, all which fortunately proved negative.

Ready for anything:  NASA astronaut Terry Virts and ESA astronaut Samathan Cristoforetti practiced for problems on 12/1.
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Ground teams then rerouted the problem areas and vented nitrogen to relieve the pressure.  The crew were cleared to reenter the US segment, but returned hours later when indications of rising cabin pressure once again manifested.  Once again, no ammonia leak was detected.  This second rise in pressure was likely due to the station rebooting itself after the power-down and use of emergency breathing devices.

NASA Spaceflight considered the event a good practice run, albeit a somewhat scare one.  They stated, "If nothing else, the incident served to exercise the well-practiced procedures, proving that both the crew and ground teams responded in a timely and appropriate manner to a situation that could have been very dangerous if missed – thus serving to prove the effectiveness of NASA’s vigorous regime of procedural training and simulation."

All good in the orbital hood.
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The Russian space agency Roscosmos also agreed the scenario was handled well, with Maxim Matyushin, head of the Russian mission command center, telling the Independent UK that,  "Safety of the crew has been achieved through the coordinated and timely actions themselves cosmonauts and astronauts, as well as operational management groups in Moscow and Houston."

Despite the drama, fellow spaceman James Kelly (a Space Shuttle pilot who served two missions to the ISS) chimed in from mission control with some levity, enthusing, "Enjoy your impromptu day off."
Keeping it cool.
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In other news, the SpaceX Dragon capsule that made it safely to the ISS last week caused no trouble...however the landing of its attendant Falcon 9 rocket was not so smooth.  This week, exclusive imagery of the rocket crash was released.  The original (and still tangible) intent from the SpaceX mission was to land the rocket safely on an offshore pad and have it retrofitted for re-use.  This plan didn't exactly work out, just yet.  Inappropriately exciting video (linked below) followed.

Not bad, considering how few rockets, you know, LAND.
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That's all this week from our outstanding orbital outpost!  Be sure to tune in next week for more awesomeness above the this space!

Power On The Fly: Pioneering With A Pocket-Sized Charger

Sure, you love your devices, but feeding them can become problematic at times.  Stop bothering the bartender and bust out your own portable power, thanks to a new invention: Kraftwerk.  Created by the German company eZelleron, the gadget runs on regular everyday lighter fuel to unobtrusively juice your phone, camera, tablets, e-readers, and whatever other bit of technology is near-permanently in your orbit.

According to the Daily Mail, the device never requires a plug-in of its own, and each refill of lighter fluid or camping gas is enough to fuel 11 iPhones.  The eZelleron company maintains that Kraftwerk is a "quantum leap in terms of performance and availability compared to conventional battery chargers...Kraftwerk really is a small portable power station."

This is your first step to escaping the Grid.
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Slated for release in November/December of this year, Kraftwerk already exists in fully functioning prototypes. The remainder of the project is being funded by Kickstarter. The device appeals to a sense of freedom and adventure, with their Kickstarter campaign noting that Kraftwerk is "an invaluable advantage both in everyday life and even when traveling to the ends of the earth."

The durability and portability are major advantages for our hyper-connected world. Lighter than carrying batteries, adept with connection (a simple USB port handles all), approved for air travel, and capable of enduring all sorts of weather conditions, this energy-efficient device will discreetly help fuel the future, 5 volts at a time.

Never miss a gnarly shot again...keep your camera juiced-up anywhere with Kraftwerk.
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The folks behind Kraftwerk are pushing forth what is a small but important part of a larger picture. According to wikipedia, Germany has been hailed as "the world's first major renewable energy economy" and had a third of their electricity generated from sustainable resources in 2014.  With Germany poised to have nearly half of their electricity generated by sustainable resources by 2025, items like the Kraftwerk reflect how such an innovative mentality benefits people in many scenarios, not just on the macro scale.

Their kickstarter pitch isn't being hyperbolic when they say, "So let's revolutionize mobile energy supply together!  Be a pioneer on the fascinating road to freedom of power!"  And nothing says "pioneering" like posting a selfie from someplace definitely sans sockets.  Kraftwerk, keep it going!

Perhaps the band Kraftwerk can use the device Kraftwerk to power their Man Machine?  The possibilities are endless...
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Evolution Comes Full Circle As NASA Develops "RoboSimian" Robot

As of this morning, it is 2015, and therefore further into the future.  And what future is fun without new space gadgetry?

As reported by CNN, NASA has developed a new robot to navigate the adventures of interplanetary exploration...or even just to help out around the home planet.  Designed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility, the new RoboSimian bot doesn't mess around with any of those cheesy humanoid-droid elements and skips straight to having seven cameras mounted all around a headless, dexterously multi-limbed body.

Don't freak out if you see this thing in a disaster situation; it's trying to come help you.
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RoboSimian's four jointed limbs can function as either arms or legs, enabling walking or even rolling over various surfaces.  The limbs can also pick up and manipulate objects, making the robots useful not just to rescue themselves from far-flung planetary problems, but also to aid in earthly disaster scenarios (for example, RoboSimian is dexterous enough to turn off valves.)  If after a nuclear event or other catastrophe, RoboSimian could be sent in to help where rescuers can't reach.

RoboSimian and other robo-siblings will be put to the test in June as part of DARPA's Robotics Challenge, an eight-event challenge that will discern which bots are the most badass.  RoboSimian and its 18 challengers will have to attempt to drive a car, use tools, navigate rubble and climb stairs, all without a human pilot.  A $2 million prize awaits for the robot that can function at the level of what DARPA compares to "as competent as a 2-year-old child."

A two-year-old-child, minus the puking and screaming, plus serious survival skills.
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JPL already has a huge winner in its wheelhouse with the interplanetarily-famous Mars Rover, currently still on task on the red planet.  The difficult communications gap between Earth and Mars helped to lead to the technology that allows for RoboSimian's autonomous achievements.  This thorough, classic-NASA cautious "consciousness", coupled with RoboSimian's adaptability, makes for a slow but steady robo-rover.

"It is intentionally the tortoise relative to the other hares in the competition," said Brett Kennedy, JPL's supervisor of the Robotic Vehicles and Manipulators Group. "We feel that a very stable and deliberate approach suites our technical strengths and provides a model for one vital element of the 'ecosystem' of robots that we expect to be deployed to disaster scenarios in the future."

RoboSimian (left) will progress to the DARPA Robotics Challenge as JPL's entry after, among other victories, beating out fellow contender Surrogate (right) in a robot dance contest.
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Kennedy also noted that due to the nature of the search/rescue/explore jobs that RoboSimian will hold, this intent was instilled in RoboSimian's design.  "Basically, we wanted the perceptual equivalent of a St. Bernard," he said.

Yes, someday your life might be saved by a robot-monkey-St. Bernard...if it's not busy working on a comet or Mars.  Welcome to a little further in the future!

R2-D2 and C3P0 have a new buddy in town, and he means business.
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Snowed In? Bust Out With The New "Plowz & Mowz" App

'Tis the season to be jolly...and that probably means not having to worry about shoveling the piles of snow away from your door/garage/driveway/upstairs windows (if you live in someplace like Canada.)  Now, a new app can help not only with organizing snowplow providers, but also for cutting your lawn on that beautiful, beautiful day when it becomes springtime again.

You tried.  Now leave it to the pros.
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The Plowz & Mowz apps are straightforward and useful.  Simply schedule a plow or mowing appointment for a desired day with the available providers, then securely set up payments to make sure you don't end up looking like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."  Realtime updates confirm that it's once again safe to navigate the ski slope that your driveway had become.

Nonprofessional snow shoveling is no joke.
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The Mowz element also includes leaf removal, just in case you never got a chance to get all that dead stuff off your lawn before the layers of snow fell.  No word on if you can act now and be ready for next spring.

Those who would like to lend their services as a provider of the plow/mow trade can learn more about signing up here.  Best of luck in your battle against the forces of nature!

Now doesn't that feel better?
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This Drone Is Not Trying To Kill You

Every year, 800,000 people in the European Union suffer a heart attack, but the survival rate remains only about 8%.  Now, thanks to an innovative "ambulance" drone created by a Belgian engineering student, reaching people in a time of emergency can be more effective than ever.

According to, grad student Alec Momont developed the drone to reach the scene of an accident in considerably less time than the standard urban emergency services.  With most post-cardiac-arrest brain death occurring within 4-6 minutes, the ambulance drone can save lives by reaching anywhere in a 12-kilometer zone in one minute (as opposed to an actual ambulance's 10+ minute arrival time.)

This speed, coupled with onboard defibrillator equipment, could theoretically raise the survival rate from 8% to 80%.

The Ambulance Drone floats like a butterfly, shocks like an electric eel.
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The drone uses GPS from an emergency caller's phone to arrive at their position.  Onboard cameras, speakers and microphones enable emergency service providers to coach the on-site rescuer in aid techniques until professional lifesavers can arrive.

Momont wants the drones to eventually contain a "flying medical toolbox" with gear including insulin needles and oxygen masks, to provide for other types of emergencies.  Now, instead of drones stereotypically raining down "death from above", a more optimistic option can take flight.

This drone is considerably less helpful to your health.
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New Earthquake Evasion App "QuakeAlert" To Save You From Seismic Shakes

Over 1,400 earthquakes have occurred in the last month, some with extremely devastating results.  Now, a firm called Early Warning Labs is set to give those in afflicted areas a heads-up via a new smartphone app.

As reported by the Daily Mail, the QuakeAlert system was created in a partnership between the U.S. government and experts in the seismology field.  QuakeAlert works twofold, with a warning sent via app to the user's smartphone, but also to various alarms one could place in their home or office.  The alarms give a countdown of probable "safe" time left, allowing people to plan their escapes from quake zones and tend to safety measures like disabling vulnerable gas lines.

Your travel plans might need all the advance notice possible.
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The app grades the impending quakes on brutality from light to severe, so one knows what to expect.  Hints regarding all manner of earthquake safety are also issued.  Their stated mission is to "improve, expand, and lower the costs of the existing earthquake early warning systems."

You will also now have a leg up on looters / emergency-supply gatherers.
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The app works by taking data from a network of seismic sensors.  The sensors judge the early earthquake's "P-wave" activity, enabling emergency warnings to preclude the major event.  Location, magnitude, and overall reach of the earthquake are then sent to the user.  A second warning is sent before the next phase, a.k.a "S-wave" activity (where much of the shaking and damages occur.)

Overall the network will hopefully help to save lives and instill a better sense of planning during these frenetic events.  The app itself is free, though the alarms will cost $100 each.  Still, it's a small price to pay for peace of mind when pieces of the earth pay you no mind.

Education for better evasion.
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