Solar Powered Drones

Solar Powered Drones

In our blog you might have found interesting the articles about the city of the future, and how we have anticipated it would look like.

Especially the new designs, and harmonisation with nature are fascinating. And, in a future city we all know that something won’t miss, Drones!

Be it for transportation, deliveries, surveillance, policing, public services, everything is possible. What makes all of this even better is that now our technological advancements make it possible to use the sunlight to fuel those drones. Transforming them from a cheap substitution for helicopters, to advantageous ecological friendly devices!

Alta Devices went a step further on developing a new Photo-voltaic technology which is powered by Gallium Arsenide based solar-cells (GaAs technology). Photo-voltaic technology traditionally was divided in two groups: High-performance rigid solar-cells that are generally brittle and bulky, and low-performance thin films which in the contrary are lighter and more flexible. Alta Devices built from GaAs a film that was light, flexible and had high performance producing 2-4 times more power than the other two technologies.

Amazon is testing a method of delivering through drones. Imagine if they would also include the solar-power technology. As an example, Amazon wants to test their delivery system in the city of London. London has annually 1600 hours of sunshine (out of 8760 hours total in a year). This means that drones could fly for approx. 1/5 of the time with solar power and wouldn’t need to be charged (if drones would be used extensively this would mean an enormous amount of energy saved). And imagine this technology being used in a city like, for instance, Windhoek (Namibia) with 3605 hours sunshine annually!

Furthermore, some companies like Titan Aerospace had created drones that flew over most clouds, and were able to fly for more than 5 years. These drones could easily be used to assist satellite communication, or in the best case, substitute them altogether. Considering that this was only the beginning, the future might unfold other inventions which have even more flight hours and other capacities as well; This would be a new investment on holding our earth green, by using as much as we can from renewable energy. (But, according to Business Insider after the acquisition by Google, they shut down the project!)

Today drones are also used to gather information, mostly in battlefields around Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq etc. and they are doing a great job. Drones are unmanned and don’t pose a danger for the flier, only for the “surveyed”. But what this fantastic technology has to offer is not limited only in locating and killing “enemies” it might as well help us in policing in the city of the future, making the lives of its inhabitants more secure.

In addition, the city of the future will provide drones which bring to us public services, like flying ambulances, or mail-delivery etc. In contrary to new roads, or new buildings, drones do not require as much of a budget;

According to Chris Anderson, “Just as the 1970s saw the birth and rise of the personal computer, this decade will see the ascendance of the personal drone,” he wrote in a Wired cover story entitled “How I Accidentally Kickstarted the Domestic Drone Boom.” “We’re entering the Drone Age.”

All of the drones mentioned above already exist; and all of the technology mentioned above already exists. There is only you and me required to start constructing our personal drone as (one of) the first humans to enter into the new “Drone Age”.

Here you have links to help you construct your personal drone:

And here is a link on how to make your drone solar powered:

A Holographic Future

A Holographic Future

Future… It sounds like emptiness, uncertainty, silence. No matter what we all think about it, sometimes all it brings is fear. Fear of the unknown.

Millions of different things and feelings pass through the life of every person. Someone’s future will be exactly as they imagine it, happy and full of joy, and someone’s sad and full of pain. I do not know whether we should be thinking about it all the time and hope for something better, or leave everything to fate. But is the fate even real? Some people say that we choose and create our own destiny. Maybe that is true, but every tomorrow is also a great mystery that only a few people can predict.

My future is right in front of me, unclear or real, and behind me only memories. Everyone would like to be in a situation where their brain generates a feeling of happiness, but in real life, it is not always possible. To achieve our goals, we often turn to the beaten track which we have previously passed and we discover some new life paths. However, before we go and seek happiness and more out of life, we need to ask ourselves whether we are happy or not, and whether, perhaps, we selfishly seek for great things? Therefore, we have to try to adapt to what our life and future give us.

When I compare my life with the life of individuals, I realise that, in fact, I have what I want, or what every person should have to live a normal life and I realise that everything in life is acquired in one or the other way. Thousands of people around the world do not have essential conditions for life, thousands of children do not have a roof over their head, food, or any satisfactory living conditions. Yes, I’m afraid of the future. But who isn’t?

I am aware that I get a lot from life, but I am also aware that I can lose everything in a second. It is ok to have your own goals, desires and plans. With a strong will and faith, we will be able to create ourselves a better future. Baby steps to a better future.

I couldn’t help it think about the technology and how it developed over the past few years. Can you imagine what will happen in near future, in 10 years?

The virtual reality will soon be part of our everyday lives. And I am absolutely sure about this because working some of the biggest IT companies on the planet are already working on it, including Microsoft.

This unique and new view of the future is definitely interesting because it presents a fascinating new way to interact with the world. Rather than having another boring presentation of a Windows project, Microsoft wowed everyone with their new holographic glasses – the HoloLens that is very much alike to the Google Glasses, but with a lot of new features. These glasses allow as to generate 3D graphic surfaces in the environment and play with them. We definitely did not expect anything like this. It is advanced and changes a lot of things.

I guess Microsoft worked on this a lot and probably in a cooperation with other companies. They kept the whole project secret for years so that they won’t have a competition. Yes, there are other virtual glasses, but they cannot be compared with the features of the HoloLens.

How does the HoloLens change the future?

This new innovative technology can significantly change the way we interact with our loved ones. Can you imagine communicating with your family that lives abroad? This type of communication will be almost the same as the face – to – face interaction, except for the fact that we will be wearing glasses. It is a new technology of teleportation in a form of holograms or as it is now called – holoportation.

How would you like the idea to walk on Mars? Well, with the help of the HoloLens people can now walk on Mars. Microsoft developed a cooperation with Nasa and the software OnSight. The users of the HoloLens can walk on the planet of Mars thanks to a 3D simulation of details gathered by the Curiosity car – sized robotic rover that is already a few years on Mars exploring the place. What impresses is the level of details this device gives us. In very near future, there will be even better connections with Curiosity and people will be able to give commands to the robot so that it can pay more attention to some places that they find interesting and all of that with the HoloLens.

Microsoft did not forget about the gamers. They understand how virtual reality is important to them. Microsoft’s gaming department found a new interesting way to make your games even better. With the HoloLens the Pokémon Go game can be simulated with the hologram so that you can play it everywhere. Finding and catching a Pokémon is an exciting adventure, but there are much bigger things that await us. Things that have a significance.

Everyday problems can now easily be shared. How? The HoloLens features a high – quality camera which allows other people to see what you are seeing at the moment. For example, if you have some kind of hardware problem with your laptop, you will be able to call an IT technician and fix the problems right away with the HoloLens. For example, if you need to replace your hard – disk the HoloLens will give you instructions to do that properly and put everything in its place. This functionality does not require an additional software; it can simply be used with the help of Skype video calls.

People will be able to design a holographic home. This is a great tool for the interior designers. They will be able to experience exciting changes, which will be good for the designer and the owner too. With the help of the HoloLens, the designer can show them the look of their home. And together, they can make changes and create the perfect home in a few minutes.

Engineers, industrial designers will be able to see their creation in space, instead of a screen. The HoloLens have an amazing functionality to send prepared 3D models for printing. The world is now ready for holograms. The best thing is that you won’t need to connect the device with your smartphone or laptop. It has the necessary hardware to connect with the world.

While wearing these glasses medical students will be able to project holograms in an extended reality and walk around anatomical bodies to see bones, muscles, organs. The autopsy of dead people for medical practice will not be needed anymore. In fact, with the help of the HoloLens doctors can simulate surgeries which will be a practice for them before they perform it on a human. This will significantly improve the success of the surgical procedure.

However, we will need some time to accept these glasses as an obligatory tool, but they show us that it is not about some concept, this is a real, important and big thing that we can expect in the near future.

How will the city of the future function?

How will the city of the future function?

Name a sci-movie or book that accurately predicted that one day cities would be full of people with their heads glued to their phones. Give up? There you have the main problem of futurologists. They rarely see the change coming. However, our question today is answerable because we can already see the innovations and shifts that are making cities work better.

The question of how the city of the future will function is really a question of how society will function. With half of us living in cities today, that figure is expected to be two thirds by 2050. The city is already the nerve center of the national economy and society itself, and will continue to be so as far as anyone can see. Technology is fundamentally changing the way cities work, and looking at the most significant innovations and shifts indicates how the city of the future will live and breathe in its truest sense yet.

Connectivity

What many futurologists and CIO’s (Chief Information Officers) talk about is data-driven cities. This means government making data public. For example, traffic numbers, pollution levels, footfall, energy usage, crime and incidents statistics, as well as other data could be made available, free-of-charge through open source platforms.

The benefits of this would include collaboration, more scope for private sector initiatives, as well as more transparent government and city that delivers solutions to the citizen immediately. To take a really simple example, traffic jams could be avoided by notifying motorists whenever an accident has occurred, or when traffic is starting to pick up on a certain road and its best avoided. Right now this is generally done by radio stations, which works okay, but real-time updates would be far more efficient.

Or, apps could link in to city infrastructure, which in a very simple way could solve the problem of parking. Apologies for overusing motorists as an example, but congestion in cities is a huge problem. Some city officials estimate that around 40% of moving cars in central parts of the city are looking for parking. Phone apps could notify where there is a free parking spot, and you could pay via the app. Just imagine how much better it would be to have an app guide you to a spot. It would also eradicate that age-old problem of having to find change for the meter.

And it doesn’t have to be just motorists either. Imagine if you could get real-time data on a place you were going. You wan’t to go to the park today, but what if its overly crowded? That restaurant seems like a nice idea, but how long is the queue? Nowait is an app that already does this. And Google is already using its own data, presumably from check-ins, to tell you when some businesses are busiest, be they restaurants, bars, swimming pools or anything else. Real-time data makes cities work much better for the people navigating them.

Apps also have a tremendous social impact. While some of the most commercially successful have been those geared around transport, dating and delivery, there is significant potential for community and local co-operation to become a focus of app developers. Apps geared towards finding volunteers for community projects or small tasks, craigslist-style marketplace apps with a local focus, or simply as a way to raise local issues that affect everyone.

Wifi and smart cities

Soon cities will have wifi everywhere. In some places it already feels like you do, but the real challenge is to make public, free wifi a given. Innovations like Strawberry Energy‘s solar-panel tree provides a self-powering phone charging unit as well as wifi point. Google-backed Sidewalk Labs is in the process of turning New York’s now defunct pay-phones into wifi spots that emit a wifi signal to a radius of up to 150 feet.

Strawberry Energy’s Strawberry Tree, Belgrade, Serbia

Then, there is the Internet of Things. If you are unfamiliar with this, it is essentially the infrastructure of the expanding internet. Real world objects will now be connected via the web to work better. Your front door could be connected to your phone, your window to your TV. It is extending the power of the internet to physical objects to make everything work better.

And in the city? Well, the opportunities are endless. Smart traffic lights could be linked to a control grid that is scanning the streets to determine how best to use them. An example could be if you were the only car in an area at night, the system would ensure you would always have a green light. This would save time for the consumer, and help the environment as stopped traffic emits more CO2. These exist in a few places but it is their expansion that will be effective.

The video below, created by Keiichi Matsuda, show’s apps and an interacting city taken to its most extreme possibility. Quite nauseating and in some ways harrowing, it nonetheless shows the possibilities. Matsuda made it to show the dark side that technological advances could take. It would be up to society to ensure the outcome is a little more healthy than this one. See what you think.

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Public Transport

We’ve already gone through a little of how smart cities and technology could make private transport more efficient. But what about the public domain? Well, there are already some examples in operation of what could become the norm for cities in 100 or 200 years.

For example, the Maglev train, a shortening of Magnetic Levitation, is an eco-friendly (has no engine), low-maintenance (track and train don’t touch) and more comfortable (levitation means a smooth and quiet ride) passenger experience. They are in operation in Shanghai, China, and Linimo, Japan.

Maglev Train, Shanghai

Another possible public transportation system of the future is personal pods. Several have been tried out, but the longest-lasting and most successful is undoubtedly the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit system at West Virginia University. It does not look particularly futuristic (shown below), but that is because it was built in the 1970s. Eight fit in each pod, and users can choose destination and skip unnecessary stops (though during busy times this the pod does stop at each stop).

Seoul’s public transport system is regularly touted as the world’s greatest. With lightning fast wifi at stations and on trains, TV’s providing entertainment, very few delays and a schedule worked out by mathematicians and scientists to ensure efficiency, it is a model for the future. Oh, and the seats are heated in winter.

While the city in the U.S most associated with innovation is San Francisco, it is Austin that is leading the way forward my integrating public transport and phone apps. CapMetro app lets you buy tickets, plan your journey and check schedules on-the-go. Toronto also has its own version of this.

Other cities showing innovation in public transport systems include Helsinki and Curitiba. In Helsinki, you can use an app to designate your desired pick-up and drop off points. The system calculates the most optimal route for all users of the service and delivers it promptly, providing a shared, efficient system to satisfy everyone. Kind of similar to Uber which now has a pooling option, where users on the same route pool together to save money.

Boarding a bus in Curitiba, Brazil

In Curitiba, buses have their own designated lanes ensuring they are never caught in traffic. This on its own might not be special, but what is is the fact that the buses are linked in to traffic lights, which stay green a little longer if a bus is approaching. Meanwhile Medellin in Colombia has a metrocable system, where cable cars connect different parts of town. However, extending this to a whole city would create logistical and aesthetic issues, so expect it only for exceptional routes.

Public Services

Most of our interactions with the state involve long waiting times, stifling bureaucracy and unnecessary forms. Government is still in the mindset of ‘there’s a form for that’ and needs to join the tech world in saying ‘there’s an app for that’. HMRC in the UK and IRS in the USA often still refuse to use email in favour of written letters. It’s 2016!

An IRS worker, or at least how I imagine them to be

The sooner they adapt the better. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pay fines, bills and obtain licences through apps or your computer rather than going down to city hall or your local administration office? The amount of time saved would reap huge economic benefits. It would also mean less footfall in the center of cities, with less need to leave the house to do those annoying tasks.

Hospitals and doctors appointments could become less of a necessity. One thing talked about in healthcare circles is the future of tele-health. Instead of waiting to see a doctor, web calls could be made with home testing devices, for those simple check ups. Obviously, if its something serious nothing will replace going to see a specialist. But for small things and regular checkups the future lies in not needing to leave your house. Again, this would mean less congestion in cities.

And what about security? Imagine if instead of flashing a passport you simple had your eye or thumb scanned. The technology exists, it just needs to be implemented. Police could even avoid the whole problem with reaching for your licence by scanning you instead. Sounds a little scary actually, but who knows what the future may hold.

Signs could become screens instead of static metal sheets. They could change to adapt to the time of day or circumstances, notify people of news and events in the nearby area, or give public service announcements. Then there is the commercial side. With smart cities and data available to companies, personalised advertising is a hot topic right now in start up circles.

Drones

While they might look like something out of the Terminator series, drones will undoubtedly play a bigger role in cities of the future.

Including security and policing, public-service delivery, weather observation, logistics planning, news, real-time data collection as well as commercial uses already being tried out by Amazon, they are sure to change the world. They will be to the 21st Century what planes were to the 20th.

The security and policing aspect is fairly obvious. Drones are a low-cost alternative to helicopters, and whether they are an eye in the sky while chasing criminals or for general surveillance during busy public events, the possibilities are numerous. They could also help deliver public services. For example, they could be a more rapid way to deliver emergency medicine to inaccessible areas or heavily-congested parts of town, in the same way helicopters do now. Thanks to their low cost compared to helicopters they could be dispatched on a patrolling basis: yep, starting to sound a little dystopian now but with the right nuance it could work very well.

Energy

Perhaps the most important change that will need to be made to cities is their energy consumption. In another article I wrote about the moves towards sustainable and even regenerative urban planning. Whether its making urban spaces greener or using recycled materials to build homes, the move to greener urban planning and architecture is a common one.

And it will soon become a necessity, as the harmful effects of inner city pollution on the health of its inhabitants becomes clearer. New research highlighted in the Guardian found that pollution may be contributing to almost 10,000 deaths a year in London. At the end of last year, ten cities in China were placed on red alert, the highest of four pollution categories: so bad they were advised not to engage in outdoor activities and schools were closed. This simply cannot continue, and cities of the future will have to be greener and use less energy, even if out of necessity.

And with more eco-friendly public transport on the way, smarter networks leading to less congestion and the electronic car industry growing daily, the city of the future will be greener and healthier than currently.

Final Word

So there it is. If we combine all the above into a single city, we have one that:

  • Is data-driven, with entrepreneurs and inventors providing solutions to real-world problems the city faces using open-source data
  • Has apps integrated into its infrastructure and networks: apps for taking public transport, apps for checking local news, apps for finding a parking spot, apps for keeping up to date with everything that’s going on, apps for generally interacting with the city infrastructure
  • Has regained its sense of community that has been lost over the last few decades thanks to apps that foster collaboration and cooperation
  • Gives you free, public wifi everywhere
  • Boasts a public transport system that is green, efficient, rapid, geared to the customer thanks to being linked in to apps on their phones, linked in to the city infrastructure in a way that speeds the service up, and has its own isolated routes in the case of buses
  • Has drones flying all over the place, delivering security solutions, public services such as healthcare in a more efficient way
  • Delivers public services in a way that is up-to-date, taking full advantage of all technological options on offer
  • Is sustainable and regenerative for the environment

Now that sounds like a city I want to live in. Of course these already exist in one form or another: nothing I have written about is hypothetical. They just haven’t been combined and consolidated into entire-city networks yet. But one day they will be.

Not to end on a pessimistic note, but I believe this sort of city is more likely to be seen in developing economies. The most innovative and interest cities are being built in the developing world and the Middle East, where rapid economic growth and more greenfield sites is allowing for more ground-up construction, with the benefit of hindsight and these aforementioned ideas.

The chance of New York or London ditching their subway systems for a transport system more like the ones mentioned here is very slim due to the huge costs involved. Much of the technological stuff could be implemented fairly easily, but the really revolutionary change that requires huge construction costs is more likely to be seen in countries where they have a fast-growing economy and can build from the ground up.