Resilient Freedom

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Freedom and security through off-grid independence.

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Amateur UAVs, Commercial Drones for Peace

Monday, April 11th, 2011

DIYDrones sez FedEx wants UAVsFound a link to Wired Editor-in-Chief, Chris Anderson’s DIYDrones.com site from an online Wired article, “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?.”

UAV stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,” with applications listed at Wikipedia including “remote sensing; oil, gas and mineral exploration and production; transport; scientific research; armed attacks; and search and rescue.”

If the dollar loses its purchasing power, perhaps unmanned aerial vehicles will also deliver goods without the energy and labor costs of transporting a human pilot. Perhaps a robot will load your grocery order into a parcel delivery blimp or model aircraft, which will then travel to your location via GPS, internal map and a radio beacon to guide the craft to its destination at your place, even if you’re off-grid with no roads like in some third world village.

The economics will make UAVs dominant, whether there’s a bigger crash to come or not. Military drone maker Insitu quotes an Aviation Week item on its website:

“It’s official: Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary has outstripped Boeing Commercial Airplanes in delivery rates for air vehicles.”

The April, 2011 issue of Mechanical Engineering features “Drones For Peace” artwork on the cover. The feature article is entitled “Airborne, Autonomous & Collaborative.”

One can imagine the legal hurdles for the operator of such a robotic fleet. Certainly the FAA would be involved at this point. Details of the amateur legal requirements may be found at DIYDrones’ “Regulatory FAQ.”

Autonomous Cars and Growbots

Monday, September 20th, 2010

  Wikimedia Commons
Desert to City robot car
If there’s any life in the new car industry in the near future, it looks like any sales will come from the long anticipated finally maturing technological revolution of robotics.

Nobody seems as impressed as I am that several production cars and trucks you could actually buy at a dealer for the last couple of years can freakin’ parallel park themselves! (with some limitations).

Slashdot reports that on the same day a completely unmanned car successfully drove over tricky mountain terrain, a manned aircraft filming it for a commercial crashed. Read the story, “Helicopter Crashes While Filming Autonomous Audi” and the PopSci article it links to for all the details.

I remember reading a similar story a few years ago about the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007. Here’s a link I just found to that description in the The Sunday Times in the UK, in a long article titled “What’s your place in the brave new future?.” Futurist Paul Saffo is quoted in this excerpt:

“The same morning as the Darpa challenge there was a 108-car pile-up on a California freeway. The simple fact is that people shouldn’t drive,” said Saffo.

The writing is on the wall. Human driving will be outlawed–robots only. Skynet said so. Check out Will Smith in I, Robot for another movie with an army of autonomous drivers. Here’s a Wikipedia entry about the DARPA Challenges, with the quite challenging goal for 2007.

“The Urban Challenge required designers to build vehicles able to obey all traffic laws while they detect and avoid other robots on the course.”

With everyone unemployed, cars will transport the aging Baby Boomers places and deliver the groceries right from the nearest Growbot Garden.

For you techies, it looks like an agriculture automation microcontroller project with lots of different sensors is available from Libelium. It has a solar power option. I’d like to see permaculture aware growbot networks providing our food. If we’re lucky, they will replace the current dumb mechanized systems.

We won’t have our biggest export being the topsoil lost by tilling, fewer toxic chemicals needed to handle weeds and pests targeted by growbots, and local gardens eliminating the need for energy hogging transportation. Or at least reducing delivery traffic injuries by using clean electric robot vehicles instead.

Fuel Film Shows Oil Alternatives

Friday, June 25th, 2010

  Fuel Film DVD
I turned on the radio this morning while visiting L.A. for relatives’ birthdays and heard an inspiring interview with Josh Tickell. He is screening his Sundance awarded Fuel movie to benefit KPFK Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Tomorrow as I post this.)

I was struck by the number of different solutions that were offered by the filmmaker. He reminded me that electricity costs a penny per mile instead of a dime or more for gasoline and that green sources can be selected by electricity consumers in one way or another.

He also made a point that concentrated energy providers lead to concentrated points of political power and suggested that energy created by individuals and community groups would empower them politically as well. At the least they would be more self-reliant and not dependent on the gas pump.

About the film, the Los Angeles Times said this in a review:

“Fuel is a vital, superbly assembled documentary…doesn’t dwell on muckraking, however; it’s more focused on broadly inspiring viewers than preaching to the converted….Smartly animated interstitials, memorable archival material and a lively soundtrack round out the fast-paced proceedings.”

Amazon said this about the DVD:

“Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Tickell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America’s dependence on foreign oil. Combining a history lesson of the US auto and petroleum industries and interviews with a wide range of policy makers, educators, and activists such as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Animated by powerful graphics, FUEL looks into our future offering hope via a wide-range of renewable energy and bio-fuels. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award.”

The theatrical trailer at YouTube.