Geospatial Round-up – Jan/Feb 2018

February 14th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Fuel cell system for drones

A next generation high-performance fuel cell propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones has been developed. The next generation fuel cell propulsion system delivers a number of important advances: increased power density resulting from a new membrane electrode assembly (MEA) design; reduced cost resulting from a combination of new MEA and one-step fuel cell stack sealing process; and extended lifetime. The increase in rated power, without any appreciable increase in size or weight, is a particularly significant development for UAV applications. Ballard, the company who developed it, has also received a follow-on contract from Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, for extended durability testing of the next-generation 1,3 kW fuel cell propulsion system to power test flights of its ScanEagle UAV platform.


Search for MH370 renewed

The search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 will continue, after the effort has been picked up by Ocean Infinity. The search will initially focus on the zone identified by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The Seabed Constructor vessel will conduct the search, expected to last for 90 days, with the company taking on the economic risk of the renewed search, only receiving payment if the aircraft wreckage is located. Up to eight untethered autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), capable of operating in water depths from 5 to 6000 m may be used for the operation. This allows them the ability to operate independent missions. The AUVs will be equipped with side scan sonar, multi-beam echo-sounder, sub-bottom profiler, HD camera, conductivity/temperature/depth sensor, self-compensating magnetometer, synthetic aperture sonar and a turbidity sensor.


Space laboratory celebrates 10 years

The Columbus space laboratory, one of the nodes to the International Space Station, is celebrating 10 years in space, during which some 1800 experiments were conducted and the earth orbited nearly 60 000 times. Columbus went into operation on 11 February 2008, offering scientists from all over the world one of the most fascinating research locations. The module, 6,90 m long and 4,5 m wide, is equipped with 16 flexible, high-performance experiment racks, which are used for multidisciplinary research projects. It also has a platform attached to the outside of the laboratory module, which hosts equipment and experiments for earth observation, tests of space technology and research on cosmic radiation, among others.


3D printed aircraft engine’s maiden flight

Finland’s first 3D-printed aircraft engine part has made its maiden flight in January 2018. The part has been installed in the F/A-18 Hornet fighter. Using 3D printing to make parts enables a faster process from customer need to finished product, as well as the creation of newer, better structures. The manufacturer, Patria, has been working on the manufacturing process for 3D-printed parts over the last two years. The part was designed in accordance with the Military Design Organisation Approval (MDOA) granted to Patria, and was manufactured from the Inconel 625 super alloy. The company said it will continue research on additive manufacturing methods, with the aim of making the new technology more efficient.


Heat maps show military bases

In January it emerged that data from a heat map released in November 2017 by the fitness app company, Strava, showed the names, heartbeats and GPS routes of people exercising at, among other places, secret military bases. Aside from the digital signatures clearly outlining military bases and compounds, personal identifiable information can also pose high security risks, including revealing behavioural patterns over time. In warzones and other remote areas, this data is more discernible on a map from areas with widespread fitness tracker usage, and more likely to denote specific users such as military personnel or humanitarian organisations. This discovery has renewed attention to privacy issues, with the company reportedly planning make its privacy options clearer to its users.


Mapping to catch elephant poachers

Poaching of elephants is now occurring at rates that threaten African populations with extinction. Identifying the number and location of Africa’s major poaching hotspots may assist efforts to end poaching and facilitate recovery of elephant populations. Researchers from the Department of Biology and the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington, as well as Interpol’s Environmental Security Sub-Directorate have genetically assigned origin to 28 large ivory seizures (≥0,5 metric tons) made between 1996 and 2014, also testing assignment accuracy. Results suggest that the major poaching hotspots in Africa may be currently concentrated in as few as two areas. Increasing law enforcement in these two hotspots could help curtail future elephant losses across Africa and disrupt this organised transnational crime.