Technological innovation

  • Floating wind turbines bring electricity – and power generation -- to customers

    Most wind turbine manufacturers are competing to build taller turbines to harness more powerful winds above 500 feet, or 150 meters. Altaeros is going much higher with its novel Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the BAT. The Altaeros BAT can reach 2,000 feet, or 600 meters. At this altitude, wind speeds are faster and have five to eight times greater power density. As a result, the BAT can generate more than twice the energy of a similarly rated tower-mounted turbine. The BAT’s key enabling technologies include a novel aerodynamic design, making it, in effect, a wind turbine which is being lifted by a tethered balloon. In the future, the company expects to deploy the BAT alongside first responders in emergency response situations when access to the electric grid is unavailable.

  • A first: Engineering students design firefighting humanoid robot

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy better to assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.

  • Protecting the security for networks of the future

    Today’s company networks comprise hundreds of devices: routers for directing data packets to the right receiver, firewall components for protecting internal networks from the outside world, and network switches. Such networks are extremely inflexible because every component, every router and every switch can carry out only the task it was manufactured for. If the network has to be expanded, the company has to integrate new routers, firewalls or switches and then program them by hand. This is why experts worldwide have been working on flexible networks of the future for the last five years or so, developing what is known as software-defined networking (SDN). It presents one disadvantage, however; it is susceptible to hacker attacks. Researchers have now developed a way to protect these future networks.

  • Handheld sensor sniffs out fish fraud

    It is estimated that up to 30 percent of the seafood entering the U.S. is fraudulently mislabeled, bilking U.S. fishermen, the U.S. seafood industry, and American consumers for an estimated $20-25 billion annually. Passing off other fish as grouper is one of the rackets this sensor aims to stop. Fighting seafood labeling fraud using rapid, on-site screening may benefit consumer wallets and U.S. seafood industry. Scientists at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science have developed a handheld sensor capable of debunking fraudulent seafood species claims, helping to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for.

  • Color-changing film detects chemical weapons

    In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs — an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

  • New Chinese cyber rules aim to facilitate intellectual property theft: U.S. tech companies

    The Chinese government’s cyberspace policy group in late 2014 approved a 22-page document which contained strict procurement rules for technology vendors. Those rules would require U.S. firms selling computer equipment in China to turn over sensitive intellectual property — including source codes — submit their products for “intrusive security testing,” and use Chinese encryption algorithms. U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese banks will be required to set up research and development centers in China, get permits for workers servicing technology equipment, and build “ports” which allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. U.S. tech companies charge that the new rules would make it easier for China to steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.

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  • Smart-gun technology faces many hurdles

    At last Wednesday’s Seattle International Smart Gun Symposium, lawmakers, smart-gun industry representatives, and gun-safety advocates met to discuss the future of “authorized” guns which only discharge in the hands of pre-authorized owners. Representatives from Sentinl, maker of an add-on fingerprint sensor for existing handguns; TriggerSmart, an RFID-enabled system for existing and brand-new guns; and Allied Biometrix, a firm developing fully integrated biometric sensors which unlock a gun once they sense an individual’s “reflexive actions” and “grip style,” attended the event, though these companies do not yet have a ready-for-market product.

  • CODE program would allow UAVs to fly as collaborative teams

    The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike. Most of the current systems, however, require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator as well as a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These requirements severely limit the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and pose operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance engagements with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. DARPA’s CODE program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to help develop groundbreaking software enabling unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.

  • Early warning systems to boost security for critical infrastructures

    Using data mining, data fusion, and what are known as “rule based engines,” the EU-funded ARGOS, which stands for Advanced Protection of Critical Buildings by Overhauling Anticipating Systems, has developed an innovative early warning security system for critical infrastructure facilities, letting site operators know whether there is a potential threat. The rule-based engines allow operators to “teach” the system what alarms are true enabling systems to ‘learn’ and improve over time. The early warning systems extend the sites’ “security zone” and helps vital infrastructure to become more secure against intruders.

  • Invisibility cloak closer to reality: Concealing military airplanes, and even people

    Since the beginning of recorded time, humans have used materials found in nature to improve their lot. Since the turn of this century, scientists have studied metamaterials, artificial materials engineered to bend electromagnetic, acoustic, and other types of waves in ways not possible in nature. Now, Hao Xin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona, has made a discovery with these synthetic materials that may take engineers one step closer to building microscopes with superlenses that see molecular-level details, or shields that conceal military airplanes and even people.

  • Engineers develop world’s longest “flat pack” arch bridge

    Civil Engineers at Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with pre-cast concrete specialists Macrete Ireland have developed the world’s longest “flat pack” arch bridge. Based on the FlexiArch system, the bridge is unique in that it will be transported to site in flat-pack form but when lifted, will transform under gravity into an arch. A FlexiArch bridge requires little maintenance and should last 300 years, compared to the projected lifespan of up to 120 years that accompanies a conventional bridge.

  • Revolutionary weapon to be showcased at Future Force EXPO

    The Electromagnetic Railgun program continues to move toward scheduled at-sea testing in 2016. Its revolutionary technology relies on electricity instead of traditional chemical propellants, with magnetic fields created by high electrical currents launching projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles — and at speeds that exceed Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. The Railgun will play a significant role in the future of the U.S. Navy, and it will be on display to the public for the first time on the East Coast 4-5 February at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington, D.C.

  • Six-legged Snake Monster is first of new breed of reconfigurable modular robots

    Carnegie Mellon University’s latest robot is called Snake Monster, but with six legs, it looks more like an insect than a snake. It really does not matter, however, what you call it, says its inventor, Howie Choset — the whole point of the project is to make modular robots that can easily be reconfigured to meet a user’s needs.

  • Mobile app helps first responders choose the right biodetection technology

    First responders have downloaded more than 10,000 copies of a guide to commercially available, hand-portable biodetection technologies created to help them determine what they might be up against in the field. Since many first responders do not always have immediate access to a computer, a mobile version of the guide is now available for cell phones and tablets. An updated version of the guide has just been released to help response organizations make informed decisions when procuring the right technology for their particular needs and circumstances.

  • Smart grenade seeks, finds enemy hiding behind barriers, walls

    The Small Arms Grenade Munition (SAGM) round — a 40mm counter-defilade, air-bursting grenade designed for both the M203 and M320 launchers — will undergo evaluation in July 2015. The SAGM allows a soldier to target an enemy who is protected behind a barrier and have the munition explode, in the air, above the target. The SAGM does not require the soldier to conduct any kind of pre-fire programming sequence. The soldier aims the weapon and fires, and the round detects where a wall is and then explodes, in the air, after passing the wall. The SAGM round has been under development since January 2012.