Quiet Airplane Landings, Single person Vtol and some recent speed records smashed

July 22

This week we find out how to stop airplanes making excess noise whilst they land. We also examine a new electric Vtol (vertical takeoff and landing drone) built for a single passenger. An easy way to dodge the traffic on the way to work. Finally we update two previous stories where the speed records that had been set in the past year have already been smashed.

Airplanes landing without any noise

We recently spoke about dampening the sound of aircraft engines when they take off however planes also make significant noise when they land. Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a shape memory alloy that will reduce the unpleasant noise created during a plane landing.

When landing, aircraft engines are throttled way back so they tend to be very quiet. Other sources of noise, such as noise from the wings, become more apparent to people on the ground. This can be up to 75 to 80 decibels which can be damaging to hearing over the long term.

Similar to the opening of venetian blinds, the front edge of wing separates from the main body during landing which causes air to rush into the space created, circle around quite violently and produce noise. Fillers used as a membrane in the shape of an elongated S within the cove at the front of the wing circumvent the noise causing circulation and thereby lessen the resultant sound.

The researchers used a membrane of shape memory alloy that could go back and forth, changing shape for every landing. They simulated the results many thousands of times to ensure that the motion of the materials was correctly deployed. The current materials being used are quite large and potentially heavy. The research will continue to find smaller, lighter structures that can reduce a similar amount of noise. Hopefully all these noise reduction techniques will be coming to an airplane that lands at an airport near you very shortly.

Single Person Vtol

We have discussed several different types of Vtol over the past few years. Now NeXt have developed a prototype for a single person electric Vtol that can sit in your driveway waiting for you to takeoff.

Called “iFly”the machine will fly wherever you want via a companion phone app. Just open the app, click on your destination and iFly will take you there. At least that is their marketing hype. The FAA in the US and CASA in Australia will have a lot to say about where pilotless drones will be able to travel. NeXt has applied to the FAA to allow the drone to be pilotless (i.e. flown without a qualified pilot).

The Vtol will calculate exactly what distances it can fly and will land prematurely in a protected spot if it runs low on battery power or if something goes wrong. There are also plans to provide a ballistic parachute that automatically deploys in the event of an emergency. You can see an animation of iFly here.

Updates to 2 Previous Stories

Protein Folding

The rate of innovation at the moment is truly astounding. In December 2020 we talked about AlphaFold from Google. AlphaFold is able to solve the problem of how proteins fold in a few days. Previously this work had taken scientists years to solve. How proteins fold is key to understanding how they work and hence important in the development of new drugs. There are an estimated 200,000 proteins used in the human body so reducing the time to understand how they fold is a critical step forward in the development of new medicines.

AlphaFold has just been overtaken in the race to quickly discover how proteins fold. Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle have developed RoseTTAFold which is able to determine how proteins fold in as little as 10 minutes by using a single gaming computer. It does not need massive infrastructure or expensive cloud computing time.

RoseTTAFold is a three track neural network that considers patters in protein sequences and proteins’ possible three dimensional structure. One, two and three dimensional information flows back and forth allowing the network to collectively reason about the relationship between a protein’s chemical parts and its folded structure.

The full program is freely available (it was downloaded 140 times in the first half of July). For those of you that want to discover the folding patterns of a few proteins the program is on GitHub here. In response Google posted AlphaFold (previously held confidentially) on GitHub here.

Data Transmission World Record

In August 2020 we learned about a team at University College London that set a new world record for data transmission at 178 terabytes per second (at that speed the entire Netflix library could be downloaded in less than a second). A team of Japanese engineers at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology have just broken that record by transmitting 319 terabytes per second. The new record was achieved over a 3,000 kilometer long Optical Fibre Network.

The new process uses four cores (glass tubes housed within optic fibre) with the signal broken down in several wavelengths sent at the same time. This technique is known as wavelength division multiplexing. The data is transmitted 70 kilometers at a time where it hits an optical amplifier to boost the signal for the next step in its’ journey. The signal is boosted by two types of novel fiber amplifiers, one doped in thulium and the other in erbium.

The four core fibre is the same size as conventional single core fibre and can be integrated into existing infrastructure. There is currently no consumer use for speeds of this type however the “build it and they will come” maxim will no doubt apply. Potential uses include inside data centers and in backhaul systems that the telcos use to transmit massive amounts of data over longer distances.

Paying it Forward

If you have a start-up or know of a start-up that has a product ready for market please let me know. I would be happy to have a look and feature the startup in this newsletter. Also if any startups need introductions please get in touch and I will help where I can.

If you have any questions or comments please email me via my website craigcarlyon.com or comment below.

I would also appreciate it if you could forward this newsletter to anyone that you think might be interested.

Till next week.