Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Are they really that scared? (Score 1) 461

by BostonPilot (#48537577) Attached to: Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies

If electric cars become a reality, they will need to produce and distribute a lot more electricity to generate the energy currently generated by ICEs in the cars.

Keep in mind that ICE's are at best about 1/3 efficient with the fuel they burn while electric cars are around 90% or better with the electricity they use.

This is an important point. My electric car typically consumes 10kWh per day in the summer for a 50 mile commute. That's equivalent to leaving 4 100 watt lightbulbs on 24 hours a day. Not insignificant, but not huge from the electric company's standpoint. When my daughter uses the car all day just to get around town, she typically uses about 0.4kWh, or the equivalent of leaving a refrigerator light on all day.

Electric cars are very efficient.

I haven't measured it, but I probably use a lot more electricity running the electric dryer than the car (teenage daughters, don'tcha know?).

Comment: Re:Airspace (Score 2) 199

I don't think he's saying the airspace should be reserved for him, I think most of us think that those of us who fly deserve some regulations to prevent us from being killed because some idiot realtor caused a drone to strike our aircraft. I haven't heard anyone here say drones shouldn't be allowed. What we want is to be able to share the airspace safely.

Currently, a drone operator who causes a manned aircraft to crash has little fear for their own personal safety. They may have some liabilities (civil or even criminal) but they probably won't lose their life. I'd certainly like some regulations so that I'm not risking my life due to drone strikes every time I go flying.

Comment: Re:Not a rule (Score 1) 199

You forgot to quote paragraph d:

(d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

We frequently operate at 500 feet and below - it's one of the things that makes a helicopter useful. It's going to be a real issue when we start sharing the airspace with drones. Birds are already enough of an issue, but birds large enough to take down the helicopter are generally visible at the speeds we fly close to the ground. A maneuvering quadropter on the other hand is probably close to invisible to us - it's hard enough to see flying objects below the horizon, but one that can maneuver aggressively such as a model helicopter or quadropter is almost impossible to see and avoid. Usually we see RC Fields well before we see the RC Aircraft - the fields tend to look a certain way so when we see such a field we generally keep clear or at least are much more vigilant (and would be reluctant to go below 500 feet if we though an RC aircraft was being operated).

Anyway, there are lots of operations that legitimately take us below the altitudes specified in paragraph b & c.

Comment: Re:Not a rule - Not just the FAA (Score 1) 199

I'd like to second this. If I go out flying I'm likely to see one or two fields where people are flying RC aircraft. Not too hard to avoid. (and they have maximum altitudes the keep them below most manned aircraft). When uses for commercial drones are found, it's likely to suddenly flood the national airspace with a huge number of drones, and at that point we're going to need to have safety regulations already in place. If anything, I think FAA has been a little slow to enact drone regulations. I hope they hurry up, but also make balanced regulations that protects the flying public (and public on the ground) but also does not hinder the development of what will certainly be a huge and useful capability - I'm thinking autonomous drones here......

Comment: Re:Dear Fed (Score 1) 199

The reason FAA has the concept of commercial operating certificates is so that:

a) it can make sure those operators are following regulations enacted for safety reasons.
b) It can revoke the certificates of operators who for one reason or another violate those regulations.

The FAA has very little authority over an entity (person/corporation) who operates without a license or operating certificate. (I think it can levy fines against individuals but I'm not sure where their authority stops in that sense. I don't believe the FAA can act in a law enforcement capability, so it's not clear to me at what point a person can be arrested for violating FAA regulations).

By licensing drones, the FAA can enact rules to prevent them from endangering manned aircraft. For instance, if something akin to a type certificate is required by drones because FAA finds that certain equipment (like ADS-B) is required to insure separation from manned aircraft, how would they enforce that? Probably the way they will is by having certain equipment requirements for drones that want to operate in the national airspace.

Hopefully they will use a layered approach so that very small light drones will have little to no equipment requirements, but may have severe altitude restrictions, while larger/heavier drones, or drones that need to be operated at higher altitudes will have equipment requirements to keep them separated from manned aircraft.

We also have the issue of parts falling out of the air onto the public. In general this isn't an issue for manned aircraft, because usually when big pieces fall off the aircraft, the people on board are killed - it gives the crew plenty of incentive to make sure this doesn't happen. But what's to prevent an SLR carrying drone from falling out of the sky and killing people walking down the sidewalk? Since there's probably little to no risk on the part of the drone operator, we need a way to enforce some rules about how drones can be operated above people...

Comment: Re:Dear Fed (Score 1) 199

And I don't want people driving down my road disturbing my sleep at night, but I have to share the road with my neighbors and to some degree the same thing is true of the airspace above our property. There are lots of things that may take a helicopter low over your property - I've done utility inspection jobs that sometimes require us to fly quite low - while the noise may be a nuisance, it's an even bigger nuisance when your home loses electricity because the transmission wires weren't inspected.

I've flown traffic helicopters and we try to fly high so as to not make a lot of noise for people on the ground, but there are circumstances where we may have to fly fairly low so again, it's a nuisance, but does serve a useful purpose in helping to keep driver's aware of traffic conditions.

Another case I can think of would be a medivac helicopter making a low approach over your house in order to land nearby to pick up a critically ill person.

In general, the helicopter community works hard to be responsible about how and where we fly; we try to be sensitive to the noise we make and the fact that people on the ground have a right to feel safe, i.e. we need to operate the aircraft in a responsible fashion so that people on the ground are not exposed to risk due to our presence.

One worry I have is that crazy people with access to drones may try to enforce their desire to keep helicopters away from their homes by purposely crashing drones into helicopters. I'm thinking that there may be a market for armored civil helicopters in the not too distant future!. Or maybe a pod of anti-drone drones I can release from my helicopter... ;-)

Comment: Re:Not impressed... (Score 1) 636

by BostonPilot (#47154537) Attached to: Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

From what I've read so far, I have to agree. Like lots of people I first went to and started reading and got really excited. Wow.. Apple has taken this dataflow language and adapted it as a programming language. What a cool way to keep all those cores busy! Finally, a parallel programming language adopted by the mainstream.

Then I realized my mistake. Now I'm pretty let down. Seems kind of lame, from what I've read so far. Also, I think I prefer the elegant way of handling nil in the runtime versus spreading ?'s all over my code

Comment: Re:Solar power is cheap as coal? (Score 1) 462

by BostonPilot (#47086597) Attached to: Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don't Buy Our Electric Car

Really, solar power is as cheap as coal now. If that is true then why don't I see solar panels popping up everywhere?

OMH they are! I'm a helicopter pilot and when we fly around these days we're amazed at how many solar panels there are! We see two different forms: lots and lots of rooftop installations, both commercial and residential. They're *everywhere*. And then, solar gardens, i.e. 5-10 acres of land someone has installed solar panels on. Again, we see huge numbers of these around.

It's been an amazing thing to watch over just the last 2 years. Also, on a slightly different subject I was ferrying a helicopter across the country a couple years ago and was amazed by the number of windmills in Kansas. Thousands and thousands and thousands of them!

People are making investment in solar and wind

Comment: Re:Infrastructure (Score 1) 659

by BostonPilot (#47030439) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

All this report shows is the the grid can handle a few EVs it says nothing about handling a lot of EVs.

Some quick googling shows lots of similar articles and studies. The utilities don't seem to be worried. My guess is that they are happily anticipating becoming the energy provider for transportation in addition to their current business. And, if BEV takes a decade to become commonplace they have a full decade to upgrade the grid.

"As the power grid stands right now, it can already handle millions of electric vehicles without bringing any further power plants online."
( http://science.howstuffworks.c... )

"Kjaer is less concerned about transmission or generation being overtaxed, as long as consumers are taught to charge their plug-in cars at night, during off-peak demand periods, to smooth the load. "
( http://www.scientificamerican.... )

"Doggett is CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – which oversees the state’s electric grid. On Tuesday he told lawmakers on the Senate Natural Resources Committee that he doesn’t believe even widespread adoption of electric vehicles would have any negative effect on the transmission system."
( )

"“Surprisingly, we found that in general, the electric utility infrastructure is already prepared to meet the President’s 2015 challenge. Our research revealed that utilities will not likely need to upgrade or expand transmission or generation capacity in the next ten years specifically to meet electric demand from EVs at projected adoption rates."
( )

And here is a paper from Southern California Edison which doesn't seem too worried about the impact of BEV on their grid:

Comment: Re:What about Ammonia? (Score 1) 659

by BostonPilot (#47027935) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

Only downside, it's poisonous. On the upside, you can easily smell a leak at safe levels 1ppm.

I knew a guy who worked on Ammonia refrigerations systems. One day he told me they had a safety drill, simulating an Ammonia leak at the facility. The fire department was called, they drove through where the Ammonia cloud would have been, and he said that they figured 100% of them would have died if it had been a real leak. Granted because it was simulated they couldn't smell it, but he believed that by the time they would have smelled it, they would have been doomed. Just saying!

He also said that when they were working and the managers would hang around getting in the way, they would just surreptitiously vent a little Ammonia and the managers would scatter.

Seems like a nasty material for the general public to be pumping into their cars!

Comment: Re:Electric is the clear choice... (Score 1) 659

by BostonPilot (#47027889) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

Even if that Carbon-Carbon battery turns out to be a scam, it's hard to believe battery technology won't improve dramatically in the next 10 years. It's not just EV automobiles driving the technology, it's portable electronic equipment and probably at some point home solar installations.

A list is only as strong as its weakest link. -- Don Knuth