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Hydrogen planes, electric propulsion and new regulations: Aviation is changing 

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A commercial plane takes off after sunset from Geneva Airport, Switzerland.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

From the Wright brothers’ historic flight in 1903 to the development of supersonic aircraft, the history of aviation has been driven by technology and ambition.

Now, as the 21st century progresses, the sector continues to show its appetite for innovation and radical design.

Last September, for instance, a hydrogen fuel-cell plane capable of carrying passengers took to the skies over England for its maiden flight.

The same month also saw Airbus release details of three hydrogen-fueled concept planes, with the European aerospace giant claiming they could enter service by the year 2035.

More recently, United Airlines announced it had signed a commercial agreement to purchase aircraft from a firm called Boom Supersonic.

In a statement, United said the Overture aircraft — which is yet to be built — was set to be “optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.”

All of the above are linked by a focus on technologies designed to reduce aviation’s environmental footprint. This represents a major task, even if the number of flights last year slumped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the International Energy Agency, carbon dioxide emissions from aviation “have risen rapidly over the past two decades,” hitting almost 1 gigatonne in 2019. This, it notes, equates to “about 2.8% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.”

Elsewhere, the World Wildlife Fund describes aviation as “one of the fastest-growing sources of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change.” It adds that air travel is “currently the most carbon intensive activity an individual can make.”

A variety of solutions

Iain Gray is director of aerospace at the U.K.’s Cranfield University. In a phone interview with CNBC, he described zero carbon as “the top priority” for the industry and sought to emphasize the importance of developing a range of solutions to tackle the challenge.

“The really big technology driver is around the propulsion system,” he explained, “but that doesn’t take away from the importance of new technologies around … new lightweight materials, enhanced carbon composite materials, and the systems itself.”

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Expanding on his point, Gray provided an example of why the innovations on planes flying above our heads should not be viewed in isolation. 

“There’s a lot of effort goes into reducing the weight on an aeroplane for it only to spend half an hour circling an airport,” he said.

“So the whole interaction of air traffic management with the aircraft itself is a … very important development and new technologies on airspace management are emerging all the time.”

The power of propulsion

Alongside the development of hydrogen fuel-cell planes there’s also been a lot of discussion around electric propulsion in recent years, with firms such as Volocopter and Lilium developing eVTOL, or electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

The key with technologies such as these is the types of journeys to which they can be applied.

“If you look at hydrogen fuel cells and you look at batteries, that really is very much aimed at the smaller aircraft, that’s the sub 1,000 kilometer range,” Cranfield’s Iain Gray said.

“You have to do that in a zero carbon way, there’s no question,” he added. “Is that going to make a big difference to the overall CO2 contributions that aviation makes? No.”

“We need to focus on the longer range flights, flights greater than 1,000 kilometers, flights greater than 3,000 kilometers in particular.”

Fueling change

This focus on long-haul trips will be important in the years ahead, even though they make up a small proportion of flights.  

According to a sustainability briefing from Eurocontrol published earlier this year, “some 6% of flights from European airports were long-haul” in 2020, measuring over 4,000 kilometers (around 2,485 miles) in length.

The intergovernmental organization went on to state that “more than half of European aviation’s CO2 emissions were from this tiny proportion of the overall number of flights.”

This viewpoint was echoed by Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, a campaign group headquartered in Brussels.

“We shouldn’t forget that the biggest chunk of aviation emissions are linked to long haul flights because you fly longer, you fly higher,” she told CNBC.

“So all in all you’re producing more CO2 … those long haul flights can only be decarbonized by replacing the kerosene that they’re using.”

It’s on these longer journeys that sustainable aviation fuel could have a significant role to play in the future.

Although the European Union Aviation Safety Agency says there’s “not a single internationally agreed definition” of sustainable aviation fuel, the overarching idea is that it can be used to reduce an aircraft’s emissions.

For its part, Airbus describes SAF as being “made from renewable raw material.” It adds that the most common feedstocks are based on crops or used cooking oil and animal fat.

“Currently, the big challenges of sustainable aviation fuel are producing it in the right volumes that are required, and at the right cost point,” Cranfield’s Gray said.

The provenance of feedstocks used for SAF is also important, he explained. “If what you’re doing … to produce sustainable aviation fuel is transporting fuel right across the world using feedstocks from the other side of the planet, then is it really sustainable?”

“The big effort at the moment is looking at how you can produce sustainable aviation fuels in a …  green way.” This could be fuel from waste or local resources, Gray added.

One type of fuel generating interest is e-kerosene, which also goes by the name of synthetic kerosene. According to a briefing from T&E published in February, e-kerosene is produced by combining carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

“What’s great about it is that it can be dropped into these jets without any modification of the engine and of the technology of the plane,” Dardenne said.  

“It’s a carbon neutral fuel, it’s something that can be easily dropped in,” she added. “The only problem is that it’s very expensive.”

Driving cost down will indeed be key in the years ahead, but organizations like T&E are keen to emphasize the potential environmental benefits of using it.

If the CO2 is “captured from the atmosphere” and hydrogen produced using renewables, T&E says “the combustion of e-kerosene will, apart from some residual emissions, be close to CO2 neutral.”

The future

While technology may be developing, the world also needs to come up with rules and regulations focused on the environmental footprint of air travel. 

Examples of these efforts include the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation and the European Union including carbon dioxide emissions from aviation in its emissions trading system since the year 2012.

In her interview with CNBC, T&E’s Dardenne stressed the importance of “proper regulation.”

She said: “If you price emissions and pollution effectively, then mandate the use of clean technologies, you send the right signals to investors, private and public, to invest in them.” 

“The clearer the regulatory framework the more certainty you can provide to the market that these technologies will have a future,” she added.

“And that will actually bring added value, financial added value, as well as environmental added value.”

Looking at the bigger picture, she went on to state that “proper regulation” would come via effective carbon pricing and fuel mandates, describing the latter as an obligation to use clean fuels. These were, she argued, “the cornerstone of effective aviation decarbonization strategy.”

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/15/hydrogen-planes-electric-propulsion-aviation-is-changing-.html

CNBC

Louis Vuitton is making a mobile game with embedded NFTs

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The worlds of fashion and gaming are cozying up to one another. From Gucci selling digital items in Roblox to Vogue‘s virtual fashion spread starring Gigi Hadid, the two industries are increasingly overlapping to capture a young, tech-savvy audience. Now, Louis Vuitton is jumping on the bandwagon by releasing a mobile video game to celebrate its founder’s 200th birthday. Louis: The Game stars the fashion house’s mascot Vivienne, a wooden doll embellished with the company’s flower insignia, on a journey through the brand’s history, reports Austrian newspaper Kurier.

The iOS and Android game reportedly tasks players with exploring a colorful world by completing various quests — all pretty generic so far. Whether it turns out to be more than just an unashamed bit of promotional fluff remains to be seen. The game drops on August 4th. If LV goes all-out psychedelic like it did with its recent UFO-style speaker, then it could be worth a look.

According to WWD, the game will also feature “embedded NFTs.” Though, that hardly sounds promising. The one-of-a-kind digital collectibles have gone from multi-million dollar auctions to freebies designed to promote throwaway pop culture, like Warner Bros. recent Space Jam reboot.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/louis-vuitton-mobile-game-nft-105507072.html?src=rss

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CNBC

Rocket Lab launches US Space Force satellite after its failed mission in May

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Rocket Lab has successfully launched a US military satellite in its first mission since its 20th Electron launch ended up in failure back in May. The company’s Electron rocket made its way to space from its New Zealand launch site, carrying a small demonstration satellite from the US Space Force called the Monolith. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, tweeted shortly after the event that the payload was deployed and praised the team for a “flawless” launch.

Monolith’s target location is in low-Earth orbit around 370 miles above our planet. The satellite will demonstrate the use of a deployable sensor, “where the sensor’s mass is a substantial fraction of the total mass of the spacecraft, changing the spacecraft’s dynamic properties and testing ability to maintain spacecraft attitude control,” Rocket Lab explained in the official mission webpage. The results from the demonstration will help companies build more affordable satellites within shorter timeframes.

Rocket Lab’s 20th mission failed in May when it suffered an “anomaly” after the second stage ignition. The company lost both its Electron rocket and BlackSky’s Earth observation satellite payloads as a result of its second launch failure within the span of a year. After investigating the issue, Rocket Lab determined that the root cause was a problem with the second stage engine igniter system that “induced a corruption of signals within the engine computer.” The company says it has since implemented fixes “to prevent any future reoccurrence.”

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/rocket-lab-launches-us-space-force-satellite-103541725.html?src=rss

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CNBC

Facebook’s next product will be its long-awaited Ray-Ban smart glasses

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Facebook’s booming business is dominated by digital ads, but it also has hardware ambitions beyond VR. During the company’s latest earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said its next product release would be a pair of smart glasses from Ray-Ban. 

“The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things,” the Facebook co-founder said. “So I’m excited to get those into people’s hands and to continue to make progress on the journey toward full augmented reality glasses in the future.” 

Facebook’s sunglasses have been the subject of rumors since 2019. Back then, sources told CNBC that Facebook was working with Ray-Ban owner EssilorLuxottica on AR eyewear nicknamed “Orion.” The glasses were billed as a full-fledged phone replacement on which you could take calls, see information and even broadcast livestreams. That inevitably drew comparisons to Google Glass (another Luxottica collab) instead of the phone-tethered Spectacles from Snap. Last year, Hugo Barra, then VP VR at Facebook Reality Labs, confirmed that the glasses would land in 2021. But, we haven’t heard much since.

For Facebook, the glasses hold the key to its future. Alongside virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is integral to building the “metaverse,” Zuckerberg said. In the future, Facebook will morph into a shared, liveable platform that lets you “teleport” between different social experiences using VR and AR, Zuckerberg explained. 

The term metaverse is the latest buzzword seized upon by Silicon Valley and futurists. While the concept has been around for well over a decade, it gained traction after the breakout success of multiplayer game creation platforms like Fortnite and Roblox. Earlier this week, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella mentioned an “enterprise metaverse” on his company’s earnings call.

For Facebook, the metaverse is more than just a fad. The company is spending billions in order to build its shared universe, which will be populated with Facebook users and digital ads, according to Zuckerberg. In order for it to become a reality, the company needs more people to buy its computing hardware. Therefore, the plan is to make those devices more affordable.

“Our business model isn’t going to primarily be around trying to sell devices at a large premium or anything like that because our mission is around serving as many people as possible,” Zuckerberg noted. “So we want to make everything that we do as affordable as possible, so as many people as possible can get into it and then compounds the size of the digital economy inside it. So that’s kind of at a high level how I’m thinking about this.”

Sunglasses aren’t the only hardware Facebook is reportedly working on. Multiple reports have claimed Facebook is developing a smartwatch with a built-in cellular connection and a detachable display. Initially, it was believed that the watch would be first out the gate, but it seems Zuckerberg had other plans.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/facebook-ray-ban-smart-glasses-100518155.html?src=rss

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CNBC

Old Amazon Kindle devices will soon lose 3G access

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If you have an older Amazon Kindle with 3G internet, take note that you may not be able to wirelessly access and download new content anymore starting in December. As The Verge reports, Amazon has sent out emails to owners with old Kindles, telling them that previous-generation devices will lose internet access after mobile operators transition from 2G and 3G networks to 4G and 5G.

The e-commerce giant listed the particular devices that will be affected by the switch in its FAQ page. It noted that the first- and second-generation Kindles, as well as the Kindle DX, won’t be able to connect to the internet at all since they don’t have WiFi connectivity to fall back on. The other devices in the list are the Kindle Keyboard (3rd Generation), Kindle Touch (4th Generation), Kindle Paperwhite (5th, 6th and 7th Generation), Kindle Voyage (7th Generation) and Kindle Oasis (8th Generation), all of which have WiFi connection.

You’ll still be able to access your books on an older device and can do wired transfers if you want, though. And if you have a newer 4G or WiFi-only Kindle, you won’t be affected at all. In its email, Amazon included a code customers can use to get $50 off a new Kindle Paperwhite or Oasis, along with $15 in eBook credits. You may want to check your inbox to see if you got the company’s notice in case you’ve been looking to upgrade anyway.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/old-amazon-kindle-lose-3g-access-093056232.html?src=rss

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