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In what appears to be the first reported use of Emergency SOS via Satellite, a snowmobiler in Alaska was successfully rescued when he became stranded in an extremely isolated area.
Alaska State Troopers received an alert from the Apple Emergency Response Center in the early hours of yesterday morning …
The State of Alaska Department of Public Safety provided a brief report.
On December 1, 2023, at around 2:00 am, the Alaska State Troopers were notified that an adult male traveling via snowmachine from Noorvik to Kotzebue had activated an Apple iPhone Emergency SOS via satellite on his iPhone after becoming stranded.
Working with local search and rescue teams, the Apple Emergency Response Center, and the Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue Coordinator, the NWAB SAR deployed four volunteer searchers to the Nimiuk Point area directly to the GPS coordinates provided by the Apple Emergency Response Center.
The adult male was located and transported to Kotzebue by the volunteer search team. There were no injuries reported to Troopers.
The report doesn’t state the issue that caused the man to become stranded. Mechanical failure and the snowmobile becoming stuck are two obvious possibilities.
MacRumors reports that the state troopers were impressed by how well the system worked.
Troopers who helped with the rescue were “impressed with the accuracy and completeness of information included in the initial alert,” with the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature designed to ask several questions ahead of when an alert is sent out to expedite rescue missions.
Apple activated the system in the US and Canada just a couple of weeks earlier, after first announcing it during the iPhone 14 keynote.
The Emergency SOS via Satellite system is automatically activated when you attempt to call 911 from any iPhone 14 model, and cellular service is not available.
Apple provides a demo mode, which allows you to familiarize yourself with the feature, so that you are prepared should you need to use it during an emergency.
Open the Settings app on your iPhone 14.
Swipe down and choose Emergency SOS.
Swipe to the bottom, under Emergency SOS via Satellite, tap Try Demo.
Follow the prompts.
The feature is made possible thanks to a new radio chip in the latest iPhones. It works in the same way as standalone emergency locators like Garmin’s inReach Messenger. Garmin first launched the service back in 2011, and said in October of this year that the system has provided emergency assistance to 10,000 individuals in its 11 years of operation.
The company provided data on these incidents, identifying the top five activities in which emergency satellite comms was needed:
It says that an injury was the most common reason for use of the system.
One interesting aspect of Garmin’s report is that the service was frequently used to assist other people, rather than the device owner. This suggests that Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature is likely to save the lives of more people than just iPhone 14 owners.
In addition to the US and Canada, the service is set to launch in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK later this month. Further countries are likely to follow next year.
Photo: Tyler Moore/Unsplash
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Elon Musk shares details of Internet satellite swarm dream
“One giant global Internet service provider.” That is how Elon Musk, who seems to have a lot of time and money in his hands, describes his plans of building swarm of low-flying satellites that will carry the Internet anywhere and everywhere, daring to go where no Project Loon balloon has gone before. But Musk’s dream of building the world’s fastest and most expansive Internet network isn’t limited to just that. And in the long run, it isn’t going to be limited to Earth either.
Back in November, Musk already confirmed his vision of creating an army of satellites that will server as Internet carriers for any part of the world. While it might seem like crazy talk, the benefits such a system would bring definitely sounds desirable. Orbiting the earth at just an altitude of around 750 miles, it would be floating significantly lower than conventional communications satellites at 22,000 miles. This will lead to shorter travel distance for signals to travel and, therefore, a faster Internet. The system would rival fiber optic cables that are still in the process of being adopted around the world. Musk says that light travels 40 percent faster in space than inside those cables.
Of course, such an ambitious goal is not without its hurdles, with time and money probably being the least of Musk’s worries. It is a system that will take $10 billion to build and five years at the very least. That’s a lot of time to wait for a utopian Internet service but probably still shorter than if the still unnamed project were to start from scratch. The project will leverage the expertise of SpaceX but will also lend a hand to the company’s efforts. In fact, the project’s employees, which is estimated to grow up to 1,000 from an initial 60, will also work on SpaceX.
But one of Musk’s troubles might be harder to overcome, considering it is both technical and somewhat political. For an Internet service such as this, Musk will need to use a certain spectrum and either he buys his own or he leases. There just isn’t much spectrum to go around at that level and rights to that spectrum have already been bought by Greg Wyler and his OneWeb project. Musk and Wyler are well acquainted with each other, but fundamental differences in architecture and opinion have now made them rivals in that space. While Musk is open to and even wants to encourage competition, the Virgin Group, who has invested in OneWeb, claims there can’t be any competition because only Wyler has rights to the spectrum.
If Musk does succeed in overcoming all these and successfully implements this new system, the unnamed project will go a long way at helping Musk’s SpaceX efforts. Aside from simply providing revenue for SpaceX, it will also help propel its expansion into Martian soil. Yes, Musk plans on building a colony on Mars, and this system will serve both as a blueprint for a Martian communication network as well as a funding source for establishing that city in the first place.
When humans first learned how to fly, they crashed all the time. The annals of early flight experiments are littered with the bodies of dead test pilots and aviation pioneers. Safety in manned aircraft improved dramatically over the first century of flight, but as more and more unmanned aircraft enter the skies, researchers want to make sure those gains aren’t lost. A paper published yesterday in a special issue of the journal Aerospace aims to make sure that when drones crash, they don’t hurt bystanders.
In “Trajectory Management of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in Emergency Situation,” author Andrzej Majka of Poland’s Rzeszów University of Technology analyzes how drones crash, and how to minimize harm when they do. Focusing on engine failures, Majka examined three scenarios: the drone runs short on flight time, the engine performance gets worse, or the engine’s power cuts out entirely. For all scenarios, Majka’s goal was to come up with a mathematical formula that could steer the drone to safety in the shortest possible distance while avoiding off-limits or dangerous areas.
It’s more complicated than just flying the shortest possible path to a landing sight, but safer.
Majka plots out a modeled flight path for a disabled drone flying near the city of Rzeszów, and explains how an unmanned aircraft (UA) using his model would fly:
With reduced power, the drone must make a gliding descent, which it can do without engines. Even assuming a dead engine on a fixed-wing drone, other electronically powered control surfaces may still work, so the drone’s auto-pilot could still steer the craft. But turning can generate drag and make the plane drop faster, so Majka’s formula minimizes turning while also being more sophisticated than just having the drone fly home in a straight line. It balances the need for power to reach the landing spot with the requirements for descending. Here’s what that looks like:
A Safe Flight Path Down
Majka doesn’t specify how the drone knows where it should and shouldn’t fly. Perhaps an onboard map includes information on populated locations, or maybe the flight comes with preset coordinates to avoid. However it works in the abstract, Majka says his model is written so that it works not just for his sample drone, but for drones generally. The paper is published under an open access policy so that other drone aficionados can use and build upon the research here.
If drones are to safely proliferate throughout the skies of the world, they’ll need equations like Majka’s to guide them to safe landings even in dire situations, so that their crash doesn’t harm anyone else nearby. But until drone programming incorporates equations like this, there’s always the RQ-11 Raven’s unique approach to landing:
The Raspberry Pi is a small single board computer that has DIY enthusiasts smitten. There are countless projects you can dedicate your Pi to, but hands down one of the coolest is retro gaming. Thanks to an open-source project called RetroPie, turning a Pi into a catch-all video games emulator is a snap.
While RetroPie is super easy to set up, it doesn’t actually come pre-installed with any games. So how do you get your games a.k.a ROMs onto your Pi? There are a couple of different ways, but one of the easiest is via a regular old USB.What Is a ROM?
Fun fact: ROM stands for Read-Only-Memory. Essentially, a ROM is a digital copy of a game. The legality of video game ROMs is murky and not something we’re going to get into here. Because of this we won’t be telling you how or where to obtain ROMs.
Now that you have your ROMs, you’ll need to get them loaded onto your RetroPie. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll be reliving your childhood in no time!Transferring ROMs to RetroPie
There are three ways to transfer ROMs to a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie: Samba, Secure File Transfer Protocol and USB. USB is the fastest and arguably the easiest method. For Pi’s that do not have Internet connectivity (e.g. Pi Zero), USB is your only practical option. Technically, you can achieve Internet connectivity with a powered USB hub and a USB WiFi adapter. This would then allow you to use Samba or SFTP to transfer your ROMs. For simplicity’s sake, this guide will focus on transferring ROMs to RetroPie without Internet connectivity.Format Your USB
Before you can transfer ROMs to your Pi, you’ll first need to format your USB to FAT32. Be aware that reformatting a drive will always result in data loss. Ensure that the USB you are using does not contain data you do not want to lose. Additionally, we suggest using a USB that has an indicator light that flashes when the USB is in use. This isn’t essential, but it makes life a little easier in later steps.
With your USB formatted to FAT32, create a folder at the root of the USB. Rename this folder “retropie,” all lowercase.Automatically Create ROM Folder Structure
Eject, or if you’re someone who likes to live dangerously, yank your USB out of your computer. If you haven’t flashed RetroPie to an SD card, do so now.
Boot up your Raspberry Pi running RetroPie and plug in your newly-formatted USB. RetroPie will then create folders with the names of the emulators automatically. Your Pi is finished when the indicator light on your USB stops flashing. If your USB does not have an indicator light, make a cup of coffee. By the time you get back it should be done. At this stage, remove the USB from your Pi and plug it back into your computer.Add ROMs
Upon plugging your USB back into your computer, you should notice that the “retropie” folder you created earlier now has a subfolder called “roms.” Inside this folder is a folder that corresponds to all of the consoles RetroPie supports.
To add ROMs, simply drag and drop your ROMs to the corresponding console/emulator. Be aware that only MAME ROMs can end in .zip. All other ROMs must be unzipped before adding.
Finally, Sega Genesis ROMs must be placed in the “megadrive” folder, and TurboGrafx 16 ROMs must be placed in the “pcengine” folder.Transfer ROMs to Raspberry Pi
We’re heading into the home stretch here. Eject or yank (you maniac) your USB out of your computer. Boot your Raspberry Pi back up and plug in the USB. RetroPie will automatically copy the ROMs from your USB to the SD card.
How long this process will take depends on how many ROMs you have. If you are using a USB with an indicator light, the process is finished when the light stops flashing. If your USB doesn’t have an indicator light, estimate how long it took to transfer the ROMs from your computer to the USB and add a bit of padding time to be safe.
Once copying is complete, you’ll need to restart EmulationStation. Remove your USB and plug in a keyboard. Pressing F4 on the keyboard will force Emulation Station to reboot. Once it fires back up, you should be good to go!
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Many Eyes in One
Hyperspectral cameras, such as this one launched in 2008 on the HJ-1B microsatellite, share technology with spectrometers, which measure the material composition of objects through the unique signature that each material has to a certain EM wavelenght.
Electro-optical devices like cameras and infrared sensors generally observe only one band in the electromagnetic spectrum, i.e. cameras observe the band visible to human eyesight and infrared cameras view the infrared band. Hyperspectral cameras and sensors, on the other hand, can simultaneously view hundreds of electromagnetic bands for a single image, building a layered ‘cube’ of the image in different electromagnetic wavelengths. The use of such a wide range of wavelengths provides the ability to observe objects which conceal their emissions in one part of the spectrum (i.e. stealth aircraft and thermally suppressed engines) or are hidden (such as underground bunkers).
Chang’e 1 Lunar Scans
The Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter used a hyperspectral camera to identity different layers of mineral deposits in the lunar crust.
Since the 1970s, China has a strong history of scientific and civilian utilization of hyperspectral imaging. Space-based platforms include the Chang’e lunar missions and Earth-observation from the Tiangong space station and HJ-1 small satellite. Aircraft-mounted hyperspectral imagers are used for tasks such as environmental surveys, oil prospecting, disaster relief and crop measurement. As computer processing power improves and hyperspectral sensors get smaller, Chinese civilian and military applications are likely to expand.
The CCRSS’s hyperspectral camera will be a powerful civilian one in orbit, with a 15 meter resolution across 328 electromagnetic bands, once launched later this year.
A key in this program is the China Commercial Remote-sensing Satellite System (CCRSS), to be launched later this year. It can collect data on 328 electromagnetic bands, offering very high resolution of up to 15 meters, according to the researchers from the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth in Beijing. In comparison, the U.S. TacSat 3, launched in 2010, collects several hundred electromagentic bands, though at a higher resolution of 4 meters. While it is being launched for commercial users, like most other Chinese earth-observation satellites, it would also be available for military use.
Professor Xiang Libin, of the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites, shakes Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hands after received an unspecified decoration in the 2023 National Science and Technology Awards.
Notably, on January 8, 2023, hyperspectral expert Professor Xiang Libin of the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites received an award from President Xi Jinping during the 2023 national science and technology awards ceremony, for an unspecified project. Interestingly, Professor Xiang’s non-mention on the awards program mirrors the scrubbing of a 2023 Feng Ru aeronautic award handed out to Professor Wang Zhengguo for developing China’s first scramjet hypersonic engine.
You Can’t Hide
U.S. Army troops already use hyperspectral imagery (often obtained from aircraft) to locate hidden hazards like IEDs (across many different EM wavelenghts, IEDs and other man-made objects give off a different imagery from natural features).
Note: This is an updated version from original Jan. 25 post, reflecting the proper resolution of the TacSat 3. HT to Andrew Erickson for the aid.
You may also be interested in:
Gaofen 4, the World’s Most Powerful Geo Spy Satellite, Continues China’s Great Leap Forward Into Space
China Tests Its Largest Airship
China’s Largest Ever Space Rocket Takes Another Big Step Forward
China Showcases Plan to Become the Leading Space Power
New, Better Chinese Satellite Hits Orbit
CHEOS- China’s New Eye in Space?
Summer in the southwest US is already proving to be a scorcher. Since June 9, Las Vegas, Nevada has been caught in a heat dome, a kind of atmospheric pressure cooker that superheats air near the ground. Record-breaking heat hit the area, with temperatures consistently soaring to triple digits. On June 10, 2023, the city reached a record daily high of 109 degrees Fahrenheit—so hot that the heat was picked up by sensors in space.
NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, or Ecostress, generated a map of land surface temperatures of Las Vegas and the surrounding community. Recorded at 5:23 pm when heat peaked, the map reveals it radiating out from the city center from red to yellow.
[Related: A ‘heat dome’ is searing the US with record-breaking temperatures.]
The map is a stark illustration of the “urban heat island” effect, which magnifies the dangers of extreme heat in cities. Human activity, vehicles, buildings and streets all soak up more heat (and take longer to cool off) than places that are less developed and have more vegetation.
“Even in a place like Las Vegas, which is in the desert, and there’s low tree canopy cover in the first place, you can see that places where there are less trees are hotter,” says Chris David, vice president of data and mapping at American Forests, which did a survey of tree canopy and vulnerability to heat in American cities in 2023.
Explore data on tree cover, heat islands, and “tree equity” in Las Vegas in American Forests’ tool below:
The Ecostress project is set up to monitor water loss from plants in a warming climate, but it also provides a street-level view of heat waves. The instruments, aboard the International Space Station, specifically target ground temperature over air temperature because it’s typically hotter at the surface. This is reflected in the map’s darker red grid pattern—pavement temperatures even exceeding a broiling 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This is basically a Las Vegas street map,” says David. Asphalt absorbs up to 95 percent of solar radiation, which means that the material emits additional heat at ground level where people are walking and living, he explains. “If people are outside, it’s critical that they have some shade.”
As climate change brings more frequent and more intense heat waves, heat-related injuries and deaths are a growing concern, and especially afflict low-income and minority communities. People of color are more likely to live in hotter cities with urban heat islands (sometimes up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than communities of predominantly white high-income residents), and therefore wrestle with issues brought by heat.
“This is part of the history of redlining in the US—sticking poor people, and people of color, in those neighborhoods that are right next to the highway, that have poorer air quality, higher levels of impervious surface, higher temperatures,” says David.
Last year, a similar heat dome settled over Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, killing hundreds as temperatures rose to nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit. During that heat wave, deaths in Portland were concentrated in neighborhoods with lots of asphalt, and few trees. “It just proves that trees really can be life or death infrastructure,” David says.
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