If you love to fly, but hate the hassles that come with renting an aircraft, you are going to love OpenAirplane. Zipcar took us by storm, offering a new take on renting cars. OpenAirplane hopes to do the same by dramatically simplifying aircraft rental across the United States.
To become a member of OpenAirplane you must first take a standardized flight exam, much like how you need a driver’s license to rent a Zipcar. Previously, any private pilot who didn’t own their own plane had to do “checkout flights” with every new rental firm. This was not only time consuming, it was expensive.
The co-founder of OpenAirplane, Rod Rakic said this about his company;
“My co-founder and I are both pilots, we’ve both been renters. We know it kind of sucks that when you leave your home base, your pilot certificate and your credentials turn off, because when you don’t have rental privileges, it takes half a day and hundreds of dollars to turn those credentials back on.”
Once you are certified by an OpenAirplane qualified instructor, you can use their website or mobile app to find and reserve rental planes. Now when you rent a plane the keys will already be in them, allowing you to bypass the hassle of dealing with normal rental procedures. You must retake the safety exam once per year.
There are a few differences between OpenAirplane and Zipcar, besides the type of transportation. The flight schools and rental companies own the aircrafts that you are renting, not OpenAirplane. Unlike Zipcar, you must return the aircraft you rent to the place airport you flew out of, you can’t just leave it at another airport.
So far, six airport rental companies and flight schools have signed up with OpenAirplane. They also have many more in the works. So if you are an avid flyer and want to skip the hassles that come with standard airplane rental practices, try out OpenAirplane.
Last week we showed you a helicopter that Domino’s might use to deliver pizzas. Unmanned helicopters are making the news again, but this time they are controlled by the human mind. A team of researchers have developed a tiny helicopter that can be flown by using electrical impulses associated with a person’s thoughts.
The team of researchers from the University of Minnesota created what is technically a quadrotor. It can be quickly and accurately controlled through a noninvasive technique called electroencephalography (EEG). A headset is placed on the pilot that has 64 electrodes that send signals to the quadcopter via a Wi-Fi network.
A test was done with the copter where five subjects attempted to control its movements with their thoughts. The participants looked at a screen that had relayed images of the quadrotor’s flight through an on-board camera. The subjects imagined using their right hand, left hand, and both hands together to control the flight path of the aircraft. They would imagine that raising their left hand would make the copter turn left, raising their right hand would make it go right, and raising both hands together would make it ascend.
After the subjects got the hang out if, they were able to fly the mind-controlled helicopter through rings scattered around the indoor course with ease. The researchers’ next goal is to develop robotic arms that are controlled by brain wave signals. Their ultimate goal is to develop brain-computer interfaces that can aid people with disabilities or neurodegenerative disorders.
More news in the world of drones. Unmanned drones are starting to be used in law enforcement, as toys, to deliver supplies to troops, and now to deliver pizza. Imagine ordering a pizza and knowing that it has arrived when you see an unmanned drone helicopter hovering outside your door. Domino’s might be flipping the delivery world upside down with its DomiCopter.
Domino’s Pizza is planning to use remote-controlled helicopters to deliver their food. Their Call of Duty style unmanned drones, called DomiCopters, may soon be taking flight in your town and bringing pizza to your door. Domino’s has recently released a video of a DomiCopter delivering two pizzas a pretty good distance over land and water to a waiting customer.
The video shows a Domino’s employee loading up a Heatwave bag attached to a DomiCopter with two pizzas. Next the drone takes flight and you get to see the DomiCopter’s trip as if you were riding on it. The DomiCopter is smoothly navigated to the customer’s home where it never even lands. The drone hovers above the ground so the customer can grab his pizzas and the DomiCopter heads back home for another delivery.
So is this a viable delivery method? The video is probably a PR stunt, but the sales and marketing director for Domino’s wants you to think otherwise. “At Domino’s we’re always looking to innovate and find new ways to deliver our pizza and a DomiCopter could fit the bill perfectly,” said Simon Wallis. Seems like a good idea, what better way is there to avoid traffic to speed up delivery times and decrease delivery costs? It may be sooner than you think that you will be shouting, “The DomiCopter is outside!”, instead of, “The Delivery guy is here!” And you don’t have to tip!
Since the early ’90s, one of the most widely recognized symbols of Los Angeles is the circling police helicopter. While to many Los Angeles citizens, the helicopters are just annoying, they do a lot more than they might think. Here are some facts about the LAPD helicopter fleet that might just change their minds.
• The LAPD has the United States’ biggest police helicopter fleet with 17 choppers. They mostly take off and land at the LAPD’s helicopter pad at the Hooper Heliport.
• Every day, there are at least two helicopters patrolling the sky in two hour shifts from 8:30 am until 4:30 am. The choppers are looking for criminals, flying over hot spots, checking on infrastructure, and providing back-up for ground officers.
• The entire fleet logs about 18,000 flight hours a year.
• When on the lookout for a man with a gun, the LAPD chopper will fly about four to five hundred feet above ground.
• In 2012, LAPD helicopters helped set up over 1,500 perimeters. (when a helicopter positions ground officers to surround a crime scene)
• LAPD helicopters were first to the scene 16,000 times last year.
• They served as backup more than 4,000 times.
• In 2011, helicopters assisted with one out of seven felony arrests.
• Also in 2011, LAPD choppers recovered 51 stolen vehicles and helped ground units recover another 847 stolen vehicles. This accounts for six percent of the recovered vehicles that year.
• The fleet costs around $20 million a year.
• LAPD officials say that one of the helicopters’ key assets can’t be measured, their deterrent effect.
There are millions of people that lack access to safe water and some don’t have water at all. When wells and lakes dry up, or natural disasters strike, many people are forced to rely on truck deliveries or air drops. One man, Ben Cohen, thought there had to be a better way to provide the dry areas with access to water.
After watching the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Cohen wondered if there was another way to get supplies to people. “They had water, but not an efficient way of getting it to people,” he says. “Pipelines are the most efficient method of getting fluid to people, so we thought ‘how can we rapidly install a pipeline?’”
Cohen’s solution was to use a spooling machine that dangles from the bottom of a helicopter. With this system, one kilometer of water-bearing pipe can be installed in nine minutes, or up to five kilometers on a single run. Utilizing helicopters with this system will allow for water to be delivered almost anywhere, and at a fraction of the cost of trucking or air drops.
Cohen estimates that a pipeline could be 30 to 50 times cheaper than an airdrop of water bottles. He also estimates that a village of 32 homes might spend $8,000 a month for weekly deliveries, or $96,000 a year. Cohen’s company can install a pipeline for $120,000, and it will last more than 20 years with little maintenance.
Cohen is about to start work on a pipeline project for a small village in San José de Maipo, where water is only available part of the year. They hope to fly in a pipeline that will attach to a stream 2.5 kilometers away, giving the 46 families a year-round water supply.
A real estate broker in Southern California wanted to differentiate his luxury brand from the others, so he turned to drones. After a few months of brainstorming, Phil Immel and his team came up with the idea to use drone helicopters to create listing videos from a bird’s eye view.
Phil Immel works for Prudential California Reality, a firm that sells high-end properties. Immel’s job was to figure out a way to make the company stand out from the rest. Aerial photography gives a gorgeous and unique perspective to pictures. Immel took this concept a bit farther by bringing new drone technology into the equation.
Remote-controlled drone helicopters are more affordable than ever and the cameras and image-stabilizing systems are much better. The advantages of these drones have made aerial photography and video a rising phenomenon in many industries, including real estate. Immel has already created several aerial videos of properties with a drone and is one of the first to do it.
The remote-controlled helicopters real estate companies are using weigh about three pounds and are small enough to gather images at intimate, low heights that actual helicopters cannot. Photographer Scott Manger owns a fleet of 10 drones that he uses to capture aerial photographs and video for clients. He also uses a special set of goggles that include a live video feed from the cameras on the drones to help get a different perspective.
Manger charges $400 for aerial photographs of normal-sized homes and $700 for photos and video. He said that the demand for his services have risen 150 percent from a year ago.
New York’s renowned Helicopter Flight Services is teaming up with New York Water Taxi to provide a one-of-a-kind tour experience. The VIP tour combines travel by sea and air to give you the best tour of New York City.
Your journey begins at the South Street Seaport, where you will embark on the Statue by Night cruise. This tour will take you up close to the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. While you move across the water you will see a beautiful panoramic view of New York’s celebrated towers and memorials lit up for the night. The tour is narrated by an informative and entertaining guide and includes a champagne toast.
Once your travel by sea is completed you will continue your journey at Paulus Hook Pier Heliport. There you will board one of Helicopter Flight Services’ custom touring helicopters. You will then enjoy an amazing flight through the skies of New York City and get to see the skyline at night. Only Helicopter Flight Services offers a night helicopter tour of New York City. On this portion of the tour you will see close up, bird’s eye views of;
• The Statue of Liberty
• New York Harbor, Hudson & East Rivers
• Chrysler and Empire State Buildings
• World Financial Center
• Chelsea Piers
• Jacob Javits Convention Center
• Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
• Time Warner Center
• Central Park & More!
Whether you are a tourist or life-long New York City resident, the VIP Air & Sea Adventure is a truly unique and magical way to enjoy an evening in the city. Advanced booking is required and the whole tour only costs $249 per person. Visit Helicopter Flight Services’ web site to book the tour today!
Sikorsky established a contest in 1980 that would give $250,000 to the first person who creates the world’s first minimally capable human-powered helicopter. To date, no one has claimed the quarter of a million dollar prize. However, two teams working on human-powered helicopters are very close to taking home the prize money.
The requirements for the Sikorsky prize may seem simple, but no one has met them for over 30 years. To win, you must create a human-powered rotary craft that must rise clear of the ground for at least 60 seconds and achieve a height of 9.8 feet. The center of the craft must also remain within an area of 33 square feet. In the 32 years that Sikorsky has been running the competition, only five human-powered helicopters have even left the ground. The first team to do it, back in 1989, hovered for 8.6 seconds. The most recent, in 2011, a team of students from the University of Maryland created Gamera, a craft that hovered regularly for 50 plus seconds.
This success inspired another team, which consists of only Todd Reichert, to create Atlas. This spider like human-powered helicopter was engineered by Reichert and was funded on Kickstarter. Atlas was built in an old barn with the help of some student volunteers in the summer of 2012. Reichert has only managed to get part of Atlas off the ground. His biggest enemy right now isn’t physics, it’s the University of Maryland team that is on the verge of claiming the big prize.
The University of Maryland’s Gamera aircraft has already logged flight times of over 70 seconds and altitudes more than 7 feet. There are two basic ways to get the human-powered crafts into the air. You can either move a little bit of air a lot, like a jet engine, or move a lot of air a little bit. Both the Atlas and Gamera have taken the latter route, which has been found to be more efficient. This is why both crafts are so enormous, because this is the only way a tiny amount of power can be used to push down a very large volume of air. The real challenge is to make the aircraft light enough to be lifted by the half a horsepower that a human can generate.
Gamera is very close to claiming the prize. Their human-powered helicopter was able to reach a height of 9.4 feet, just short of the required height, but is unable to stay inside the 33 square foot box. Gamera is powered by hand and feet, so there is no steering mechanism. If the team from the University of Maryland can figure out how to keep the Gamera still while descending, the 32 year old prize should be theirs.
A helicopter with sophisticated infrared cameras was used to confirm that a person was hiding inside of a trailered boat Friday night in Watertown Massachusetts. The helicopter played a major role in the police being able to safely capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Dzhokhar had been on the run since a shootout with police at a convenient store earlier on Friday. Bloodied and injured from the earlier shootout, Dzhokhar took shelter inside a plastic-covered boat in the backyard of a home in Watertown. The homeowner noticed the plastic had been cut and some blood on the side of the boat and immediately alerted the police department.
In fear that the suspect could have explosive devices on him like his brother did, the police called in a helicopter with special infrared cameras to recon the scene. The helicopter was equipped with FLIR, a forward-looking infrared device that can pick up a person’s heat signature, combined with night vision technology. The pictures from the helicopter’s cameras were able to help law enforcement identify that there was a person inside of the boat.
Visible light and infrared technology are both forms of electromagnetic waves, just like radio waves and microwaves. However, only a narrow band of this spectrum is visible to the human eye. Special sensors are used to convert the wavelengths that the camera picks up into images that are visible by the human eye.
The aerial photography from the helicopter played a huge role in identifying that there was a person inside of the boat and allowed police to proceed with caution. A robot was brought in to open the plastic and check the body for any bombs. The suspect was then captured and brought into custody. The people of Massachusetts could take a sigh of relief as the last suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
If you live in north Texas you might soon spot a remote-controlled helicopter roaming the skies. It won’t be a toy, it will be a drone that is operated by the Arlington Police Department. The department was just given permission to use two unmanned helicopters that come equipped with cameras, but not weapons.
The Arlington Police Department is excited to have this new technology at their fingertips. Police Sgt. Chris Cook said that the drones will help officers in hazardous situations, such as the tornadoes that blew through the city last year.
The helicopter drones will allow police officers to take pictures and video of the area before actual officers go to the scene. They will be a big aid in major accidents because they can take aerial photos.
“It is much, much quicker and we know experience tells us when we have a back-up, we have a freeway shutdown, there’s always a risk of another crash occurring because of the back-up,” says Cook.
The department has been training for two years and the FAA has now just given the final approval to put the helicopter drones in the air. There are many tight restrictions on their use, like police can’t use them at night, north of the I-30, or any higher than 400 feet. They also have to stay in the officer’s line of sight and air traffic control must be notified when the equipment is deployed.
Some residents are worried about their privacy, but Sgt. Cook insists that, “Our program is not about spying on anyone. Our program is to make citizens of Arlington safer and ensure the safety of our officers.” The whole program costs $200,000 and theirs has been paid for by a federal grant.