New York City’s Subway System Pays ‘Respect’ to Aretha Franklin

The Franklin Avenue station in Brooklyn, New York adorned its C platforms with an homage to Aretha Franklin using twelve black signs with white lettering that read “Respect.” It was a way to tie-in the iconic hit song recorded by Franklin in 1967 with a universal message that subway riders could see everyday. Each sign was installed at the subway station bearing the late soul singer’s sir name in Bedford-Stuyvesant Friday, according to Brooklyn Patch.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) coordinated with an entertainment company to create the signs.

An MTA spokesperson said in a statement, “We wanted to memorialize the outpouring of love from the community for Aretha Franklin.” Settling on the term “Respect” was a mutual decision between “local leaders,” according to the MTA.

“We agreed that ‘respect’ was a beautiful tribute and worthy message,” the statement read.

LeRoy McCarthy, who brought the signs and tribute to fruition, told Brooklyn Patch via email that with the creation of the signs hung throughout the train station at Fulton Street, it would be another way, “Franklin’s voice and legacy can continue to make a difference in society.”

This was not the first tribute Franklin. In the days following her death New Yorkers gave the Queen of Soul her propers in multiple ways using the city’s subways as their backdrop. Artists left notes using her song lyrics. While others had a similar instinct as McCarthy and the MTA to use the station bearing her name as their canvas and simply put “Aretha” next to the Franklin Avenue sign.

Friday was a full day of celebrations for the late legendary entertainer. As New York officially installed signs of “Respect,” the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit held a private funeral service for the legendary entertainer. The funeral services were streamed live online as members of Franklin’s family and church leaders, along with a who’s who of music and Hollywood A-listers, civil rights leaders, and a former U.S. president paid their R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the queen.

Franklin died Aug. 16 due to advanced pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Air Force Puts Out Contract Opportunity Announcement For Literally Anything Hypersonic

The USAF has posted a sources sought contracting announcement on the federal government's business opportunities website FedBizOps.gov that amounts to an entirely open-ended request for hypersonic weapons programs. Let me make that clear, this isn't a request for information or a contract announcement for a type of hypersonic weapon, but one that says the Air Force is willing and wanting to look at any hypersonic weapon concept or development capacity. The posting is definitely a sign of the times as the Pentagon has identified hypersonic weapons as a preeminent area of emerging weapons competition among its potential peer-state opponents.

Within roughly the last 24 months, hypersonic weapons have gone from an area of development interest and an ongoing exploratory initiative that seemed at least partially relegated to black budgets to a burgeoning international arms race. China and Russia have poured funds into the hypersonic weapons space in recent years and it became clear that the United States was losing ground if not outright falling behind in what is tantamount to a super-weapon technology. Hypersonic vehicles are able to penetrate deep into the most hostile and well-defended airspace on earth and take out targets with very short notice.

Fast forward to today and the USAF has four hypersonic weapons programs that use the B-52 as a launch platform alone. Others exist in the form of submarine-launched and ground-launched types, as well as reusable hypersonic aircraft. And these are just the ones we know about.

 The <a href=U.S.-Australian HIFiRE hypersonic test initiative is one of a growing number of active hypersonic programs in the DoD's portfolio. Here it is seen during launch before making a successful run over the Woomera test range. " />

But these existing programs clearly are not enough for the USAF, and the service is now soliciting any firms with the wherewithal to participate in the hypersonic arena. Such a blanket request isn't totally unheard of but it is rare for a high-end weapons capability like this that is already saturating the Pentagon's weapons portfolio.

The announcement reads in part:

The Department of Defense, United States Air Force (USAF), Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), Armament Directorate, is currently conducting market research on hypersonic weapon rapid development, production, and sustainment.  AFLCMC/EB is considering the viability of a multiple award Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract vehicle.

Qualified vendors must be skilled in design, qualification, and component/subsystem/system weapons testing.  Qualified vendors must also be capable in all the following fields:  hypersonic aerodynamics; aero-thermal protection systems; solid rocket motors; advanced hypersonic guidance, navigation, and control; component integration into an all-up round; mission planning; and platform integration.

...

CAPABILITIES STATEMENT:  All interested vendors shall submit a capabilities statement that explicitly demonstrates their capability.  The capabilities statement should be brief and concise, yet clearly demonstrate an ability to meet all aspects of hypersonic weapon development and production.

Clearly, this open call of sorts is meant to help further jumpstart hypersonic weapons development across multiple contractors. Well established players in the space, namely Lockheed Martin, is already expanding literally as fast as they can to accommodate the demand placed on them by the USAF's existing hypersonic initiatives. So this announcement swings the door wide open for less established or dominant players to get a piece of the growing hypersonic pie.

It will be interesting to see who comes forward to offer up their services to the USAF. The usual players, including Boeing and Raytheon, will surely be eager to extend their involvement in the hypersonic sector, but smaller outfits could also step up with new high-speed weapons concepts that they claim are within their grasp.

Regardless of who responds, it abundantly clear that the Pentagon now has an insatiable appetite for very high-speed weaponry, one that likely won't be quenched anytime soon.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

All You Need To Know About Bombing Of Top Separatist Leader In Ukraine And Why It Matters

Unknown bombers have killed Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region and self-proclaimed head of the largely unrecognized “Donetsk People's Republic,” which could further fuel tensions between the government in Kiev and rebels, as well as their benefactors in the Kremlin. The assassination comes amid a months-long surge in fighting over the disputed area, fears of a military buildup across the border in Russia, and a growing crisis in the Sea of Azov. This could all combine to send the conflict heading into a new phase.

Zakharchenko was in a café he owned in Donetsk city, the capital of the region, when the bombing occurred on August 31st, 2018. The blast killed him and injured the Donetsk People's Republic’s (DPR) “finance minister” Alexander Timofeyev. Rebel forces subsequently confirmed the incident to various media outlets and said that they had apprehended an unknown number of reportedly Ukrainian suspects. Both DPR and Russian authorities have launched investigations into the incident.

“Assassination of Zakharchenko is [an] act of state terrorism by Ukraine,” a senior DPR official reportedly said in an interview with Russian state-owned television. “We'll definitely get revenge on them.”

This may have been Denis Pushilin, who is now the DPR’s acting “prime minister” and has echoed the calls for retaliation against Ukraine over Zakharchenko death. He has instituted a state of emergency in areas under rebel control in Donetsk, as well. Deputy “defense minister” for the DPR Eduard Basurin also accused Ukrainian authorities, but alleged that the United States was involved, as well, without providing any evidence to substantiate that claim.

Not surprisingly, Russian and Ukrainian authorities have each pointed the finger at each other as being responsible for the incident. But while Ukraine indicated that Zakharchenko’s rivals or criminal elements might also have been responsible, the Kremlin has more directly insinuated that Kiev orchestrated the assassination.

“There is every reason to believe that the Kiev regime, which has used similar means to eliminate unwanted people who have dissenting views more than once, is behind his assassination,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said after the bombing. “Instead of complying with the Minsk agreements and searching for ways of resolving the internal conflict, the warmongers in Kiev are implementing the terrorist scenario exacerbating the complex situation in the region.”

The Minsk Agreement, or Minsk Protocol, was a ceasefire deal that came into effect in September 2014 and collapsed four months later. This was the first attempt to reign in the conflict between Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as the Donbas, which erupted in April 2018. This closely coincided with Russia’s own illegal invasion and subsequent annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

The remnants of the Separ cafe in Donetsk city after the bombing that killed Alexander Zakharchenko on Aug. 31, 2018.

In February 2015, the parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine agreed to another arrangement, known as Minsk II, which technically remains in effect, with the International Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) overseeing its implementation.

Ukrainian officials and the Russian-backed rebels, as well as their respective international allies and partners, have each traded accusation of violations of the letter and the spirit of that second deal. Sporadic fighting between Kiev’s forces and the separatists continued afterward, but there has been a recent spike in the violence in the region since earlier in August 2018, along with reports of the continued presence of actual Russian troops bolstering separatist forces.

“We have heard time and time again Russia deny its role in manufacturing the conflict over four years, yet additional evidence of its involvement continues to come to light,” Harry Kamian, the Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE, said at a meeting of the organization on Aug. 30, 2018. “The United States once again calls on Russia to take the initial steps to order a credible cease-fire and disengage its forces in the Donbas.”

Soviet-era T-64 tanks belonging to Russian-backed separatists participate in a parade to mark the end of World War II in 2017. Note that these vehicles are wearing the exact <a href=same parade paint scheme as Russian armored vehicles do during similar celebrations." />

The concern, of course, is that Zakharchenko death could lead to an even greater surge in the fighting, which has hit civilians living in eastern Ukraine the hardest and could potentially give Russia a pretext for even greater involvement in the conflict. The demands for vengeance from the DPR’s acting Prime Minister Pushilin only reinforce these fears.

Still, it remains to be seen how the various parties to the conflict might seek to exploit the situation to advance their own agendas. Despite the already free-flowing accusations, it is not at all clear who was actually behind the bombing of Zakharchenko or what their motives might have been.

It is certainly possible that Ukrainian authorities could have killed Zakharchenko. Separatists have accused Ukraine, or groups linked to the government in Kiev, of assassinating at least four other prominent rebel commanders in Donestk and Luhansk – Mikhail “Givi” Tolstykh, Arsen “Motorola” Pavlov, Aleksey Mozgovoy, and Alexander “Batman” Bednov – since 2015 and, unlike the Russian government, authorities in Kiev are hardly mourning the DPR leader's death.

But there is also evidence that Givi and Bednov died due to political infighting in Donetsk and Luhansk respectively. Other information has implicated Russian security services in the deaths of Motorola and Mozgovoy, as well as yet another rebel commander, Valery Bolotov.

It is equally possible that the Russians had a hand in Zakharchenko’s death. In May 2016, Vladislav Surkov, who has been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal advisor on matters relating to Ukraine since 2013, reportedly traveled to Donetsk to admonish the DPR leader, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services. The Kremlin was allegedly angry over the way he had been allocating financial and other aid from Russia and that his forces had not made sufficient progress in ejecting Ukrainian forces from the region.

Zakharchenko has also been a high-profile member of the separatists in Donetsk from the beginning of the conflict and may have been involved in or otherwise aware of movements of Russian military equipment and personnel back and forth in the early stages of the fighting. This could have given him insider knowledge about the true circumstances of the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. In the face of overwhelming evidence implicating Russian forces in that tragedy, the Kremlin continues to deny it was responsible and there is now one less individual who might be able to directly link Russia to that incident.

Alexander Zakharchenko, at center, speaks a university student, in a black coat, after a press conference in 2015.

Still, if Russia did kill Zakharchenko, it’s hard to tell what the desired outcome in doing so might have been. The most obvious objective would have been to cast further aspersions on Ukraine’s government to deflect attention and distract from its out malign activities in the country, which is a core element in the Kremlin’s information operations playbook. The bombing could also help undermine the Minsk II agreement, potentially leading to its collapse, after which officials in Moscow could push for a new deal that is more in their favor or actively push to annex Donetsk and Luhansk for good, a possibility that Pushilin himself had raised in the past.

With this in mind, there have been reports of unusual Russian military movements along the country’s western border with Ukraine that do not appear to be linked to routine military exercises. These sightings have included train-loads of older T-62 tanks that are typically associated with rear-echelon reserve forces that could be heading to Ukraine. We have seen similar reports ahead of separatist offensives in the past.

Far more worryingly, Zakharchenko’s death also comes as Russian forces have moved to assert greater control over the Sea of Azov, which lies to the east of Crimea and is linked to the Black Sea to the south via the Kerch Strait. Russia and Ukraine both have interests in the sea, which serves as a major commercial shipping route for both countries.

“Russia has delayed hundreds of commercial vessels since April and in recent weeks has stopped at least 16 commercial ships attempting to reach Ukrainian ports,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement on Aug. 30, 2018. “Russia’s actions to impede maritime transit are further examples of its ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine, as well as its disregard for international norms.”

Harassing ships heading to and from Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov has the immediate effect of hurting Ukraine economically. It also demonstrates Russia's willingness and capacity to hamper Ukrainian naval operations in the area if a broader conflict were to break out, if not deny Kiev the ability to send ships through the Kerch Strait at all. This, in turn, could allow the Kremlin to block off an important route for Ukrainian forces in the eastern portion of the country during a crisis.

These military moves might be an attempt on Russia’s part to deter the United States and NATO from becoming any more involved in the region. The Kremlin has already become more assertive toward American ships and aircraft operating in the Black Sea, especially in the vicinity of occupied Crimea.

A Ukranian sailor mans a machine gun on the stern of a patrol boat in the Sea of Azov.

The Kremlin’s goal could also simply be to try to put Ukraine in a weaker negotiating position in any peace talks to end the conflict, with hopes of compelling them to accept the present status of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. Russia might feel that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko position is already fragile enough that he might be more inclined to make a deal to secure a political victory and avoid the negative press associated with heightened tensions with the Kremlin or a further surge in fighting with Russian-backed rebels.

Poroshenko is facing the prospect of a number of serious challengers in presidential elections set to occur in March 2019 and has been beset by a number of corruption scandals himself. In addition, though he has managed to build a relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, and secured the delivery of new and advanced weapons in the process, including Javelin anti-tank guided missiles. There continues to be speculation that his American counterpart might be inclined to cede Crimea to Russia in exchange for concessions that he could spin as his own political victory.

It seems likely that Russia will make new demands of Ukrainian authorities, as well as its international partners, such as the United States, regardless of the true motives behind Zakharchenko’s assassination and who might have carried it out. At the same time, whether or not the goal was to provoke a serious escalation in the conflict in Ukraine, the statements from DPR officials and their Russian benefactors make it hard to see how they will be able to get away without pursuing some sort of retaliatory action, whether it involves direct military action or not.

All told, after nearly five years of fighting and political upheaval, the bombing looks set to create all-new and serious challenges for Ukraine.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

GM’s New Charging Technology to Allow for 180 Miles of Range in 10 Minutes

Electric cars have one large disadvantage when placed side-by-side with their traditional gas-powered rivals: the time it takes to refuel. General Motors has begun a new partnership with Delta Americas to develop a new technology which will charge its upcoming fleet of electric cars in record time.

General Motors said it is readying a fleet of 20 electric cars that will be capable of utilizing the newly developed chargers, enabling its vehicles to rapidly recharge their batteries and provide up to 180 miles of range in just 10 minutes. Its partner in the deal, Delta Americas, expects to have the final prototype of its Extreme Fast Charger (XFC) ready by 2020, and GM expects to have its fleet of vehicles ready only three years later, by 2023.

The new XFCs are set to outpace both Tesla's Superchargers, which can provide current-generation cars with up to 120-kilowatts of power, as well as Porsche's new 350-kW chargers, by providing an unheard of 400 kW of electricity to the vehicles. The new technology, developed with partner Delta Americas and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is able to provide a staggering 96.5 percent grid-to-vehicle efficiency, a three percent increase than current technology, partly thanks to the use of solid-state transformers.

“We’re thrilled to lead such an important project and have a stellar team of researchers and partners in place that are more than ready to take on the challenge of setting a new standard for EV fast charging,” said M.S. Huang, president of Delta Americas'. “By utilizing solid-state transformer technology, we have the opportunity to create unprecedented charging speed and convenience that will ultimately help support the DOE’s strategic goal of increasing EV adoption across the nation.”

The numbers quoted by GM and Delta Americas are theoretical, of course, and are contingent on what is considered to be "tomorrow’s long-range EVs," or vehicles that will provide up to 360 miles of range per charge. As batteries possess a higher charge, they become increasingly difficult to recharge, meaning that it takes less time to charge a battery from zero-to-50 percent than from 50-to-100 percent. Delta Americas believes that its current technology will recharge a next-generation 360-mile range battery to 50 percent in the rated 10 minutes, though they do not specify battery capacity.

Production Commences for New 2019 Porsche Macan

Series production for the newly revamped 2019 Porsche Macan has started. The first vehicle being produced has a Mamba Green Metallic exterior paintjob and will go to a Chinese customer. China has become the highest-selling market for Porsche, with more than 100,000 vehicles deliveried since its market launch in 2014. And the Porsche Macan is particularly popular. The high demand for the compact SUV has led to the rate of production being increased. By Sept. 1, production of the new Macan at the Leipzig site will grow to over 420 units per day, matching the production rate for its predecessor in just a few days.

The new Porsche Macan celebrated its global debut in Shanghai in July 2018. A number of revisions to the exterior mean that the compact SUV adorns as sportier outlook now. The rear has been given a thorough re-design and with the addition of the three-dimensional LED light strip it aligns itself further with the rest of the Porsche family. The body shop at the Leipzig plant was expanded and optimized to create a dedicated area for the production of the rear lid and to accommodate the new production numbers of the compact SUV.

From now on, all Macan models will feature the new LED headlights as standard. The most striking rennovations, besides the inclusion of the 10.9-inch infotainment screen of the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM), is the relocation and redesign of the air vents and the addition of the GT sports steering wheel, similar to that in the 911. The revised PCM enables access to new digital functions, such as intelligent voice control and the online navigation system provided as standard. The feature has also been expanded to include a traffic jam assistant, an ionizer, and heated front windscreen.

Gerd Rupp, chairman of the executive board at Porsche Leipzig Gmbh states, “The Macan is the very definition of a successful model – for Porsche and for the Leipzig site.” He added, “In 2011, the model was the inspiration for a radical new beginning: That year, the plant in Leipzig was expanded into a full-sized facility to accommodate the compact SUV, featuring its own body shop and paint shop. When the factory was put into operation in February 2014, the plan was to produce 40,000 units per year. Today we produce more than 90,000 units per year for markets around the world, and since 2014, approximately 350,000 units of the compact SUV have been delivered to customers worldwide”.

In the “Initial Quality Study” conducted by U.S. market research institute J.D. Power, the Macan has earned the top position multiple times, last year included.

Queensland University of Technology Develops Underwater Drone to Save Great Barrier Reef

Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed an underwater drone aimed at monitoring Great Barrier Reef health and identifying and killing crown-of-thorns starfish in an effort to protect the environment, according to Business Insider. Partially funded by the Google Impact Challenge, QUT’s unmanned mission to improve Great Barrier Reef health was deemed substantial enough for the tech giant to support it with $750,000 in funding.

Google’s initiative, which supports non-profits working on technologies aimed at improving the world around us and finding feasible solutions, went a long way in developing the university’s so-called RangerBot.

The incentive to create an underwater robot was to specifically locate and kill crown-of-thorns starfish. One of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is endangered by a recent outbreak of the starfish species and scientists are scrambling for a solution. As a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science suggests, coral cover declined by 50 percent from 1985 to 2012, with nearly half of that drop resulting from the coral-destroying starfish species.

By partnering with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the university was able to refine its 2016 COTSbot (crown-of-thorns starfish bot), and make a smaller and less expensive version that was more agile in the water. The resulting RangerBot has some exceptional advantages over its predecessor, not to mention any human alternative.

“RangerBot will be designed to stay underwater almost three times longer than a human diver, gather vastly more data, map expansive underwater areas at scales not previously possible, and operate in all conditions and all times of the day or night,” said QUT. “Unlike current single-purpose marine robots—which are manual, expensive and based on acoustic technologies—the RangerBot will be built with innovative vision-based technologies.”

Specifically, the drone doesn’t rely on sound to navigate and has a high-tech system allowing it to see clearly underwater. It’s operated via tablet, with a purportedly easy learning curve of approximately 15 minutes to master. For QUT Professor Matthew Dunbabin, who’s spent nearly two years working on the vehicle, the time has come for active implementation.

“We’ve ‘trained’ RangerBoat to detect crown-of-thorns starfish—and only these coral-destroying starfish—in much the same way as people learn to differentiate between various forms of sea life,” he said. “Using real time computer vision processed on board the robot, RangerBot can identify these deadly starfish with 99.4 percent accuracy. Once the identification is confirmed, RangerBot can instigate an injection which is fatal for the crown-of-thorns starfish, but doesn’t affect anything else on the reef.”

Let’s take a look at the RangerBot in action, courtesy of QUT.

"This multifunction ocean drone can monitor a wide range of issues facing coral reefs including coral bleaching, water quality, pest species, pollution and siltation," explained Dunbabin. "It can help to map expansive underwater areas at scales not previously possible, making it a valuable tool for reef research and management."

This is, essentially, a remotely operated vehicle intended for population control of a particular starfish, in order to protect one of the world’s most important natural wonders. By fusing computer vision with sophisticated mapping software and the ability to remain underwater for long periods of time, QUT certainly seems to have come up with a viable solution to this particular problem.

Hopefully, it quickly produces the expected results with a substantial drop in the starfish species effectively destroying the reef’s coral cover. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on this venture and report on any developments.

Mazda Says Sales Growth Key to Return of Rotary Sports Car

Revival of the Wankel rotary-powered RX-series sports car is still on Mazda's mind despite an industry-wide trend toward electric vehicles.

"We know that electric cars will be important in 2020 to 2025, but also that EVs are not the answer for everything," explained Wojciech Halarewicz, Mazda's European communications lead, to Piston Heads. "Combustion engines will still play a part, and if you asked me if I want a rotary sports car at the top of the range, I'd say 'yes, I'd love to have one.' Many of my colleagues would too. So it's a matter of keeping the sales growth going to make sure we can do one in the future."

Mazda confirmed in September 2017 that a rotary sports car engine was in development, but at the moment, the rotary engine is more relevant to its electric vehicle technical partnership with Toyota. Mazda North America CEO and president Masahiro Moro previously linked the company's rotary engine development to its joint electric vehicle program, specifically Toyota's e-Palette automated concept vehicle. And a company spokesperson confirmed to The Drive that the rotary range extender "is part of our technical partnership with Toyota."

Mazda reportedly could launch its first electric vehicle as soon as 2019, Toyota the following year. Early capitalization on the lower-end EV market could be crucial to expanding Mazda's market share, which is diminutive compared to much of its Japanese competition. Mazda's U.S. market sales in July were less than half that of Subaru's, which in turn were half as large as Nissan's, and about a quarter of Toyota's. If Mazda can play in Toyota's parts bin, it could increase its profitability, potentially making the business case for a low-volume RX-series sports car easier. Solving its emissions problems, however, may be another story.

Uber Is Reportedly Developing Its Own Electric Scooter

Uber is developing its own electric scooter, potentially setting up the ride-hailing giant to compete with startups like Bird and Lime, reports Bloomberg. The project has reportedly been assigned to Jump, the bike-sharing startup Uber acquired earlier this year.

Nick Foley, Jump's head of product, and an Uber spokesperson declined to confirm the project to Bloomberg. But Foley did note that electric scooters need to be more robust to guard against vandalism, citing stronger frames and hidden brake cables as two possible areas of improvement.

Developing a scooter in-house would also allow Uber to avoid relying on Chinese manufacturers, as many scooter-sharing services currently do. Current tensions between the United States and China over trade could negatively impact companies that continue to source scooters from China.

It's worth noting that Uber already has plans to use other companies' scooters. The company will slap the Jump logo on Chinese scooters for a 16-month pilot program launching in Santa Monica in September. Uber also has an existing relationship with Lime. The ride-hailing company is investing $335 million in the startup, and will rent Lime e-scooters through its app.

It's unclear how Uber will juggle an in-house electric-scooter project and the Lime partnership. Along with fellow startup Bird, Lime deactivated its Santa Monica electric scooters for a day to protest regulators' recommendation that Uber-Jump and Lyft be awarded licenses for the pilot program. Bird and Lime argued that Uber and Lyft were encroaching on their territory. The existence of an in-house e-scooter project at Uber would certainly support that view.

Electric scooters have become extremely popular, but also extremely controversial. Most services use a dockless rental model, meaning scooters don't have to be picked up or dropped off at specific locations. That's very convenient for users, but it's also led to complaints of scooters being left haphazardly on sidewalks and entranceways. As with ride-hailing services, cities were caught off guard by the rise of e-scooter sharing, and have struggled to regulate the services.

Reno Fire Department Gets Drone to Aproach and Assess Fires

The Reno Fire Department (RFD) demonstrated its new unmanned aerial vehicle during a simulated emergency scenario Thursday, according to KTVN. The drone, intended to provide firefighters with invaluable vantage points and more well-informed strategies to combat fires, is reportedly already being used in the field.

“It allows us to change our tactics in a quicker fashion, so that we can deploy our resources better,” said Reno Fire Department Capt. David Rutherford. “Otherwise, we go in there and we search for a while through the smoke, and then do every nook and cranny before we advance. So it makes it much quicker.”

As far as drone use in firefighting goes, the modern aerial tool has proven itself to be invaluable for public safety offices across the globe. From accurately assessing the Grenfell Tower situation in London last year and the Indiana Fire Department increasingly relying on the tool, to the California Air National Guard aerially managing the disastrous Carr Fire in California this summer, drones are putting out fires left and right.

The RFD’s demonstration on Thursday saw ground crews attempt to force entry into a burning building, while the drone aerially surveyed the situation from above until it identified the fire’s location on the second floor, in addition to a victim trapped nearby. The simulation intended to display just how effective the mere addition of one drone really is, for firefighters who conventionally rely on their own eyes and ears, and basic radio communications. With the drone, firefighters were able to immediately locate the victim and clear them of danger, all within a handful of minutes.

Capt. Rutherford said the RFD drone is also highly beneficial during search and rescue missions, emergencies in water, at night, on ice, and for mapping various terrain.

Ultimately, it’s undeniable how vastly effective our modern camera drones can be for first responders such as firefighters. The bird’s-eye view alone, not to mention thermal imaging technology and deployment before ground crews even arrive, makes it a tool fire departments may push to have access to along with its arsenal of current tools and strategies.

China’s New Drone Innovation Center in Shanghai Will Boost Developing Technologies

China’s first drone compound that allows for a variety of drone testing with loosened regulations officially opened in Jinshan, Shanghai on Thursday.

According to Yicai Global, Shanghai’s Jinshan district has quickly become fertile ground for China’s unmanned aerial systems research, development, and testing, with one of the biggest online meal delivery platforms recently garnering approval to aerially deliver food in the region. Today’s news doubles down the government’s investment in the drone industry.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, Shanghai’s transport commission, and the Chinese Air Force’s Shanghai command all came together to establish this innovation center. The facility will provide participants with 36 square miles (58 square kilometers) of airspace, and is intended to boost research, development and testing for industrial drone applications being considered by the state.

The three main elements being prioritized at Shanghai’s new drone center are flight testing, demonstrating the intended drone applications, and refining their abilities for eventual industrial implementation. There are also serious considerations of testing water-borne takeoff and landing drone systems, which would presumably be a priority for the more rural and remote areas of the country.

Additionally, the compound will further research for law enforcement and firefighting applications and serve as a manufacturing and assembly facility for drone companies in the future. Ultimately, a new UAS testing and innovation facility can only mean further research, development, and competition. For China, this will surely help boost the regional drone industry, with its successes only serving as motivation for its global competitors.