Here Are Some Technical Highlights We Saw at the Air Force Association Expo

The Air Force Association’s (AFA) annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference is an opportunity for senior U.S. Air Force leaders, along with other important voices in military aviation and the private sector, to get together and share their thoughts on the future of air power. It's combined with an technology exhibition where defense contractors come to show off their latest military aircraft, aviation systems, and other relevant products.

We took to the show floor to take pictures of what was on offer and talk with representatives at the various booths. We found a lot of interesting items and picked up a number of tidbits along the way.

Here's a sampling of what we found.

A model of the proposed JSTARS replacement aircraft from the team at Northrop Grumman, Gulfstream, and L3.

One of the hot topics at the 2017 Air, Space, and Cyber Conference was the Air Force's ongoing efforts to replace its aging E-8C JSTARS radar planes. One of the competitors is a team led by Northrop Grumman, which also includes Gulfstream and L3. At Gulfstream's booth we found a model of the proposed aircraft, which will use the G550 series airframe, seen above, as well as concept art, seen below.

Gulfstream's artwork of the JSTARS replacement aircraft.

You'll note that the two don't look the same. Understandably, as time goes on, requirements and plans change, and we learned from the representatives at the booth that the model was quite old and that the artwork was more recent. Most notably, the rendering in the background showed the plane's mid-air refueling receptacle in the nose. Apparently, Northrop Grumman has gone back and forth on exactly where they think it would be best to position for this feature, which would allow the aircraft to stay on station for a extended period of time, a key capability for this type of sensor platform orbiting the battlefield.

Northrop Grumman's JSTARS replacement model, the one they're building with Gulfstream, had the refueling receptacle on top of the fuselage.

Gulfstream also had a model of another G550 the company is working on for the U.S. Navy. Commonly known as the NC-37B, to patrol and otherwise monitor testing grounds to keep out civilians and gather research data. L3 recently chose to use a similar airframe as the basis for a replacement for the Air Force's EC-130H Compass Call jamming aircraft.

A model of the future NC-37B for the US Navy.

The models for the JSTARS replacement concept from a team consisting of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bombardier, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation were much more consistent. The basic aircraft at the core of the proposal is Bombadier's Global 6000 series.

Lockheed Martin's model of its JSTARS replacement proposal, which is it working on a part of a team. Bombardier's model of the same proposed aircraft.

Another big project attracting the attention of major defense contractors is the Air Force's search for a new basic jet trainer, a program known as T-X. Teams made up of Boeing and Saab, Lockheed Martin and Korean Aerospace Industries, and Sierra Nevada and Turkish Aerospace Industries have all submitted proposals. Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems dropped out of the competition suddenly last winter.

Italian firm Leonardo, formerly known as Alenia Aermacchi has also been working on a T-X submission, initially pair up with first General Dynamics and then Raytheon, before settling on its own U.S. subsidiary DRS as its path into the competition. All of the entrants brought models of their offerings – Boeing even brought 1:1 scale mock up and offered to take pictures in front of it illuminated by garish, multi-color stage lights – but only Leonardo painted theirs in something other than the standard scheme worn by the Air Force's existing T-38s.

The T-100 model wore colors similar to those of the "Red Tails" of the famed 332nd Fighter Group. The equally famous African American Tuskegee Airmen piloted P-51 Mustangs with this same paint scheme during World War II.

Leonardo's model of the T-100 wearing colors similar to the World War II-era 332nd Fighter Group.

L3 brought two models of the AT-802L Longsword, a modified Air Tractor AT-802 crop duster, each with a different camouflage scheme. This aircraft recently took part in the Air Force's OA-X experiment. Sierra Nevada and Textron also had models of the A-29 Super Tucano and Scorpion light attack jet respectively, the two firms entrants into the light attack tests. Textron had submitted the AT-6 Wolverine, as well.

A model of the AT-802L in a desert digital camouflage paint job. A model of the AT-802L, seen at trade shows before, wearing a tiger-stripe paint scheme.

The Air Force is has also been struggling to replace its aging fleet of UH-1N Twin Hueys, which perform a host of specialized functions, including helping provide security for remote intercontinental ballistic missile sites and VIP transport duties, including being on hand to spirit senior U.S. government officials off to secure facilities in a crisis.

Sikorsky, now part of Lockheed Martin, has long pitched various versions of the venerable UH-60 Black Hawk for these roles, most recently new versions based on the HH-60U rescue helicopter. We didn't get a chance to ask any company representatives whether or not they knew why the Air Force hates the "U" designation so much, an odd detail we at The War Zone discovered thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Request.

In 2010, the Aeronautical Systems Center – now called the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center – asked for the designation HH-60W for the new helicopters, and if that was unavailable, for HH-60P, because of an unspecified "negative connotation" surrounding the letter U in the personnel recovery community. Of queries to various Air Force command and and sources have turned up no answers, so if you know why, feel free to let us know! The Air Force's top headquarters, which has the final say on these decisions rejected the request and stuck with HH-60U. However, the service is separately buying new combat search and rescue helicopters, which finally have its preferred "W" nomenclature.

At the AFA conference, though, Sierra Nevada brought along the model of an apparent competitor, an updated UH-60L it has dubbed the Force Hawk, which features new avionics and missions systems, as well as uprated engines. The configuration sounds very much like the U.S. Army's UH-60V upgrade package. The model on the show floor wore a similar paint scheme as the UH-1Ns assigned to the Air Force's 1st Helicopter Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.

A model of Sierra Nevada's UH-60L Force Hawk.

Other contractors seemed to have arranged their displays without any particular program in mind, with an eye toward fulfilling specialized requirements, or in an apparent desire to draw the attention of the many foreign military personnel in attendance. For instance, Airbus had a large model of its A400M airlifter outfitted as a tanker with a refueling pod for the probe-and-drogue system under each wing and painted in fictional Air Force colors. The European aviation consortium has pitched the aircraft to the Air Force in the past and recently delivered tanker variants to the German Luftwaffe, but there doesn't appear to be a existing American requirement for such a plane.

A model of a notional US Air Force Airbus A400M tanker.

Similarly, the US Air Force isn't likely to be interested in buying Kawaski's C-2 cargo aircraft. Japan is increasingly interested in entering the global arms market and this aircraft could be a competitive option, especially given that Boeing has shuttered the C-17 production line. The cutaway model of the plane shows a cargo of construction equipment, possibly highlighting its utility in humanitarian relief and disaster response mission sets.

A model of the Kawasaki C-2.

Perhaps more interesting were the various contractors offering aviation services for testing and training purposes, a very lucrative and expanding market. Though there were reports that Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) had purchased a lot of ex-French Air Force Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jets to fly "Red Air" adversary missions, it was Draken International that featured the aircraft in its company literature. Neither firm had a model of the aircraft at their booth, though ATAC did have one of the firm's Israeli Aircraft Industries Kfirs.

A model of one of ATAC's Kfirs.

Omega had a model of a aerial refueling equipped McDonnell Douglas DC-10, seen below, and a Boeing 707. The company says it got many of its DC-10s second hand from Japan Airlines, while at least one 707 came from a wealthy Middle Eastern oil magnate. The representative at the booth said that AFA wouldn't allow them to serve beer, which they often do at other events. In those cases, a tap runs to a keg through the model rear end of a 707, mimicking the probe-and-drogue refueling system, but dispensing something entirely different.

A model of one of Omega's DC-10 tankers.

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In addition to manned aircraft, drones were, unsurprisingly, a major feature on the floor of the expo. Textron had a mock up of their recently unveiled Nightwarden unmanned aircraft hanging above their booth. Derived from AAI's enlarged Shadow M2, Nightwarden expands on the original design, adding improved payload capacity for more powerful sensors and lightweight weapons.

A mockup of the Nightwarden drone.

Beyond aircraft and drones, there were also weapons. Aerojet Rocketdyne had inert display versions of their Focused Lethality Munition (FLM) and BLU-129/B composite bomb casings, both of which produce little shrapnel, reducing the potential for collateral damage. The FLM is a warhead option for the 250-pound class GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb, while the BLU-129/B forms the core of the Very Low Collateral Damage Bomb (VLCDB) variant of the 500-pound class Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), also known as the GBU-38(V)5/B.

An inert FLM bomb body. An inert BLU-129/B composite bomb casing.

Again, the displays weren't just limited to American defense contractors focused on Air Force contracts. Turkish firm Roketsan had a model of their SOM-J cruise missile. The J variant of the weapon is a shared development with Lockheed Martin specifically sized to fit in the internal weapons bay on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters the Turkish Air Force is looking to buy.

There were podded sensor and electronic warfare systems, as well. Harris had a cutaway of the podded version of its Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS), the AN/ALQ-211(V)9. The company makes internal versions of the same system for F-16 Viper fighter jet and the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.

Lockheed Martin had the Legion Pod on display at its booth. On Sept. 19, 2017, the company announced the Air Force had chosen this system as the winner of a competition to add infrared search-and-track (IRST) capability to its F-15C Eagle fighter jets. In addition to the IRST functionality, the pod is modular, meaning that the Air Force could decide to add additional sensors or other equipment, like sensors or data-links, to potentially make the older Eagles even more capable.

Lastly, a number of vendors were pitching hand-held jammers specifically to defeat small drones. The potential threat of commercially available quad- and hex-copter type unmanned aircraft has become increasingly apparent in recent years and the Air Force in particular has been looking for ways to keep them out of its bases at home and abroad.

Many of these devices, including the one from Battelle seen below, look and handle similarly to standard combat rifles. The firm's mock up had a number of "kill" markings, but when we asked, the representative at the booth said they were unfortunately only for show and did not reflect any successes in tests.

This is just some of what was on display and without a doubt there is even more advanced technology that remains hidden away from the public.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

Oh Yes, That Awesome Dealer-Built, 650 HP Ford F-150 Lightning Is Great at Burnouts

Late last week, the car internet lost its collective hive-mind over a Ford dealer's plans to resurrect the Ford F-150 Lightning. Pioneer Ford in Bremen, Georgia lived up to their name by transforming a base model F-150 into the closest thing we've seen to a factory SVT pickup since the last version bowed out in 2004. So to recap, that's a 650-horsepower, rear-wheel drive, side exhaust short bed. What's the point, really? Burnouts.

Even if you don't totally buy into the idea of an on-road performance pickup, you can't deny this video of Hooniverse news editor Greg Kachadurian throwing the 1-of-2 Ford F-150 Lightning homage around an empty airstrip is hilarious fun. With very little weight over the rear wheels and a 5.0-liter V-8 engine up front, the supercharged truck breaks its back tires loose with ease.

All that power might be too much for a stock F-150—especially in the corners—so a lowering kit keeps everything planted. In his review, Kachadurian writes that the Lightning was about three seconds quicker than the regular truck through a short slalom course they set up. The two trucks they've built so far were from the tail end of the 2017 model year production, so future examples (and there will be more) will be built on the 2018 trucks and add a set of Bilstein dampers for even better performance. The only reported issue was a bit of brake fade.

Whatever you think about the concept, this is the only 650-horsepower pickup you can buy off a showroom floor for under $50,000, and that alone makes it worth celebrating. While the Roush stage 2 supercharger voids Ford's powertrain warranty, it carries its own full coverage that replaces the automaker's for the same length of time. The only catch is that means the truck can only be serviced at an authorized Roush dealer like Pioneer Ford.

Still, watch this truck smoke its rear tires, and try to remember those little inconveniences. You can't. It's too fun.

Fiat-Chrysler Believes Demon Hype Is Powering Dodge Challenger to Best Sales Year Ever

Somewhere between the cinematic hype trailers and slavering public response to the 840 horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, a small line of dissent crept up to throw some water on the flames. Why, its adherents asked, does anyone need such a powerful road car? And more to the point, what does Dodge stand to gain in such an old-school pursuit with the electric revolution (allegedly) right around the corner?

To start, more customers. Fiat-Chrysler passenger car boss Tim Kuniskis sat down with The Detroit News and explained how they believe the halo effect has been working its magic on Dodge. It's been a down year across the industry, and total Dodge sales through August were off 4.5 percent compared to the same point in 2016. However, despite the fact that Demon production has barely begun, Dodge Challenger sales have ridden the hype to a 4.4 percent YTD increase in 2017, putting it on pace for the model's best year ever.

"It's selling SRTs and Scat Packs and regular Hellcats," Kuniskis said. "We built the Demon to cement the image of what the brand is in peoples' minds. And this is what we want our attitude to be seen as."

Well, it's that or the Vin Diesel commercials.

That's even more impressive when you consider the ongoing mass extinction event stamping out sedans and coupes at an alarming rate. Both the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang have watched sales plummet this year, so it's not like the performance muscle/pony car segment has been immune. The Dodge Charger hasn't faired quite as well, with sales off 6.5 percent YTD, but it too has been buoyed above its Chrysler 300 stablemate and outlived the Chevy SS.

Analysts are split on whether the effect will last long enough to make a true impact on the company's bottom line. Dodge has staked its reputation on the whole "modern muscle" spirit, throwing 700-horsepower Hellcat engines into Jeeps and generally thumbing its nose at practicality. It was a common knock that a customer wouldn't get drawn in by a Hellcat or Demon and end up driving away in a Grand Caravan, but consider this: Despite a four-month production freeze and the reintroduced Chrysler Pacifica, Grand Caravan sales are up 10 percent through August compared to 2016.

And based on these early results, it appears that Dodge might be doubling down. Despite the LX/LC platform nearing double digits in age, Automotive News reports Dodge won't be introducting a major redesign until 2021, at which point there's likely to be more than one electric-powered rival already on the road. But as they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Drone Catches Trainer Medicating Horse Before Race

Drones have been used to break the law more times than we know. Of course, they've often also been used to catch people in the act.

Even criminals have spotted their spying police counterparts, thanks to UAVs. Drones are tools that reflect the piloting party, whether it's a dad flying a DJI Spark with his son in the park, convicts using drones to smuggle contraband into prison, or a citizen testing the security of one of his country's warships. In this case, horse trainer Brian Sylvia was caught medicating his horse before a race when a stewards' inquiry on behalf of the Harness Racing Victoria Racing ­Appeals and Disciplinary Board sent a UAV to his property for a surprise aerial inspection.

According to Melbourne's Herald Sun, Sylvia was caught 'stomach-tubing' the animal at his complex in Merbein this past April, mere hours before the race in question in Mildura.

Reportedly, inquiries and inspections of this sort have been standard in the horse-racing world, with financial fines and long-term legal repercussions similar to those of other sports.

"This type of conduct won't be tolerated. It tarnishes the reputation of our sport," the Chairman of the Stewards, Mark Van Gestel, said only a year ago. Well, now it seems like they've realized that drones can be an immense tool in combating this type of unfavorable sportsmanship.

Apparently, the drone footage showed Sylvia parking his car across the driveway, and then stomach-tubing Elslatsy, the horse in question. According to ABC, stomach-tubing is a process in which a tube is inserted through the animal's nostrils and into the stomach, in order to either introduce medication or liquid.

Thanks to the aerial footage captured by this UAV, the panel processing Sylvia had more evidence and information than a traditional inspection could've produced. Barrister Elizabeth Brimer stated on behalf of Harness Racing Victoria that "it involved quite some preparation ... the placing of the car to ensure nobody else could come onto the property ... the placing of the horse so it would not be visible from the road."

She also added that Sylvia was "deliberately obstructive" during their inquiry. According to HarnessLink, the defendant pled guilty to all charges, resulting in a 15-month disqualification and a total of $2,000 in fines. To be clear, none of this would've likely occurred had a traditional inspection taken place. Sylvia would've been aware of a car arriving, as opposed to blissfully stomach-feeding the horse as a silent camera-equipped machine hovered high above the scene of the crime. This is just one of many scenarios in which UAVs can be used as tools in order to maintain order and support an institution's standards.

Of course, Sylvia claimed that the use of this drone was an invasion of his privacy, a defendable argument, and one which many agree with as drones become more ubiquitous and potentially invasive.

However, it's becoming clear that drones will simply become part of the infrastructure. Inspections, surveillance, and law enforcement will inevitably have UAVs as part of their standard arsenal of tools.

McLaren Applied Technologies Built This Iron Man-Like Suit for an Anonymous Billionaire

At the root of McLaren's core is technology. Although we always picture the brand solely as an automaker or championship racing team, futuristic advancements in general are the Woking company's bread and butter. Its Applied Technologies division is a separate branch that focuses on non-automotive projects, and out of its high-tech trenches comes this: an exo-skeletal brace, made for an anonymous billionaire out of the strongest man-made material on Earth.

McLaren's Health and Wellness sector was approached by Client X, an affluent go-getter with a larger net worth than my whole line of ancestors combined. Men's Health was able to dive deep into this special mission, dubbed Project Invincible, which was created for the customer to protect his weakened mid-section.

The chest plate and shield, made out of carbon fiber, Dyneema (used in bulletproof vests) and Zylon, an ultra-high strength material used in the company's current F1 car, was McLaren's answer to Client X's wishes.

"Client X came to us wanting to feel less fragile," Project Invincible leader Dan Toon told Men's Health. "He wanted to feel normal."

In order to do that, McLaren took three months to design this $250,000 piece of equipment. It, in turn, serves as protection to Client X's torso, which has been worn by multiple surgeries. A rear shield was also incorporated to protect his slightly compromised kidneys, enveloping him in this seemingly-bionic suit. According to McLaren, even the simplest of everyday activities like putting on a seatbelt caused the customer pain, meaning he wanted top-notch quality to stop the hurting.

McLaren Applied Technologies dug into the client's health records to get a better understanding of his needs. By doing this, it was able to construct a seamless piece of body armor that would make even Tony Stark jealous.

Impact tests were key for McLaren, so the equipment was put through tests ranging from 30 Joules to 150 Joules, the latter being the equivalent of "dropping 5 bowling balls, or 75 pounds, onto your chest from a few feet up,” according to the company. Under this type of force, the shield behaves like a road car's crumple zones, cracking while dispersing the impact across its surface.

Extensive research and top-level construction helped McLaren give Client X exactly what he was asking for.

Toon noted, "He’s a billionaire so you don’t get too much praise from him, but he kept doing this nodding of approval throughout our film, so that felt good.”

Upon receiving his special-ordered kit, Client X was satisfied enough to refer several of his friends with similar issues to the company, according to McLaren. This will help to blossom its Health and Wellness division that has already skyrocketed as of late, furthering its development of human-related tech.

Get the full Project Invincible story over at Men's Health.

Parrot Ups Its Game With the Parrot Bebop 2 Power Drone

While we’ll have a full review of the Parrot Bebop 2 Power drone for you next week, an introductory look at the company’s new UAV seems in order.

We recently reported on their new Mambo FPV drone, which seemed like a fun, affordable way to get into first-person drone use. A few days later, Parrot revealed their new Bebop 2 Power drone, which seems like a substantial upgrade from not only its former model, but Parrot drones, in general.

With a significant revamping of its hardware and software, the Bebop 2 Power comes equipped with a new set of batteries that extend flight time to 30 minutes per pack. According to a company press release, it'll be compatible with the new Cockpitglasses 2 just like the Mambo FPV is, can alter its flight modes to focus on image stabilization, and stay in the air for up to a half hour at a time. Weighing only 1.15 pounds, the Bebop 2 Power can be launched simply by throwing it in the air, like the infamous Lily Next-Gen claimed it would be. Have a look at this promo video for the drone below to get a more informative look at the footage this thing can capture.

Fortunately, this UAV comes with everything you'd need to get the full experience Parrot wants you to have. The FPV Cockpitglasses 2, the new batteries (which significantly extend flight time from Parrot's earlier models), as well as the new Skycontroller 2 (with a range of up to 1.24 miles) are all included in the box. Have a look below for what you'd get right out the box. Of course, with a price tag of $599.99, it'd be a shame to sell these vital components separately.

Bebop 2 Power drone, Cockpitglasses 2, Skycontroller 2, and 2 batteries.

In order to pilot this drone with your smartphone, you'll have to download the FreeFlight Pro app. As someone whose introduction to drones was through a Parrot Mambo, I can attest that Parrot's earlier iteration of the app, FreeFlight Mini, was easy to use, and most importantly, free. Here's what it would look like to use a tablet on the Skycontroller 2 while piloting the Bebop 2 Power.

The Parrot Bebop 2 Power being pilot using a tablet on a Skycontroller 2.

Now, while the Bebop 2 Power has a variety of A.I.-assisted movements to shoot clear and cinematic footage, as well as several preprogrammed flight paths to either follow you or take exciting tracking shots, we'll have to test drive this UAV ourselves before attesting to whether or not it's a success. However, it seems like Parrot has been carving a clear path in the recreational drone market that it's following with confidence. Every few months there's a new item marking clear progression by the company, and it looks like the Bebop 2 Power drone is just the latest in that chain.

Of course, we'll make sure to report back once we've tested the Bebop 2 Power ourselves. Stay tuned next week for a comprehensive look!

Watch a Honda S2000 With a Twin-Turbo J32 V-6 Eat Up the Quarter Mile

Tuner Chris Boyette of Chris’s Epic Tuning Service in the Detroit area describes himself as a Honda J series specialist with 12 years experience in EFI tuning. All of that J series expertise is on full display in his twin-turbo Honda S2000 which he claims is the first of its kind in the world.

Boyette’s teal S2000 ditches its venerable F-series inline-four engine for a J32A2 3.2-liter V-6, which originally saw duty in the Type-S variants of the Acura CL and TL in the early 2000s. In stock form, this rev-happy SOHC VTEC V-6 makes 260 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 232 foot-pounds of torque.

That would normally be enough to give an S2000 a nice little boost in performance, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Boyette. He added two turbochargers, ported heads, MGP aluminum rods, and CP low compression pistons according to Engine Swap Depot. The heavily modified V-6 is lashed to a Powerglide two-speed automatic and a Ford 8.8-inch rear end.

Those two turbochargers worked together to make 45 psi of boost rocketing this little car up to 168.87 miles per hour when it hit the quarter-mile mark in just 7.954 seconds. Boyette claims this monster makes almost 1,000 horsepower at the wheels and with that insane amount of boost, we tend to believe him.

Check out Boyette’s astonishing sub-8-second run in his Honda S2000 for yourself.

Forget Yachts, Billionaires Can Buy Bond-Villain Luxury Submarines Now

So, you've finally arrived. That "See Food" app took off like a rocket, and with many millions to burn, you've bought yourself a 230-foot superyacht with all the fixings and a 4,000-nautical-mile range. How very tawdry. Let's talk about real wealth. We're talking $2 billion, James-Bond-villain, private-luxury-submarine wealth.

Bloomberg has a deep dive on the burgeoning world of companies aiming to build these full-size, yacht-like submarines for people with underwater bases and steel-toothed assistants. The gilded tubes are a world away from the cramped submersibles used by private exploration outfits around the world; they range in size from a 64-footer that looks more like a private jet to a hulking 928-foot monster whose arrival in any territorial waters seems likely to set off some kind of military response [Fun fact: That's twice as long as the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Navy's cutting-edge Seawolf-class submarine—which is in turn about 100 feet longer than other American hunter-killer submarines. —Ed.]

Migaloo Private Submersible Yachts is the Austrian company behind the $2 billion, 308-yard-long M7 design, and they promise way more amenities than your average Ohio-class boomer. Their diesel-electric vessel will be equipped with a helipad, an open-deck swimming pool with an automatic cover, so-called "VIP suites," and several smaller boat hangers. It will be able to dive to 1,500 feet and cruise at about 20 knots. (If someone actually steps up and orders one, that is. Nobody's apparently done so yet, so it's all vaporware for now.)

And that's the sticky wicket: Even though the company is offering a full lineup of right-sized subs—plus additional luxury designs available from two other firms,—there are currently no private U-boats skulking around the waters of the world. Every render you've seen is just that...a render. The whole private submarine industry seems to be one expensive test of the If you build it, they will come theory of business.

But it's possible the gamble will pay off. Bloomberg reports Ocean Submarine is currently building their first customer vessel, with delivery of the 64-foot Neyk L3 scheduled for 2018.

Coming soon to a rich person near you.

Even if the thought of owning a private sub is so far outside the real-life experience of normal people, the $23.8 million Neyk L3 is a surprisingly straightforward take. It takes its design cues from the Gulfstream G650s and Cessna Citations of the world, transporting up to 20 passengers in stately, jet-like accommodations. Built to international submarine safety standards, it can also maintain a fixed position underwater and pull smoothly up onto any sandy beach. Buyers can also opt to add custom touches, like a pressure chamber for impromptu scuba diving sessions.

Of course, safely piloting a submarine is a little more complicated than a speedboat...or even a superyacht. A new owner can opt to train for months and work towards various national certification standards—but if you've got that kind of money, you probably don't have that kind of time. So hiring a trusted, trained crew will be a must. (Plus, you need someone to quip "Give me a ping, Vasily. One ping only, please" to.)

On the plus side, since there aren't any full-size private submarines out right now, there are also scant regulations about where you can travel underwater. We wouldn't recommend nosing up to the nearest U.S. Navy base unannounced, but the world is basically your oyster. If you've got this kind of dough, though, it probably was already.

Watch This Alfa 4C-Powered, RWD Fiat 500 Blitz an Italian Hillclimb

We've seen people swap everything from Subaru motors to Hayabusa bike engines into the classic Fiat 500, but this modern day example is something all of its own.

With the turbocharged 1.7-liter turbo four pot from an Alfa Romeo 4C under its hood, the Giannini 350 GP Anniversario is a special twist on the Italian compact. It's got carbon fiber widebody construction and sends power to the rear wheels, all contributing to what must be the most fun you can have in something so small.

As you'd expect, the "350" in the GP Anniversario's name indicates the horsepower figure, more than enough to propel the penny racer's lightweight architecture. That's 113 more horsepower than you get in the typical Alfa 4C, and 190 more than the standard Fiat 500 Abarth. The engine is mounted in the middle of the car with power going to a manual transmission, keeping the fun spirit alive through the car's more-than-peppy powertrain.

It's not just uber powerful, either, as it has the suspension and chassis bits to back it up in the turns. Underneath the 350 GP Anniversario's shell are gorgeous inboard-mounted Öhlins coilovers which provide the stability needed with that much twist and that short of a wheelbase. Six-piston Brembo calipers can be found up front, too, so you won't have to worry about overpowering the car's brakes.

More impressive than all of these attributes, however, is the car's price. Some may say it's worth more than the sum of its parts, and Giannini would agree completely. The cost of this hillclimb-hornet is an eye-watering $180,000—or about the same price as a McLaren 570S.

If you've got that much affection for the Fiat moniker, and enough cash to go with it, then we couldn't blame you for picking it up. After all, there will be a maximum of 100 examples built, so throw exclusivity into the ring as well.

Watch it here as it zooms around Italian backroads and keeps up with some of the country's well known supercars. It's a treat, we promise you that.

Aire Drone Lets You Control it With Alexa

As of right now, the Aire drone is still an ongoing project on Kickstarter. While we do have some impressive footage and a fairly convincing promotional video from the campaign’s site, we haven’t actually seen the drone operate in-person. However, according to The Verge, the Aire is actually all it claims to be—and that’s really impressive.

The Kickstarter campaign describes the Aire as a “self-flying robotic assistant for the home,” which essentially means that as of right now, it can navigate narrow territory thanks to a sophisticated set of cameras and sensors, can stay upright, and is quiet enough not to be more of a nuisance than a tool.

The Verge notes that the Aire also has a built-in speaker and microphone, and can be remotely piloted using your smartphone. You can actually ask this thing to take a photo of you using a voice command through Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa. If the photo you’re trying to take requires some repositioning of the UAV, that’s not a problem. You can simply grab it, move it around, and let go. It’ll simply keep hovering, stabilized and securely. That’s pretty cool. Not only that, but the Aire is reportedly much quieter than the typical drone, which lets out an unpleasant whirring sound.

The technology here is comprised of logical and creative combinations of parts. There’s a 3-D camera as well as several sonar sensors for Aire’s obstacle avoidance, and a camera on the bottom for positioning. All of that data is processed by the Aire’s Nvidia TX1 chip, which, according to The Verge, was “the first mobile chip to exceed 1 teraflop of throughput" in 2015.

This is a really exciting look at what everyday drones might look like in the future. It’s essentially a hovering home assistant, in ways that haven't been explored up until now. It’s a stereo that can follow you around the house, for example. An assistant you can ask questions while you’re working in your living room. This thing could patrol your house all night and relay any unusual activity to your smartphone thanks to its recording abilities.

This is still in its early stages, of course, but the Kickstarter campaign is aiming to ship the Aire in December 2018 with a retail price of $1,499 (If you’re ready to commit immediately, though, that price drops to $749.)

Let us know what you think below! Is this as exciting for you as it is for us? The Aire conjures a huge array of childhood images of the future, where robot assistants are common, and flying ones even more so. Stay tuned as the Aire nears completion.