Leading the News
Drone Registration Plan Draws Mixed Reviews.
Associations Now (10/23, Smith) reports on the reaction of UAS groups to the announcement that the FAA will require UAS operators to register their aircraft, with Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International saying it “welcomes the opportunity to join this task force,” and other groups, such as the Small UAV Coalition, expressing concern over the registry. The piece mentions that the Air Line Pilots Association will also participate in the task force, quoting a statement from the group, “As the operators responsible for flying passengers and cargo, pilots are hyper-focused on ensuring the safety of our aviation system, including the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.”
Similarly, UAS Magazine (10/23, Miller) reports that plans to establish a national drone registry is “drawing approval and criticism from the UAS community.” UAS attorney James Mackler spoke to the magazine about the new rules, saying that “while he welcomed the idea of drone registration, the timetable doesn’t appear realistic and the process appears rushed and not well thought out,” the article adds. According to the report, Mackler said that the news conference with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta following the announcement of the planned registry offered “vague answers in response to specific questions about law enforcement and the regulatory process.”
Meanwhile, the San Bernardino (CA) Sun (10/23, Steinberg) says that the reaction to the FAA’s planned registry has been “generally favorable among area politicians” in California’s Inland Empire. However, it goes on to point out that others have expressed concerns over the “short time frame the government is allowing to draft proposed rules for the registration process.”
Editorial: FAA Lagging In Developing Drone Rules. While an editorial in Aviation Week (10/23) welcomed the news of the FAA’s plan to establish a drone registry, it also criticized the agency for lagging in developing drone regulations. Further, the editorial said that the FAA “has been slow in recognizing the coming tsunami of small, inexpensive, easy-to-fly UAS operated by aviation naifs.”
Embry-Riddle Awarded FAA Funds To Study Drones. UAS Magazine (10/23, Bailey) reports that Embry-Riddle University is among the 21 universities that comprise the FAA’s Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE). Embry-Riddle was awarded three of ASSURE’s core research tasks; studying how surveillance technology can help drones avoid aircraft, analyzing maintenance techniques for drones, and identifying the risks of drones to people and property.
SHPE To Honor Utah Engineering Student.
The Logan (UT) Herald Journal (10/23) profiles Utah State University mechanical engineering student Jose Campos, who is “working to turn around the perception that young Hispanics can’t succeed in STEM” careers. Campos is the former president of the school’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter. The article describes his work with the organization, and notes that the national SHPE is set to honor him at a conference in Baltimore this fall with its SHPE Technical Achievement Recognition (STAR) Award. The award “is given to multiple SPHE chapter members nationwide every year honoring their contributions in the Hispanic community in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.”
Editorial: Montana State University’s Push For More Female STEM Faculty Should Be Commended.
The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle (10/23) editorial board praises Montana State University for increasing the number of tenure-track engineering faculty to 22%. The university’s College of Engineering has also increased female enrollment from 100 to 631 in just one year, while overall enrollment in the college has increased from 2,300 to 3,611 over the past five years. The university’s successful campaign to hire more female faculty was funded in part by a $3.4 million National Science Foundation grant.
Indiana Working To Increase STEM Education Opportunities.
The Indianapolis Recorder (10/23, Davis) reports Indiana is working to increase STEM education opportunities throughout their education system. The state has expanded the number of STEM camps and workshops available for youth and is expected to break ground for new STEM schools in Indianapolis. The University of Indianapolis will begin offering bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering and software engineering next fall. Purdue University researchers in collaboration with peers at Vanderbilt University are researching how female engineering faculty persist despite sex discrimination and other gender barriers.
H-1B Visas Prominent At US Universities Under Increased Scrutiny.
Inside Higher Ed (10/22, Redden) reports the H-1B visa program is under increased scrutiny by the national media and federal authorities. The program allows employers, including universities, to sponsor foreign professionals. Many universities use the program to “hire postdocs and other researchers from abroad”, but the program has been criticized as causing the displacement of American workers. While proponents of the program often say the visas are used to fill specialized positions when there is a shortage of qualified American workers, critics say the visas are used to replace American workers in order to cut costs. Universities are under particular scrutiny, because unlike other employers, institutions of higher education are not subject to statutory caps on the number of H-1B visas they can sponsor. Federal authorities are currently investigating Wright State University in Ohio for possibly misusing the program.
Research and Development
Sandia Engineer Develops New LED Driver.
Photonics (10/23) reports on Sandia Labs incorporating the LED Pulser, a “novel LED driver” designed by Sandia electronics engineer Chris Carlen. The LED Pulser “drives high-power LEDs to generate light pulses with shorter duration, higher repetition rates and higher intensity than is possible with commercial off-the-shelf LED drivers.” Sandia researchers “have already used it in imaging studies aimed at creating cleaner, more efficient engines that could help improve local air quality and public health and reduce the impacts of climate change.” The article goes on to describe some of the ways in which the pulser is being used, and to discuss its applications with Carlen.
Facebook Update To Remedy iPhone App Battery Drainage.
Business Insider (10/23, Heath) reports that following complaints that its iPhone was cause the device’s battery to drain more quickly, Facebook has issued an update intended to fix the problem. Facebook engineering manager Ari Grant said in an online post that “we found a few key issues and have identified additional improvements, some of which are in the version of the app that was released today.” Grant said the issue stems from the fact that the code used in the app caused “CPU spin” that “required too much of the phone’s processor power” and also noted that silent audio running in the background of the app may have contributed to the power drain.
9 to 5 Mac (10/22, Mayo) adds with respect to the background audio issue that if users leave the Facebook app “whilst watching a video the app would continue audio playback of the paused video” which would mean that “the app was playing silence indefinitely, through the background audio session” although Facebook claims that the app “isn’t doing anything nefarious whilst it is in the state.”
TechCrunch (10/22, Panzarino) also reports.
Bell, Sikorsky Both Push Army To Accelerate FVL Program.
In continuing coverage of suggestions for the Army to streamline its FVL program, Rotor & Wing Magazine (10/21) reports both “Sikorsky Aircraft and Bell Helicopter want it to go faster” than the current schedule’s aim to field a prototype by the 2030s, urging the Army to take advantage of their own heavy investments in prototypes. “We don’t have to wait until 2035,” outgoing Bell CEO John Garrison said last week in comments that “echoed those of Sikorsky officials” from earlier in the year. The Magazine says Sikorsky, with its S-97 Raider prototype expected to fly before Bell’s V-280 scheduled flight in 2017, could have “an advantage over its Texas counterpart in persuading Army officials to move their acquisition schedule.” Both companies’ efforts for speedier scheduling “may be in vain in the current federal budgetary environment” however, Rotor & Wing says.
Engineering and Public Policy
Report: EPA Mine Spill Was Not “Likely Inevitable.”
A report released Thursday by the Interior Department and Bureau of Reclamation found that the EPA “botched the cleanup effort at the Gold King Mine by rushing to complete the job instead of taking precautions that would have prevented the disastrous toxic spill into the Animas River,” the Washington Times (10/23, Richardson) reports. According to the report, which was “significantly tougher on the EPA than its own internal review team,” the accident “was not ‘likely inevitable,’ as the EPA’s own internal review had concluded, but could have been avoided if the agency had followed engineering practices used at other inactive mines.”
The New York Times (10/23, Pérez-Peña, Subscription Publication) notes that the report said the EPA “lacks the technical skills to handle such tricky projects,” and the accident “could have been averted if the agency had had greater expertise and acted more prudently.”
Politico Pro (10/22) reports that the report “includes four recommendations: requiring potential failures analyses and downstream damage studies, sampling water in mines before opening blocked mines and securing outside experts to review project plans. EPA asked Interior to conduct the independent technical review of the disaster.”
The AP (10/23, Brown, Elliott) reports that “members of Congress seized on the results of the two-month Interior Department investigation to slam EPA’s handling of a spill that fouled rivers in three states.” According to the article, “whereas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, focused their ire solely on the EPA, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, also of Colorado and a Democrat, coupled his criticism of the agency with a call for reforms that could speed mine cleanups.”
Growing Network Of Users Employing UAVS For Conservation Efforts.
The San Francisco Chronicle (10/23, Voirin, Subscription Publication) reports that “contrary to public perception, unmanned aerial vehicles present an enormous potential for good,” and notes that “a growing network” of UAV users is employing the device “for research and conservation efforts around the world,” including monitoring habitat destruction and catching poachers and mosquitoes.
States, Businesses Prepare Legal Challenge To Climate Change Policy.
The New York Times (10/23, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that as many as 25 states “will join some of the nation’s most influential business groups in legal action to block President Obama’s climate change regulations when they are formally published” today. Obama announced in August that the Environmental Protection Agency rules “had been completed, but they had not yet been published in the government’s Federal Register,” and within hours of the official publication of the rules, “a legal battle will begin, pitting the states against the federal government. It is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court.” The Times adds that although “the legal brawls could drag on for years,” many states and companies, “including those that are suing the administration, have also started drafting plans to comply with the rules,” a strategy that “reflects the uncertainty of the ultimate legal outcome.”
US Wind Projects Triple In 2015, Led By Non-Utility Players.
Bloomberg News (10/22, Nussbaum) reports that the US added about 3,6000 megawatts of wind power capacity in the first three quarters of 2015, “almost triple the amount from a year earlier,” citing a report Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association. Bloomberg reports that the growth was driven in part by new players Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, and Washington, D.C. which all contracted wind power purchases. Microsoft and Wal-Mart have also announced wind projects, and Bloomberg adds that the US now has 69,471 megawatts of installed capacity with another 13,250 megawatts under construction.
Texas Sets New Record For Wind Power Generation. The San Antonio Express-News (10/22, Blum) reports that the main Texas grid operator reported that nearly 37 percent of demand early Thursday morning was met with wind power, achieving a new record of 12,237 megawatts of wind power at the time. Also on Thursday, “the American Wind Energy Association reported Texas accounted for nearly half of the nation’s wind power growth” in Q3, adding 771 megawatts of wind power capacity. The Express-News adds that “Texas is expected to exceed 20,000 megawatts next year,” with further growth dependent upon “whether Congress extends the production tax credit for wind projects.”
University Of Tennessee Hosts Engineering Event For 1,500 High School Students.
The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (10/23, Slaby) reports that the University of Tennessee hosted “more than 1,500 high school students” at its annual “Engineers Day,” an event “where the College of Engineering offers a glimpse into its various disciplines.” The article mentions that TVA senior vice president Ric Pérez was the keynote speaker.
Alabama Community College Hosts Robotics Competition Among 10 Local High Schools.
The AP (10/21, Denean) reports the Selma Best Robotics Game Day at Wallace Community College in Alabama will host 10 teams from local high schools. Teams are required to work together to solve problems using robotics and the winners of the tournament will advance to the southwest regionals.
All-Girls Schools Advocated As Way To Encourage More Women To Enter STEM Fields.
The Christian Science Monitor (10/22, Khadaroo) reports some education leaders are creating all-girls schools in order to encourage more women to enter STEM fields. The Young Women’s Leadership School (TYWLS) of Astoria in New York City is part of a network of five public schools just for girls around the country. Advocates of the model say that girls who attend such schools can develop the confidence they need to enter fields, like STEM, where they are often underrepresented. TYWLS student Geraldine Agredo says that attending an all-girls school lets her focus on her studies and worry less about how she looks, “It gives us that freedom.”
New Jersey District Implementing Eighth Grade STEM Class.
The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group (10/23, Bahrenburg) reports Closter public schools in New Jersey are implementing a mandatory STEM class for all eighth graders. Students at Tenakill Middle School meet four days per week to learn about robotics for their STEM class.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Auto Makers Seen As Hastening Pace Of EV Debuts.