Leading the News
Airbus To Introduce Deployable Flight Recorders Built By L3, Leonardo.
Financial and aerospace industry news outlets reported on Wednesday that Airbus has announced that it will begin incorporating deployable flight recorders into its long-range A350 airliners beginning in 2019. Reports note that the ejectable devices are built by L3 Technologies. According to Reuters (6/21, Bryan), Airbus said in Paris yesterday that the Automatic Deployable Flight Recorders will be able to float in the event of a crash at sea and are capable of recording up to 25 hours of voice data from the cockpit. “Recommended by investigators after an Air France A330 jet crashed in 2009, the idea came to the fore after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014, for which the recorders still have not been found,” Reuters reports. “However,” adds Reuters, “some in the industry have expressed doubts over ejectable black boxes, saying they could deploy accidentally, while others have said they would prefer live streaming of data.”
CNBC (6/21, Reid) reports that the ADFRs, which were co-developed with DRS Leonardo, will eventually “be fitted onto longer range Airbus planes from the A320 series right up to the A380.” Charles Champion, executive vice president of engineering at Airbus Commercial Aircraft, is quoted saying at a press release on Wednesday that the device “will release itself automatically if submerged in two meters of water or if the planes sensors detect serious structural deformation.” He added: “The structural damage would have to be serious. We want to ensure no deployment on a hard landing or a bird strike.” FlightGlobal (6/21, Kaminski-morrow), meanwhile, reports that Champion said that real-time data transmission “will come eventually,” but that Airbus is currently focused on implementing a “hard solution” in the releasable recorders. Aviation International News (6/21, Polek) reports that the ADFRs will come “with integrated 90-day Underwater Locator Beacon to help rescue teams rapidly locate and recover flight recorders.”
Airbus also plans to introduce “lighter and more compact fixed cockpit voice data recorders” in both its long- and short-range aircraft, Aviation Week (6/21, Massy-Beresford) reports. The smaller recorders will also capture up to 25 hours of voice and flight data, “in line with new European Aviation Safety Agency and International Civil Aviation Organization requirements that require an increase from the current 2 hours of voice recording.”
University Of Michigan To Offer Driverless Shuttle Service.
USA Today (6/21, Snavely) reports the University of Michigan, starting this fall, will begin offering driverless shuttle service on campus, which “will use two fully-automated, 15-passenger, all-electric shuttles manufactured by French firm Navya to transport students, faculty, and staff between U-M’s engineering campus and the university’s North Campus Research Complex.” Called Arma, the piece says the shuttle has been under testing by MCITY, “U-M’s public-private partnership for mobility research,” since December.
Mcity researcher and director, Huei Peng, said in a statement, “the first-ever automated shuttle service on a campus is a critical research project that will help us understand the challenge and opportunities presented by this type of mobility service and how people interact with it,” the Detroit News (6/21) reports. The piece says the “shuttle program will study how passengers and those on the street react to the vehicle as a way to gauge consumer acceptance.”
Additional coverage is provided by Forbes (6/21, Abuelsamid).
CFPB Report Faults FedLoan Servicing For Mishandling Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
The Washington Post (6/22, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report on Thursday saying that “flawed payment processing, botched paperwork and inaccurate information from FedLoan Servicing is derailing hundreds of public-sector workers from receiving student loan forgiveness.” The piece quotes CFPB Director Richard Cordray saying, “Borrowers working in public service should not miss out on key consumer benefits because their student loan servicer failed to comply with the law. Our examiners will scrutinize whether servicers are telling consumers what they need to do to qualify for loan forgiveness.” The post notes that the report comes as the Trump administration is considering ending the Public Loan Forgiveness program.
DeVos Taps Student Loan Firm CEO Johnson For Top Student Loan Position.
The Washington Post (6/21, Douglas-Gabriel, Davis) reports Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced that she has chosen Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation CEO Arthur Wayne Johnson “to run the federal government’s trillion-dollar financial aid operations,” noting that ED’s announcement “did not mention Johnson’s role as founder and chief executive” of the firm. The Post reports the announcement comes “almost a month after James Runcie abruptly resigned as chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid,” warning “of what he described as brewing management problems within the Education Department.”
The Hill (6/21, Greenwood) reports that ED’s announcement calls Johnson “a highly regarded leader with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry and holds a Ph.D. in higher education leadership.” The piece quotes DeVos saying in a statement, “Wayne is the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st Century. He actually wrote the book on student loan debt and will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families.” Forbes (6/21) and the Chattanoogan (TN) (6/20) also cover this story.
University At Buffalo Receives $4.5 Million In Grants To Recruit Robotics, Laser Researchers.
The AP (6/21) reports that the University at Buffalo has received $4.5 million in grants to recruit “top scholars and researchers in three specialty fields: robotics, systems pharmacology and x-ray laser technology.” The grants come from SUNY’s Empire Innovation Program, “which helps institutions recruit senior faculty members with proven track records.” The school says that most of the funding “will go toward adding faculty researchers in artificial intelligence and robotics who will support UB’s work in areas including self-driving cars and cyber security.”
Federal Government Using Private Law Firms To Collect Student Loan Debt.
NPR (6/21) airs a segment on the use of private law firms by the federal government to collect student loan debt. The piece says that private debt collection lawyers are responsible for most of the money that the government has collected from former students whose loans are in arrears. The segment features former ED official Rohit Chopra saying, “The tidal wave of defaults is creating a big opportunity for those to profit off of that pain. And the debt collection industry certainly looks at the student loan market as a big growth opportunity.”
Research and Development
Vanderbilt Engineers Assisting NASA With Eclipse Observations.
The Tennessean (6/20) reports engineers at Vanderbilt University have launched a high-altitude weather balloon “in preparation for a solar eclipse later this summer.” The piece quotes Vanderbilt graduate researcher Adam Jerrell saying, “there will be a full solar eclipse coming straight through Nashville. We are the largest city on the eclipse path, and it’s a great opportunity.” The piece notes that Tuesday’s launch “was a test-run for NASA’s Eclipse Ballooning Project, which will send cameras attached weather balloons to the edge of space from 30 separate locations nationwide.”
WPLN-AM Nashville, TN (6/20) reports that it is “perhaps no surprise that the largest celestial event in America this summer will be live-streamed.” The piece explains that Vanderbilt is “one of a few dozen schools along the eclipse’s path that are building these mobile cameras. They’ll rise to 100,000 feet, at which point the weather balloon will burst in a parachute will bring the camera down.”
UT Engineers To Lead Project To Improve Rural Energy Grid.
The Austin (TX) Business Journal (6/20, Subscription Publication) reports the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering Center for Electromechanics is partnering with Texas scientific instruments firm National Instruments and will “lead a $1.6 million project to develop technology to improve the energy grid in rural parts of Texas and the United States.” The US Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability named CEM and six other institutions to run research projects that are “part of the DOE’s long-term efforts to enhance efficiency and reliability in the energy grid.” The piece explains that the project will “focus specifically on developing better sensors to minimize outage times in rural areas.”
Elbit Unveils New Skylark UAV At Paris Air Show.
Defense News (6/21, Sprenger) reports that Elbit Systems is debuting its latest Skylark UAV at the Paris Air Show. According to Defense News, the new Skylark is “essentially a converted drone engineered to function as a missile.” According to Defense News: “Dubbed the SkyStriker, the vehicle can carry a warhead weighing up to 10 kilograms. During its maximum loitering time of two hours, operators can program the drone to circle over an area — either very low to the ground or hiding in cloud cover – and dive upon a target after positive identification through the video feed.” An Elbit official “emphasized the drone’s ease of operation while walking a reporter through the features of a model version hanging in the company’s exhibit pavilion here. Training an operator takes less than one month, according to the official.”
US To Help India Improve Power Grid.
The Press Trust of India (6/21) reports that ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, the Trump Administration announced “it will spend $7.5 million to help advance India’s power grid, as part of the two countries’ commitments to ensuring access to affordable and reliable energy.” India’s Ministry of Science and Technology and Industry “will match” the US Energy Department’s commitment, “bringing the total commitment to $30 million, officials here said.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “This new consortium demonstrates the US and Indian commitments to ensuring access to affordable and reliable energy in both countries. … We know that continued grid innovation will promote economic growth and energy security in the United States and India.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Perry Clarifies Statement On Interim Nuclear Waste Storage.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (6/21, Martin) reports Secretary of Energy Rick Perry “clarified a previous statement on interim nuclear waste storage” for the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy, telling them yesterday “that no decisions have been made on temporary sites for spent fuel in Texas, New Mexico or Nevada.” On Tuesday, the former Texas governor “created a firestorm” after “he suggested to the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy that the Nevada National Security Site could also store waste temporarily.” Perry’s “suggestion brought an avalanche of criticism from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and members of the state’s congressional delegation who called the proposal ill-conceived and likely illegal.” Perry told the panel, “I think it is appropriate to say, there are no plans at this particular time for interim storage in New Mexico, Nevada or Texas or any other site.” The Nevada governor “said he appreciated the clarification and encouraged ‘the secretary to pursue consent-based interim storage solutions.’”
The Las Vegas Sun (6/21, Gonzalez) reports Perry told the Senate subcommittee “that the waste ‘dilemma’ is one that the federal government has a responsibility to address.” Perry added, “Yesterday what I was doing was attempting to convey my interest in working with Congress to bring resolution to this issue, and that’s all I was saying. … My point is, let’s work together and find solutions to the challenges that vex us and have been in front of us for a while and I’m eternally optimistic, sir, that we can do that in a way that serves this great country.” The Hill (6/21, Piro) reports Sen. Dianne Feinstein “said the debate over the future of nuclear waste storage was at a ‘stalemate’ and asked Perry how he would make progress.” Perry responded, “I will throw a lot of Jello at the wall if that’s what is required to stimulate conversations, to try to truly come up with the solution to this.” KSNV-TV Las Vegas (6/21, Garcia) and KRNV-TV Reno, NV (6/21, KRNV-TV Reno (NV)) provide coverage of Perry’s appearance before the Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.
Bloomberg BNA (6/20, Dabbs), E&E Daily (6/21, Subscription Publication) and the “Energy 202” blog of the Washington Post (6/21, Grandoni) provided coverage of the comments made by Perry on Yucca Mountain and interim nuclear waste storage before the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday.
Senators Criticize Energy Research Cuts Proposed In Budget. The Washington Examiner (6/21, Siciliano) reports Senate appropriators on Wednesday “criticized President Trump’s Energy Department budget” for “a perceived desire to unravel decades of energy and scientific research through funding cuts that would place other countries ahead of the United States.” Chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s energy and water panel Sen. Lamar Alexander said, “The federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. … The United States faces a choice between falling further behind competitors like China or advancing technologies that can make us safer and more competitive.” President Trump’s budget aims “to cut the agency’s overall budget by 6 percent” and “most of those cuts are made to research and development programs for fossil, nuclear and renewable energy.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “These programs foster new discoveries,” but that would be “decimated by this budget request.” The California Democrat “said she wants to work with Perry to hash out a budget that makes America ‘proud.’”
Perry Fields Questions On Hanford. The Tri-City Herald (WA) (6/21) reports Perry told the subcommittee that questions remain “about whether money is being well spent at the Hanford nuclear reservation.” Perry was questioned by both Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Jeff Merkley “about spending cuts for environmental cleanup at Hanford included in a fiscal 2018 budget proposal from President Trump’s administration.” Perry said that when it comes to Hanford we need to “get outside the box of how historically the government has looked at it.” Perry “wants to use his experience managing big projects as the Texas governor to make sure the taxpayer gets the best result for their money, he said.” Murray stated, “Yes, but this is a nuclear waste site. … It’s extremely dangerous.”
Perry To Testify Thursday Before Senate Energy And Natural Resources Committee. The Hill (6/21, Cama, Henry) reports Energy Secretary Rick Perry will return to Capitol Hill for his “third round…of budget hearings.” At 10:00 AM, Perry will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
House Republicans Reviving Effort To Privatize Air Traffic Control.
The AP (6/21, Freking) reports House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said yesterday that next week, the committee will consider his proposed legislation, which would shift responsibility for the nation’s air traffic control operations to a private, nonprofit corporation. The full House likely will vote on the bill in mid-July. The AP says the measure faces bipartisan opposition in the Senate. Shuster explained that his proposal broadens participation in the corporation’s 13-seat board of directors in order to prevent any particular group from dominating the panel. “Their No. 1 priority has to be the success of this corporation,” regardless of which stakeholder group they represent, he said.
President Discusses Electric Grid Cybersecurity With Officials, Industry Leaders.
The Washington Examiner (6/21, Siciliano) reports, “President Trump met with his top national security advisers on Wednesday, along with energy industry leaders and top confidants, to discuss the cybersecurity threats facing the nation’s electric grid.” A White House statement is quoted saying the President met with officials and “energy sector leaders” regarding “energy sector resilience and cybersecurity.” The Examiner says, “The White House meeting comes a week after a congressionally-chartered grid reliability watchdog, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, said in a report that the number of threats targeting the nation’s grid are increasing.”
New York Utility Requests Rate Hike For Cybersecurity Spending. The Albany (NY) Times Union (6/21, Rulison) reports, “National Grid, upstate New York’s dominant gas and electric utility, plans to spend $7.5 million over the next three years on cyber security.” The spending details “were included in the company’s request for a $407 million rate hike in upstate New York that is being considered by the state Public Service Commission.” National Grid’s New York President Ken Daly is quoted saying, “Enhanced cyber security is one of the company’s top priorities. … With the grid becoming more interactive by the day, and with increasing amounts of data being exchanged between the company, customers and third parties, incremental investment in cyber security is required to mitigate risk and ensure reliability.”
Girls Scouts To Introduce Cybersecurity Badges.
USA Today (6/22, Cerbin) reports, “Girl Scouts of the USA and Palo Alto Networks has announced a collaboration to introduce a series of 18 cybersecurity badges for girls K-12.” The badges “will help Scouts explore opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) while building leadership skills,” and will be available starting in September 2018.
Texas Summer Program Introduces Female Students To STEM Education.
The San Antonio Express-News (6/21) reports that three years ago, Lisa Rollins, an elementary school teacher in Texas’ Northside Independent School District, founded a two-week summer science camp for female students, dubbed STEM Sisters, to encourage “girls to be excited about science, technology, engineering and math,” or STEM. Cody Elementary School Principal Kittiya Johnson said the district also hopes the program will improve state science standardized test scores. The program is based on curriculum from the Boston Museum of Science, and incorporates hands-on projects and STEM field guest speakers. The district funds the program through a Title I grant targeting “programs focused on improving core learning skills in areas of high poverty.” The Express-News notes the National Science Foundation found women account for only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
Illinois Catholic School Introduces STEAM Lab.
The Lake County (IL) News-Sun (6/21) reports St. Joseph Catholic School in Libertyville, Illinois partnered with Creative Learning Systems to introduce “a brand-new, state-of-the-art STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Lab.” The curriculum will educate students on all five STEAM disciplines, but by integrating “them into a comprehensive program that is based on real-world applications,” providing “students the necessary critical-thinking skills for today’s globally competitive and technologically driven economy.” SJCS Principal Anne Phoenix explained, “Students will participate in a variety of hands-on, self-directed activities in areas such as circuitry, computer graphics, mechanics and structures, robotics, software engineering, and much more, that will challenge and develop their imagination, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Perry Defends Trump Budget For DOE, Cuts To Energy Research.
• Study Finds Lack Of Diversity Among College Presidents.
• MIT Engineers Design Microchip For Photonic Processing.
• Aston Martin To Conduct Global Recall Of 1,658 Vantage Cars Over Transmission Software Update.
• Officials Devise Fix For Road Affected By River Erosion At Grand Teton National Park.
• Schools Debate Teaching Climate Change.