Tag Archives: French Riviera

Drones All Over The Place

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In December, we talked about Amazon’s Drone Delivery System: What It’s All About

Also in December we talked about how Regional Shippers Pose New Threat to UPS, FedEx

We mentioned again the Amazon drone

While Amazon is piloting drone aircraft for package deliveries. A number of firms, especially in Europe, are working hard on the concept of driverless trucks.

So it shouldn’t really be any surprise that work is now also being on unmanned cargo and container ships as well.

News came out this week that Rolls Royce has been working on such a concept since late 2013. The research work is being performed under a project it calls Blue Ocean, and it has already created virtual-reality prototype at its research center in Alesund, Norway, that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel’s bridge.

Rolls Royce’s efforts are connecting to something called the Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks (MUNIN). The program is co-funded by the European Commissions and aims to develop and verify a concept for an autonomous ship, which is defined as a vessel primarily guided by automated on-board decision systems but controlled by a remote operator in a shore side control station.

MUNIN is a consortium of eight partners that have the relevant scientific and industrial background. The group is studying the operational, technical and legal aspects in connection with the vision of an autonomous ship.

Its web site says that “Solutions for an autonomous bridge, an autonomous engine room, a shore side operation center and the communication architecture linking vessel and a shore operator will be developed and verified” as a result of the program.

It hopes to develop a prototype ship that can be sailed by the end of 2015.

Of course, reducing operating costs is one big driver of the research. Ship crews can cost more than $3000 per day, and represent some 45% of total variable operating costs, industry experts say. Drone ships would dramatically reduce those labor costs.

Rolls Royce says that in addition to the labor savings, drone ships would be safer and more environmentally friendly.

Company drawings for the new ships show vessels loaded with containers from front to back, without the need for a “bridge” structure where the crew normally lives. Eliminating the bridge and all the other systems that support the crew (electrical systems, air conditioning, water and sewage, etc.) leaves more room for cargo or containers. Rolls Royce estimates that the ships would be 5% lighter before loading cargo and would use 12-15% less fuel.

Bloomberg notes the company’s Oskar Levander, vice president of innovation in marine engineering and technology, believes the unmanned ships might be deployed in regions such as the Baltic Sea within a decade, but that regulatory hurdles combined with industry and union pushback relative to safety and other issues will slow global adoption.

Unmanned ships wouldn’t even be legal currently, since there are standards in place for the minimum amount of crew different types of ships must carry. Organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, a group that is part of the UN, and others are involved in maintaining and potentially changing those standards. If a ship did not comply with existing crew standards, it would not be able to obtain insurance, and thus would not be able to sale.

It is not just big drones, but Monaco has small ones: Weevil drones – Weevil is in the trees, the palm trees that is. The French Riviera’s canarian palm trees are under attack from red weevils, which were first found as parasites in 2012 above the Jardin Exotique in Monaco. It transpired that Monaco was one of the last place to be invaded by the little red blighters with Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Cap d’Ail already affected. But the fightback is underway. The drones are coming. Monaco has an air force, and it’s spraying Monaco’s 276 canarian palms with an organic spray made out of mushrooms, which is evil for weevils, but nothing else. 

Now for some late-breaking stuff:

Facebook Inc is in talks to buy drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million, according to media reports.

The high-flying drones would give Facebook, the world’s No.1 Internet social network, the ability to beam wireless Internet access to consumers in undeveloped parts of the world, according to the technology blog TechCrunch, which first reported the deal late on Monday citing an anonymous source.

The effort would help advance Facebook’s Internet.org effort, which aims to connect billions of people who do not currently have Internet access.

Facebook declined to comment. Titan Aerospace did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Titan is developing a variety of solar-powered “atmospheric satellites” according to the company’s website, with initial commercial operations slated for 2015.

Chuck Schumer! Thanks from many of us who are interested in the railroad reaching from Saratoga to Tahawus

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Yes, US Senator Schumer is helping the railroad reaching from Saratoga to Tahawus.
A tax credit intended to help short-line railroads improve their tracks, signals and other infrastructure is due to expire at the end of the month, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York (some people call him the US Senator from Brooklyn, but he is such a great guy) said he wants to extend it through the end of 2016.

“The health of our small businesses and local economies depends on infrastructure,” he said during a press conference at the Saratoga Springs rail station Monday morning.

The Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which operates passenger and freight trains from the Saratoga Springs station to North Creek, is upgrading a line that runs from North Creek to former mines in Tahawus, where it plans to haul rocks left over from mining operations to customers who would use it for  aggregate used in construction and as a source of rare earth elements used by the technology industry.

The Saratoga & North Creek also would haul garnet from the Barton Mines, reducing the amount of truck traffic on local highways, he said.

Schumer’s measure, the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2013, would extend the tax credit that covers half the cost of infrastructure improvements up to a maximum of $3,500 per mile of track. Expanding the railroad’s freight business, Schumer said, would give it a reliable source of revenue and allow it to create 15 full-time jobs.

The Saratoga & North Creek, a unit of Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, has operated passenger trains for more than two years along the former Delaware & Hudson line to North Creek. This winter it will increase the frequency of its seasonal snow trains, which operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to two round-trips each day.

In the warmer months, it ran multiple trains daily. Railroad spokesman David Simpson said the company would eventually like to connect with Amtrak trains at Rensselaer, as well as at Saratoga Springs, which it does now. One challenge: congestion on the Canadian Pacific rail line from Saratoga Springs south, which has become a busy corridor for the movement of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to the Port of Albany.

Schumer said the railroad and tourism officials also are exploring shuttle service between the Thurman station and Lake George, a popular summertime destination for tourists.

The Saratoga & North Creek, which now carries 50,000 passengers a year, wants to double that figure to 100,000, Schumer said.
My manager is a great fan of Senator Chuck Schumer as well as Senator Kirsten Rutnik Gillibrand (he knows her brother) and said to mention they are both Democrats. Then he wanted me to tell you all about the “Democrats Abroad“.
One of the most active chapters is on the French Riviera where he lives.
They have a “Political Wine” the first Wednesday of each month (except January will be the 8th because of the holiday). Check out the WebSite. It is held at the La Canne à Sucre in Nice.