The vessel "YARA Birkeland" will be the world's first fully electric and autonomous container ship, with zero emissions. Operation is planned to start in Norway during the latter half of 2018, with fully autonomous journeys from 2020.
"YARA Birkeland" will be the world's most advanced container feeder ship – integrating sensor, control, communications and power into a fully autonomous and 100% electric system.
Named after the company YARA's founder – the scientist and innovator Kristian Birkeland – it will be the world's first fully electric container feeder, reducing NOx and CO2 emissions and improving road safety by removing the need for up to 40,000 truck journeys in populated urban areas.
YARA Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, shifting to remote operations in 2019 and performing fully autonomous operations from 2020. This new zero-emission ship could be a game-changer for global maritime transport, helping to meet the UN sustainability goals for 2030 and beyond. Shipping is currently responsible for 2.5% of global human-made CO2 emissions, but this could rise to 17% by 2050 if no action is taken. There are now over 100,000 transport ships at sea, of which about 6,000 are large container ships.
"As a leading global fertiliser company with a mission to feed the world and protect the planet, investing in this zero emission vessel to transport our crop nutrition solutions fits our strategy well. We are proud to work with KONGSBERG to realise the world's first autonomous, all-electric vessel to enter commercial operation," says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of YARA.
"Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from YARA's Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where we ship products to customers around the world. With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel, we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions," says Holsether.
KONGSBERG is responsible for development and delivery of all key enabling technologies on the YARA Birkeland, including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.
"By moving container transport from land to sea, YARA Birkeland is the start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and international environmental impact goals. The new concept is also a giant step forward towards increased seaborne transportation in general," says Geir Håøy, CEO of KONGSBERG.
As a leading global maritime technology company, KONGSBERG's integrated control and monitoring systems are already capable of facilitating remote and unmanned operations. YARA Birkeland will benefit from competence and new technologies developed across KONGSBERG. In addition to being autonomous and fully electric, it will also be ballast-free, to further reduce its impact on the marine environment. This lack of water discharge will help in preventing the spread of non-native, nuisance, or exotic species of plants, animals, viruses and bacteria, which can often cause extensive ecological and economic damage.
"Developing systems for autonomous operations is a major opening and natural step for KONGSBERG, considering our decades of expertise in the development and integration of advanced sensors, control and communication systems for all areas of ship operations," says Håøy. "YARA Birkeland will set the benchmark for the application of innovative maritime technology for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping."
India has set itself the goal of making every new car in the country electric by 2030, according to an energy minister.
"We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way," explained Piyush Goyal at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi. "We are going to make electric vehicles self-sufficient. The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country."
India's electric car industry will need up to three years of government assistance, Mr Goyal believes, but production of the vehicles would be "driven by demand and not subsidy" after that. Improvements in technology, falling costs of batteries and wider availability of charging stations could achieve this.
"The cost of electric vehicles will start to pay for itself for consumers," he said. "We would love to see the electric vehicle industry run on its own."
India's goal may sound overly ambitious and unrealistic – but electric vehicle sales are growing exponentially worldwide, similar to the rapid trends in solar and wind power that are also being observed. Electric car ownership passed the 1 million mark in 2015. European countries have recently announced similar goals: the Netherlands and Norway, for instance, intend to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2025.
Mr Goyal said the electric car scheme would first target "larger consumer centres, where pollution is at an all-time high", such as Delhi, which has concentrations of particulate matter 13 times the annual limit set by the World Health Organisation.
The latest available figures show that 2.3 million deaths occur in India each year due to air pollution – almost the same as deaths from tobacco use – with 3% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) being lost due to this problem, making it a public health and economic crisis. India recently overtook China in number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution.
The India Gate monument in Delhi. Credit: Steven TDW White.
Lilium Jet, the first zero-emission electric plane capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), has completed a series of rigorous flight tests in the skies above Germany.
A two-seater prototype, as seen in the video below, executed a range of complex manoeuvres, including its signature mid-air transition from hover mode into wing-borne forward flight. Lilium is now developing a larger, five-seater version – designed for on-demand air taxi and ride-sharing services.
Celebrating the landmark moment, Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand said: "Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated manoeuvres with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team. We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point.
"The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing the five-seater production aircraft."
The Lilium Jet is 100% electrically powered, so creates no harmful emissions, making it a potential solution to deteriorating air quality in towns and cities caused by road traffic. It is also the only electric aircraft capable of both VTOL and jet-powered flight, using wings for lift, similar to a conventional plane. Its advanced capabilities mean the Lilium Jet consumes around 90% less energy than drone-style aircraft, allowing it to achieve a range of greater than 300 km (186 miles) with a maximum cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). In flight, the Jet's power consumption per kilometre will be comparable to an electric car.
Take-off and landing requires only a small open space or landing pad on a building, alleviating pressure on congested roads. In the future, Lilium claims that this combination of energy-efficient flight and minimal ground infrastructure will enable passenger flights to be made with pricing comparable to normal car taxis over the same distance. A typical journey by Lilium Jet will be at least 5x faster than by car, with even greater efficiencies in busy cities. For example, a flight from Manhattan to New York's JFK Airport will take around five minutes, compared to 55 minutes driving.
The ability of the Lilium Jet to travel long distances, quickly and at low cost, will also open new opportunities for people to live much further away from their place of work. Lilium describes this new phenomenon as "increasing the radius of living by 5x."
How the Lilium Jet Works
The Lilium Jet is a lightweight aircraft powered by 36 electric jet engines mounted to its wings via 12 moveable flaps. It is unique in combining the benefits of VTOL offered by helicopters and drones, with the speed and range of a jet aircraft. At take-off, the Lilium Jet's flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift.
Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt in to a horizontal position, providing forward thrust. When the wing flaps are horizontal, all of the lift required to keep the Lilium Jet in the air is provided by air passing over the wings – as with a conventional airplane.
Safety is of primary concern with Lilium, and the Jet is designed along the principle of "ultra-redundancy": the aircraft's engines are individually shielded, so the failure of a single unit cannot affect adjacent engines. Similarly, the Lilium Jet's power cells are designed to continue delivering sufficient power for continued flight and a safe landing in the unlikely event that part of the battery configuration fails. Lilium's Flight Envelope Protection System also prevents the pilot from performing manoeuvres that would take the aircraft beyond safe flight parameters.
Lilium's development team brings together more than 40 international world-class engineers and designers. The group shares the vision of a completely new type of individual transportation system. The company's mission statement is "to enable a world where everybody can fly anywhere, anytime."
Hyperloop One, a transport company based in Los Angeles, California, is working to commercialise the Hyperloop concept, for moving passengers and/or cargo at airline speeds at a fraction of the cost of air travel. This week, the company announced that it has completed a tube installation at Las Vegas DevLoop, the world's first full-system test track.
This week, executives from Hyperloop One joined experts and policymakers to reveal details of planned Hyperloop routes in the United States and to initiate a nationwide conversation about the future of American transportation.
Of more than 2,600 participants in the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, 11 teams presented routes, linking 35 cities and covering more than 2,800 miles. They join 24 other teams from around the globe, each vying to be among 12 finalists. Three eventual winners will work closely with Hyperloop One engineering and business teams to explore funding and development.
"Hyperloop One is the only company in the world building an operational commercial Hyperloop system," said Rob Lloyd, chief executive officer of Hyperloop One. "This disruptive technology – conceived, developed and built in the U.S. – will move passengers and cargo faster, cleaner and more efficiently. It will transform transportation as we know it and create a more connected world."
A bird's eye view of a potential Hyperloop station. Credit: Hyperloop One
By year's end, the company will have a team of 500 engineers, fabricators, scientists and other employees devoted to bringing this revolutionary new technology to life. Hyperloop One, said Lloyd, can provide broad benefits across communities and markets, support sustainable manufacturing and supplier chains, ease the strain on existing infrastructure and improve the way millions live and work.
In the Hyperloop system, passengers and cargo are loaded into a pod and accelerated gradually, via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds (620 mph, or 1,000 km/h) for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. This week, the company finalised the tube installation of its 500m (1,640 ft) long "DevLoop", located in a desert outside Las Vegas; this facility serves as an outdoor lab for its proprietary levitation, propulsion, vacuum and control technologies.
Looking south from the newly finished tube installation at DevLoop. Credit: Hyperloop One
"The U.S. has always been a global innovation vanguard – driving advancements in computing, communication and media to rail, automobiles and aeronautics," said Shervin Pishevar, executive chairman. "Now, with Hyperloop One, we are on the brink of the first great breakthrough in transportation technology of the 21st century, eliminating the barriers of time and distance and unlocking vast economic opportunities."
"Hyperloop One is the American Dream, and it's fast becoming an American reality," he added.
Proposed routes that would greatly reduce travel times across some of the country's most heavily trafficked regions include Los Angeles-San Diego, Miami-Orlando and Seattle-Portland. The longest distance proposal, Cheyenne-Houston, would run 1,152 miles across four states, reducing to 1 hour and 45 minutes a journey that currently takes 17 hours by car or truck. Hyperloop One's panel of experts includes Peter Diamandis, Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation. The full list of route proposals being considered is as follows (click to enlarge).
In addition to new details on the U.S. routes, the Washington, D.C. event featured a roundtable of speakers discussing the future of transportation.
"The U.S. is challenged to meet the growing demands on our transportation infrastructure, with congestion costing the economy more than $160 billion per year due to wasted time and fuel," said Tyler Duvall, a partner at McKinsey & Company. "However, new technologies are poised to drive efficiency, increase capacity, and help spur social and economic growth. To seize this opportunity, the approach to infrastructure planning must keep pace by integrating new technologies and taking long-term views of what mobility will look like in the future."
The world’s first "floating city" has moved a step closer to reality after the French Polynesian government signed a historic agreement with the nonprofit Seasteading Institute.
Credit: The Seasteading Institute
The French Polynesian government has signed a historic agreement with nonprofit The Seasteading Institute to cooperate on creating a legal framework to allow for the development of the Floating Island Project. This legislation will give the Floating Island Project its own "special governing framework" creating an "innovative special economic zone."
The Seasteading Institute has announced the formation of a new company, Blue Frontiers, to construct the ocean-based city. The project will help to advance French Polynesia’s "Blue Economy" initiative – providing an opportunity to adapt to rising sea levels, while creating a fresh space for pioneering social and technological innovation.
Jean Christophe Bouissou, Minister of Housing and the government’s official spokesperson, arrived in San Francisco to sign the agreement on behalf of President Edouard Fritch in the company of Silicon Valley luminaries, members of the press, and supporters of The Seasteading Institute.
“The Memorandum of Understanding I’m sure will greatly help and facilitate our future cooperation on this innovative project,” said Fritch, addressing the group from French Polynesia by video call.
“Our seasteading collaboration with French Polynesia was initiated by the Tahitians themselves and will bring jobs, economic growth, and environmental resiliency to the region,” said Randolph Hencken, Executive Director of the Seasteading Institute. “Signing the MOU with French Polynesia is an important first step, and a huge milestone for seasteading.”
Credit: Gabriel Scheare, Luke & Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White (Roark 3D)
In September, President Fritch invited an international delegation from The Seasteading Institute to examine several potential sites near the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Tupai, and Raiatea. The MOU obligates the Institute to conduct an economic analysis to demonstrate the economic benefits for French Polynesia – as well as an environmental assessment, to assure the health of the ocean and seabed. As soon as these studies are complete, French Polynesia will collaborate with The Seasteading Institute to develop a “special governing framework” to construct sustainable floating islands.
“The Seasteading Institute and the government of French Polynesia will draw from the best practices of more than 4000 existing Special Economic Zones around the world to create a ‘Special Economic SeaZone,’” explained Hencken. “The SeaZone will combine the advantages of French Polynesia’s geopolitical location with unique regulatory opportunities, specifically designed to attract investors.”
Seasteading investors will self-fund the initial studies and the construction of the floating islands. The pilot project is expected to cost between US$10 million and US$50 million. Subsequent future versions will include self-sufficient food and water, healthcare, clean energy and other features. They will be interlocking like jigsaw puzzles to facilitate expansion. It is also hoped that protection from devastating storms could be offered by giving each city the ability to be disassembled into separate sections and temporarily moved elsewhere.
“After many long years of work by our staff and global network of advocates, I'm incredibly excited for the chance to work with French Polynesia, which as an archipelago is uniquely suited to seasteading,” said Patri Friedman, Founder and Chairman of The Seasteading Institute’s Board of Directors.
The former Minister of Tourism for French Polynesia, Marc Collins, is enthusiastic about the Institute's vision: “Polynesian culture has a long history of seafaring across the Pacific Ocean that will contribute to this ambitious project. More than most nations, our islands are impacted by rising sea levels, and resilient floating islands could be one tangible solution for us to maintain our populations anchored to their islands. For many Polynesians, leaving our islands is not an option.”
If all goes according to plan, the first floating city will start construction off the island of Tahiti in the Pacific Ocean in 2019. The first residents will number only a few dozen, but there is potential for expanding this to many millions later in the century, as other nations realise the benefits. Each city will float just off-shore of a host country, but could have a substantial degree of political independence.
The Institute says: “Our in-property team is now actively engaged in diplomacy with host nations, making the case that hosting an autonomous seastead city in their territorial waters would generate substantial financial, social and environmental rewards for their citizens.”
Peter Thiel, who co-founded The Seasteading Institute, said in 2008: “Decades from now, those searching back at the beginning of the century will realise that seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the improvement of far more efficient, practical public sector models about the globe. We are at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to alter at an extremely fundamental level.”
Below is a video of "Artisanopolis", one of the design concepts proposed in 2015 by CGI artists at Roark 3D (Gabriel Scheare, Luke and Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White). The final plans will be unveiled later this year. You can follow the progress of the Floating Island Project at twitter.com/Seasteading
Airline operator Qantas will begin offering the first non-stop flights between Europe and Australia using the 787-9 Dreamliner.
Qantas has announced it will operate non-stop flights between London and Perth using the 787-9 Dreamliner. The 9,008 mile (14,498 km) service will be the first regular passenger service to directly link Australia with Europe when it begins in March 2018.
Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, said the history-making route would be a watershed for travel, tourism and trade: "When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops. Now, it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop. This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft. Australians have never had a direct link to Europe before, so the opportunities this opens up are huge. It's great news for travellers because it will make it easier to get to London. It's great news for Western Australia because it will bring jobs and tourism. And it's great news for the nation, because it will bring us closer to one of our biggest trade partners and sources of visitors."
On such a long duration flight, passenger comfort was a key consideration, said Mr Joyce: "When we designed the interior of our 787s, we wanted to make sure passengers would be comfortable on the extended missions the aircraft was capable of. That's why we have features in our Economy seats that other airlines reserve for Premium Economy. Our Business Suite has been nicknamed 'mini First class' by many of our frequent flyers. And we're redesigning our onboard service to help reduce jetlag," he added.
In addition to enhanced cabin and seating design, other comfort factors include better air quality, a lower cabin noise and state-of-the-art technology to help reduce turbulence, providing a smoother flight. Passengers have instant access to thousands of hours of entertainment onboard, along with larger baggage lockers and bigger windows. The windows in the Dreamliner are 65% larger than comparable aircraft windows, allowing passengers to see more of the world.
Thanks to a lighter carbon fibre body, pioneering GEnx engines and other advanced onboard systems, the Dreamliner also uses less fuel – an impressive 20% less than a similarly-sized aircraft.
The direct route will appeal to travellers on the East Coast, as well as West Australians, helping to deliver a tourism boost, said Mr Joyce: "A direct flight makes travelling to Australia a much more attractive proposition to millions of people. We expect many travellers from Europe will start their time in Australia with a visit to Perth before going on to see other parts of the country. Our modelling shows that people from the East Coast – as well as Southern Australia – would fly domestically to Perth to connect to our non-stop London service. Some will take the opportunity to break their journey, whether it's for business meetings in Perth, to holiday or to visit family."
The new flight will operate through Qantas' existing domestic terminals (T3/4), which will be upgraded to accommodate international flights. The airline's current international services from Perth (to Singapore and to Auckland) will also move to this terminal, helping to simplify the journey for thousands of people every year. Qantas will move its operations to an expanded Terminal 1 at Perth Airport by 2025.
Seats on the Perth-London flights will go on sale in April 2017 for the first services in March 2018. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners used on this route will carry 236 passengers across Business, Premium Economy and Economy cabins.