Category Archives: Rants

easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Two Super Easy Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint & Reforest Your Planet

I generally think it’s a bad idea to assume that your government is going to solve the issues of pollution, deforestation, and CO2 production. There’s just a possibility they’ll never do it. That’s why it’s really important that individuals take it upon themselves to be the change they want to see. Continue reading

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Star Struck

I just went outside and looked up at the stars.

And I remembered this extraordinary moment in my life..

I was working on the International Space Station as a structural engineer. I came home one evening and the Space Shuttle was approaching the Space Station. It happened to be passing over my city that evening. I must have known the time because everyone at work must have been talking about it that day.

Sure enough, at the time it was supposed to be passing over (I think it was 8 or 9pm), you could see this tiny little speck of light getting closer to this slightly brighter speck of light. Both specks were traveling across the sky together, roughly at the same rate.

To see something you’re working on flying overhead in orbit is, well, it’s trippy.

It’s funny, I haven’t thought about that moment in years. And even when I did, I didn’t have the same “wow” memory. But tonight I had enough time to myself to really take it all in.

There’s no big conclusion to sum up here. It was just a wild moment in my life I wanted to publish. I guess if there’s any take away – try to slow down once a week, reflect and reset.

Oh yeah, that mission was probably in 2001 or 2002. Nope – had to be 2001. I’ll find out.

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Can Drones Save Yemen? Perhaps DroneTech Can Partner with the UN or Unicef To Save Lives.

I wrote this quickly. I wanted to get the idea out there and polish it up later. It’s about life and death.

Unfortunately, many of the first drones were made for military purposes. Hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into research and development for drone-based military projects. Now that number is in the billions.

Not to save lives. But to kill people.

Think about that. There are billions of dollars available to develop technologies designed to kill humans.

I gotta ask: why can’t we spend billions on technology programs designed to save lives? I’m really scratching my head on that one…

Aren’t we humans awesome? With all our creativity and industrious energy, the first thing we think of is: How can we use this technology to kill people?

There is hope.

There have been some recent developments to use drones to help people in remote places. By asking a question on Twitter, I found out about Zipline (which strangely enough doesn’t link to a website from their Twitter account).

Zipline’s slogan is “Lifesaving deliveries by drone”.

Alright then. Let’s talk!

There’s no better use case for this technology right now than in Yemen.

Tell me that it wouldn’t be a good idea for the UN or UNICEF to team up with tech companies to fly food and water to the worst war-torn regions of the globe.

For example, in Yemen people are cut off from food and water. 50,000 people have died of famine since 2015. Seems like we should do everything in our power to help these people.

My Crazy Idea

Now companies like Zipline have developed drones that can fly large payloads hundreds of miles. For some reason, I thought up with another solution.

I’m thinking 10,000+ solar-powered (personal / toy sized) drones that fly daily from Eritrea to the neediest parts of Yemen.

distance eritrea to sanaa yemen

I used the Phantom 3 drone as my template and run some numbers…

The Phantom 3 can apparently fly 50 mph. That means the trip from Eritrea to Sanaa Yemen is 3.5 hours one way. If the drone leaves at 9 am and drops off supplies by 12:30 pm, it can return by 4 pm. Thanks to the region and latitude, there’s plenty of sunlight for this journey. I suppose the drones could be programmed to land if it’s too cloudly and continue on the next day or when weather permits.

Now the question is: can you make a solar power drone?

Let’s start with power requirements:

This Quora article goes over the power requirements of a Phantom drone.

15.2 volts at 8.1 amps

Power = Amperage X Voltage

Power = 15.2 x 8.1 amps = 123.12 watts.

So can a solar panel power this drone? And how big would it have to be?

A 39.7″ x 26.7″ solar panel can put out 400 watts.

That’s about 1,060 square inches of panel. But we need 31% of that bad boy, so 329 sq inches. So, call it a 19″ x 19″ panel.

what does 19 inches by 19 inches look like

Imagine a 19″ x 19″ solar panel with four rotors coming out of each corner. And cargo bay underneath.

The payload of the Phantom 3 is 2.5 lbs. But that’s the max payload.

With that said, I definitely think food bars would be an easy payload for this type of mission. Water would be more difficult, but not impossible. 8oz bottle of water is 1/2 lb.

So imagine a swarm of small drones carrying small payloads of food and water, doing daily missions, dropping 10,000 mini payloads a day. It seems like a worthy cause, worth the effort and the funding SHOULD be there for it. I know of plenty of lame B2B tech startups that get a few million bucks for software the world really doesn’t need. The world needs this technology.

Potential Issues

  • 19″ x 19″ is kind of big. That’s a lot of drag. I don’t think it’s a blocker, but hopefully, there’s better panel tech out there that can deliver the same power but slightly smaller.
  • One difficult problem with Sanaa is the altitude is 7,000 ft. I’m not sure if that really matters for drones. If anything, the performance will probably increase.
  • Winds could be an issue. The program would need some great meteorologist on board.
  • One issue I was wondering about is – would delivering food and water to Yemen just get in the hands of the “bad people”. My solution is that the drones just continually drop food and water everywhere so it’s like an easter egg hunt. It’s not like the case where warlords can hijack a truck full of aid. The supplies would be constantly dispersed randomly in regions that need it.
  • Seven hours of continuous use may overhead the drone motors. This is an area I’m not familiar with, but I suspect it could be a problem

Other Ideas

  • It’s possible a traditional airplane drone will work better (when it comes to duration issues). Ideally, you can fashion the wing with solar panel in a way where the panel is no longer a “bad drag” creator and actually contributes to lift. I prefer the helicopter style drone because you can more easily pinpoint payload drop off and drone landings.
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problem solving methodology

Thinking in extremes. A problem-solving methodology.

My senior design project professor in college, Haris Catrakis, was fresh meat straight outta Caltech. He had just joined the engineering faculty at UC Irvine.

It’s not that teaching students at UCI is perilous. It’s having to deal with the other faculty members that becomes a problem. At least it was this way in the late 1990s. Continue reading

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