Drones beyond Amazon’s Drone Delivery System

By Anupum Pant

For a long time I’ve had this idea noted in a file and the hottest news from Amazon, linked to a “revolutionary drone accomplishment”, pushed me into writing it down. Since I cover topics ranging from a gamut of areas in the name of science, I thought, through this article, it would be appropriate for me to enable my readers see beyond an ongoing viral news topic – The unveiling of Amazon’s drone delivery. If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll find the video here. [Video] [details here]

Long before Amazon released its concept of Premier Air, 30 minute delivery, the idea – usage of drones for things you wouldn’t have thought of – has been tested or put to use in several related ways. Some of the reported tests and uses of drones are as follows:

Drones for food delivery: During June 2013, with an idea (read: PR stunt) that would inspire Amazon in the future, Dominos U.K. released a test video of the “DomiCopter”. In the video they showed an unmanned drone picking up a Pizza and delivering it to the customer without having to encounter any traffic in between. Slick! But, that isn’t all.
A year before this, Taco delivering drones as well as a Burrito bomber drones were also seen. All of them had gone viral. Yet, we still have a long way to go to see these delivery systems working legally.

Mosquito killers: A North Florida-based company that supplies drones for military missions, showed a drone that would speed up detection of stagnant water. As a result, helping the authorities cut mosquito breeding grounds in Florida.

Hover Cameras: Golf channel tested a new way of filming golf tournaments using drones this year. Besides that, we’ve seen drones being used for sports photography and journalism too.

Drone Waiters: To promote a new product, YO! Sushi, a London restaurant started using ‘flying trays’ for bringing burgers to their customers. These flying trays were nothing but drones carrying food trays. Also, it increased their speed ‘exponentially’.

Drone Constructors: This project dates back to the year 2010-11. Two architects, Garamazio and Kohler demonstrated aerial construction using unmanned drones. However, they demonstrated building process for a heavily scaled down version of a building using foam bricks. Nevertheless, it was an achievement in the year 2011, when QuadroCopters were just starting to get popular.

Although we have seen a lot of unusual uses for drones being demonstrated all around the globe (many more creative uses remain to be seen), we are yet to see their practical implementation; especially for projects like the Amazon drone delivery, which require drones to move around in a complicated airspace (in terms aviation rules).

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles. Still we won’t see drones moving around legally and freely, any time before 2015.

Everything else you’d want to know about drones: PopSci

10 Fancy Units of Measurement

by Anupum Pant

There exist a few unusual units of measurement which you must have never heard of, or would have never thought of them as units until now. Here is a list of 10 of the many fancy units of measurement.

Note: These units are not official. They’re often used for their humor value or for simplicity’s sake):

1. Car length – It is not a very unusual unit of measurement and is used normally to mention the braking distance of a vehicle. Deriving its length from a typical car’s length, 4 meters is referred as one “car length”. You must have heard one spy advising another spy to keep a 2 car length distance from a vehicle to avoid detection.

2. Nanoacres – A measure of area which is equal to about 4 sq.mm (4.0468564224 sq.mm exactly). It is the area of a single VLSI chip which is square in shape and measures 2 mm on each side. This unit is widely popular as a joke among electronic engineers – who often are known to make quips about VLSI nanoacres having costs in the same range as real acres.

3. Grave – It is a unit that measures mass and equals 1 kilogram or 1000 grams. Grave was set to be the standard unit of mass for the metric system, but it was replaced by kilogram in 1799. [read more about it]

4. Moment – Moment is actually something that was used to measure 90 seconds during the Medieval times. But for modern times, the Hebrew calendar’s definition of moment makes more sense. According to it, a moment is equal to 5/114 of a second or around 0.0438  seconds. [read more]

5. Jiffy – Jiffy is used popularly as an informal time in English. Think of someone saying “I’ll be back in a jiffy”. But, we’ve never thought of it as a unit. Also, every field has a different definition of Jiffy.

  • Early usage – 33.35 picoseconds or the time take by light to travel 1 cm.
  • Electronics – 1/50th or 1/60th of a second, depending on the AC power supply frequency.
  • Computing – Typically anything between 1 millisecond to 10 millisecond. Commonly: 10 ms.
  • Animation – The time interval between each frame of a dot GIF file or 1/100th of a second or 10 ms.
  • Physics/Chemistry – Time taken by light to travel 1 Fermi or 3X10^-24 seconds.

6. Dog Year – Based on a popular myth that dog’s age can be calculated in human years by multiplying it with 7. So, a single Dog year comes to around 52 days (365/7 – Days in a human year divided by 7)

7. A Bible – Used as measure of digital data volumes. It is like measuring the size of a disk in number of movies it can fit which I used in this article. A single Bible in uncompressed 8-bits, has around 4.5 million characters and 150 of them can be stored in a single CD. Hence, a bible can be measured to be approximately equal to 4.67 Megabytes. Similarly,  Encyclopedia Britannica and Library of Congress are used to represent much larger data volumes.

8.  Kardashian – Yes, it is named after the 72 day marriage of  Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries. Of course, it measures 72 days of marriage. So, a 25 year marriage would amount to around 126.7 Kardashians.

9. Wheaton – Used to measure the number of twitter followers relative to the popular celebrity Will Wheaton. This became a standard when he had 0.5 million Twitter followers. Today, Will Wheaton himself has 4.88 Wheatons. I, for instance, with 210 followers, have about 0.00042 Wheatons.

10. Warhol – Derived from the widely used expression coined by Andy Warhol – “15 minutes of fame” – 1 Warhol measures exactly what you’d expect it to – 15 minutes of fame. Yes, it measures the amount of fame.
Consequently, 1 kilowarhol is equal to 15,000 minutes of fame or 10.42 days and 1 megawarhol measures 15 million minutes of fame or about 28.5 years.