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Combining SailDrone Tech and AI to Police Gulf Region – Pentagon

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Iran’s recent seizure of unmanned US Navy boats shined a light on a pioneering Pentagon program to develop networks of air, surface, and Saildrone technology for patrolling large regions, meshing their surveillance with AI.

The year-old program operates numerous unmanned surface vessels, or USVs, in the waters around the Arabian peninsula, gathering data and images to be beamed back to collection centers in the Gulf.

The program operated without incident until Iranian forces tried to grab three seven-meter Saildrone Explorer USVs in two incidents, on August 29-30 and September 1.

In the first, a ship of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hooked a line to a sail-drone in the Gulf and began towing it away, only releasing it when a US Navy Patrol boat and helicopter sped to the scene.

In the second, an Iranian destroyer picked up two Saildrone in the Red Sea, hoisting them aboard.

Two US Navy destroyers and helicopters quickly descended and persuaded the Iranians to give them up the next day, but only after stripping cameras from them, according to the US military.

The Iranians said the USVs were in international shipping lanes and were picked up “to prevent possible accidents.”

The US Navy said the USVs were operating well outside of shipping lanes and were unarmed.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, called the Iranian actions “flagrant, unwarranted, and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force.”

US forces “will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows,” he added.

One year at sea.

According to Pentagon reports, The drones are operated by the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59, created last year to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into Middle East operations.

Airborne and sail-drones are pretty well developed and proven, but unmanned surface boats are much newer and yet essential for the future, 5th Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins told AFP.

Since starting last year, the US Navy and regional partners have deployed both slow USVs like Sail-drones and battery-powered speedboats like the Mantas T-12.

Equipped with solar panels and sail wings, the Saildrone tech can carry multiple sensors and cameras, and is designed to spend up to a year at sea transmitting data by satellite.

San Francisco-based Saildrone operates around 100 vessels around the world for clients including the Pentagon, major oceanographic institutes, meteorological agencies, and groups studying fisheries and pollution.

“Having circumnavigated Antarctica in 2019 and then having sailed through the eye of a category-four hurricane last year, there really isn’t any maritime environment our drones cannot operate in,” said Saildrone spokeswoman Susan Ryan.

Focus on Iranian activities

In the Gulf, Hawkins would only say that they collect information to “enhance our vigilance of the surrounding seas and strengthen our regional deterrence posture.”

But Iranian activities are likely the main target.

Iran also patrols the region and has accosted and seized foreign commercial vessels and harassed US Navy ships in several tense confrontations in recent years.

The US Navy has sought to prevent Iran from shipping weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels and other groups, and also helps enforce sanctions on Iran.

The key, Hawkins said, is taking the information collected from all sorts of unmanned sources, in the air, on the ground, and on the sea, and making sense of it quickly.

Artificial intelligence helps identify unusual activity, like unnoticed vessels, in the USV data that human observers might miss.

“You need artificial intelligence to pick out what warrants more attention,” he said.

No secret

Hawkins said it was unclear why it was only after a year into the program that the Iranians suddenly decided to try to retrieve some Sail drones.

None of what the US is doing is secret, he noted.

The program was announced last September, and in February the 5th Fleet hosted International Maritime Exercise 2022, which brought together 10 countries and more than 80 USVs to try out in the Gulf.

Even so, the US chose to place Task Force 59 in the tension-filled Gulf instead of another less challenging region, and the activities apparently have Tehran bothered.

The US military says the program is in part about developing tactics and doctrines for operating USVs, including learning how to deal with a country like Iran trying to grab them off the sea.

Right now, the US operates them with manned surface vessels nearby to deal with interference.

“You can’t just go pick up stuff out of the ocean that has a country’s flag on it,” said one US official.

“If it’s the sovereign property of our nation, they have to give it over,” the official said.

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Western Australia outback proves no match for Aussie nuclear know-how

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The Coris360 imaging technology on the road in Western Australia to locate a radioactive source. Credit: ANSTO

A dedicated team of radiation specialists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) are behind the successful detection and rapid retrieval of a missing radioactive source in outback Western Australia.

Working alongside authorities from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), Defense, and the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) as part of a multi-agency response, the team of radiation experts located the minuscule-sized source during a vehicle search using a suite of radiation equipment including ANSTO’s own custom-developed radiation detection and imaging technology.

The source was found two meters from the roadside on the Great Northern Highway near the town of Newman, when ANSTO’s radiation detection equipment—which was mounted in the back of the vehicle—detected the presence of gamma rays while traveling at 70 kilometers per hour.

Western Australia outback proves no match for Aussie nuclear know-how
Coris360 technology mounted in a vehicle. Credit: ANSTO

The portable radiation detection technology was a modified version of ANSTO’s own CORIS360, an Australian innovation by Chief Technology Officer and Principal Scientist of ANSTO’s Detection and Imaging unit, Dr. David Boardman.

The CORIS360 technology produces fast, precise, and high-quality 360-degree images that pinpoint the identity and location of radiation in an area, while minimizing the need for workers to stay within a radiation environment.

Since its launch in 2020, the CORIS360 radiation detection technology has captured the global attention of agencies and organizations that support nuclear operations and national security activities.

ANSTO’s Group Executive for Nuclear Safety, Security, and Stewardship Group, Dr. Miles Apperley commended the rapid recovery of the source by the team of experts from ANSTO’s radiation protection services, radiation services, and detection and imaging units in Lucas Heights, who arrived in Perth on Monday evening and joined the search response on Tuesday morning.

“For the team to find this missing source over a span of 1,400 kilometers and in the formidable conditions of the outback after only being on the ground for two days, is not only a phenomenal feat, but a testament to Australia’s highly sophisticated nuclear capabilities and our people,” Dr. Apperley said.

“Prior to deployment, ANSTO staff performed drive-by test runs of the detection equipment at Lucas Heights using an equivalent radioactive source activity, and evaluated different speeds and terrain conditions to ensure we could confidently detect the missing capsule.

“The sensitivity of the modified CORIS360 technology gave us the confidence it would be found, and this scenario is an incredible exemplar of Australian nuclear innovation which is aiding defense, the mining industry, and supporting nuclear safeguards and security.

“Australia may have a small nuclear program, but we’re a sophisticated nuclear nation and in many ways, we’re world leaders that punch above our weight when it comes to nuclear expertise and stewardship.

“As ANSTO celebrates 70 years of nuclear expertise in Australia this year, this outcome gives us another reason to honor the great talent we have in this country and the capabilities that ANSTO has so proudly held for decades.”

Western Australia outback proves no match for Aussie nuclear know-how
CORIS360 on location scan. Credit: ANSTO

Australian Minister for Industry and Science, Hon Ed Husic MP praised the response efforts of ANSTO and the strong collaborative efforts across the state and Commonwealth.

“It’s fair to say finding a piece of equipment the size of a button in a vast desert was no easy task, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank ANSTO in collaboration with ARPANSA and DFES for their work in locating the capsule,” Minister Husic said.

“ANSTO’s expertise in nuclear technology played an absolute key role in detecting the equipment, having innovated the device which was ultimately used to find the coin-sized capsule on the roadside.”

More information:
For more information about ANSTO’s CORIS360 technology, visit www.ansto.gov.au/products/dete … and-imaging-coris360

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Western Australia outback proves no match for Aussie nuclear know-how (2023, February 3)
retrieved 5 February 2023
from https://techxplore.com/news/2023-02-western-australia-outback-aussie-nuclear.html

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Abandoning wood cook stoves would be great for Africa, if families could afford it

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A child in Madagascar stands before her family’s wood-burning indoor cook stove. Traditional cooking harms human health and the environment. Credit: Charles Nunn, Duke University

Replacing traditional biomass-burning cookstoves across sub-Saharan Africa could save more than 463,000 lives and US $66 billion in health costs annually, according to a new analysis of the most socially optimal cooking technologies in Africa.

But the promise of those outcomes alone may not be enough to hasten the adoption of cleaner alternatives, the researchers warn.

The study, published in the open source journal Nature Sustainability, used a geospatial model to determine the best cooking options by location across the continent, weighing factors such as availability and cost of fuel, time spent gathering fuels and preparing meals, and impacts on health and the environment. In the model, everyone using a traditional cookstove—around 83 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa, comprising nearly 1 billion people—would switch to stoves that delivered more benefits to both households and society.

“From both a social perspective and a private perspective, it would be optimal for most of these households to use cleaner technologies,” says Marc Jeuland, Ph.D., an associate professor of global health and public policy at Duke who led the research. “And so that’s telling you that these polluting technologies are extremely damaging.”

Traditional stoves typically burn wood or other solid fuels, generating indoor air pollution and climate-altering emissions. Cooking regularly on such stoves can cause respiratory disease, as well as contribute to global warming and deforestation. Stoves fueled by electricity or even liquid petroleum gas (LPG) mitigate those risks while also offering efficiencies in time and labor. Many African households using traditional stoves spend more than an hour a day gathering fuel to prepare meals, Jeuland notes.

Despite those advantages, adoption of cleaner alternatives has been sluggish in Africa, which has lagged other regions in the transition away from polluting cooking technologies. In fact, according to the World Bank’s 2022 Energy Progress Report, the number of people using biomass-burning cookstoves actually increased by 50 percent between 2000 and 2020, as population growth outpaced conversion.

Jeuland and colleagues describe the situation as a “severe market failure” that calls for new policies and incentives to stimulate growth of cleaner technologies.

“Just because something may be beneficial from a social or private perspective doesn’t necessarily mean it’s affordable,” Jeuland says. The up-front cost of purchasing a new stove and ongoing fuel costs “are going to continue to be a barrier for many households in sub-Saharan Africa unless you really reduce those costs through subsidies of some form.”

Abandoning wood cook stoves would be great for Africa, if families could afford it
A small home in Madagascar containing a typical wood-fired cooking area. Indoor air quality and deforestation are huge consequences of traditional cooking. Credit: Charles Nunn, Duke University

Jeuland favors subsidies that would reduce the cost of conversion for most families to “close to zero.” He also believes wealthy nations should help foot the bill, since a wide-scale shift to cleaner cooking technologies would lessen a climate problem that those countries bear the most responsibility for creating.

“If rural Africans continue to harvest firewood for cooking, the contribution to climate change is pretty minimal. But because those damages are accumulating, the rich world should be paying to avoid them,” Jeuland says.

But affordability is not the only obstacle. Many parts of Africa do not have reliable electricity or infrastructure to deliver gas for LPG stoves, Jeuland says. The researchers’ model, designed by a team of energy systems engineers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, accounted for regional infrastructure differences, picking the technology best suited for each location’s unique circumstances.

In the model selecting for the highest net benefits, about two-thirds of households across sub-Saharan Africa would be best off using LPG stoves, with another 30 percent, mostly in urban areas where grid power is available, using electric. Smaller populations in the poorest and most remote locations would use biogas or improved biomass stoves, which burn more cleanly than traditional cookstoves. Even when factoring only benefits to the household, the model suggests eight in ten people in sub-Saharan Africa should switch to cleaner technologies.

The results can help governments and nonprofits target their efforts to encourage conversion, Jeuland says. Doing more to inform people about the potential benefits of switching and developing technologies that are well-suited to local cultures and customs will also be critical, he adds.

But one other area Jeuland would like to explore is how to influence who is at the table when household cooking preferences are discussed. In traditional societies where women and children are exerting most of the cooking labor, men still often make most of the financial decisions.

“Women tend to not have as much bargaining power, and their preferences are down-weighted in these households,” Jeuland says. “And so we need to be thinking about how to empower women in these decisions.”

More information:
Babak Khavari et al, A geospatial approach to understanding clean cooking challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, Nature Sustainability (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-01039-8

Provided by
Duke University


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Abandoning wood cook stoves would be great for Africa, if families could afford it (2023, February 3)
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Industry and community must work together for a hydrogen future, say researchers

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Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Investment in the hydrogen economy is accelerating at unprecedented rates, but a large misalignment between industry and community is holding Australia back from effective adoption.

While the industry assumes that the population is concerned about the safety of hydrogen, communities are driven by their personal future and greenhouse gas concerns, according to new research by Swinburne University of Technology’s Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2).

The wider public do not generally have a detailed understanding about the technical information associated with hydrogen, but this is not impacting public trust in those working with hydrogen.

In fact, there is generally low levels of concern that incidents such as the Hindenburg disaster would be repeated. Instead, climate change, the environment, and future generations are most important as people hope to reduce the impact of slow renewable energy adoption.

The study offers promising solutions, highlighting how communities are under-utilized and should be treated as valuable resources, rather than objects to be managed. Critical suggestions such as collaborative frameworks and fostering an integrated and empathetic relationship between stakeholders can enable innovative and collaborative hydrogen energy developments to create a more sustainable future.

Victorian Hydrogen Hub Social License Adjunct Research Fellow Dr. Kim Beasy says, “We’ve found that often, community members wanted to understand why hydrogen was a good idea and how it contributes towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Industry seemed to jump straight to technicalities of the technology such as safety in their perceptions of what the community want to know about. Clearly, we need to better understand how industry and community can work productively together to ensure that the renewable energy sector continues to grow.”

“If industry stakeholders can see themselves as community members too, this could go some way toward reducing the ‘us against them’ situation that often evolves during development projects. I hope that this research helps the way that stakeholders think about hydrogen differently and shows them that this matters.”

The paper is published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

More information:
Kim Beasy et al, Industry perceptions and community perspectives on advancing a hydrogen economy in Australia, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2022.11.230

Citation:
Industry and community must work together for a hydrogen future, say researchers (2023, February 3)
retrieved 5 February 2023
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UK mega-lab generates weather to test homes of future

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Simulated snow covers a car and the walls of one of two houses built in a lab to develop future heating solutions that will use less energy and help meet climate goals.

The thermometer sinks below zero as a blizzard of fine snow descends on two houses freshly built inside a massive laboratory in northern England.

Despite the icy conditions, the two energy-efficient homes remain cozy and warm due to their use of cutting-edge heating and insulation technology.

Welcome to Energy House 2.0—a science experiment designed to help the world’s housebuilders slash carbon emissions, save energy and tackle climate change.

The project, based in a laboratory resembling a giant warehouse on Salford University campus near the center of Manchester, opened last month.

Rain, wind, sunshine and snow can be recreated in temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Celsius to -20C, operated from a control center.

Replicating weather

“What we’ve tried to achieve here is to be able to replicate the weather conditions that would be experienced around 95 percent of the populated Earth,” Professor Will Swan, head of energy house laboratories at the university, told AFP.

The facility, comprising two chambers that can experience different weather at the same time, will test types of housing from all over the world “to understand how we deliver their net-zero and energy-efficient homes”, he added.

Inside the massive warehouse-style lab, scientists can recreate rain, wind, sunshine, or snow
Inside the massive warehouse-style lab, scientists can recreate rain, wind, sunshine, or snow.

The two houses, which are quintessentially British and constructed by firms with UK operations, will remain in place for a few years.

Other builders will then be able to rent space in the lab to put their own properties under the spotlight.

The project’s first house was built by UK property firm Barratt Developments and French materials giant Saint-Gobain.

It is clad with decorative bricks over a frame of wood panels and insulation, with solar panels on the roof.

Scientists are examining the efficiency of several different types of heating systems, including air-source heat pumps.

In the living room, a hot-water circuit is located along the bottom of the walls, while further heat is provided via infra-red technology in the molding and from a wall panel.

Mirrors also act as infra-red radiators while numerous sensors monitor which rooms are in use.

The lab can test heating technologies that could significantly reduce energy bills
The lab can test heating technologies that could significantly reduce energy bills.

Residents will be able to manage the technology via one single control system similar to Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa interface.

Builders estimate the cutting-edge tech will mean that the energy bill will be just one quarter of what the average UK home currently pays, a boon to customers reeling from sky-high energy prices.

It will also make an important contribution to Britain’s efforts to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 to combat climate change.

A parliamentary report found that, in 2019, 17 percent of heating emissions from buildings came from homes—making their contribution similar to all the petrol and diesel cars driving on Britain’s roads.

Environmental campaigners have long called on the UK government to increase energy efficiency and insulation support for existing homes across Britain.

‘Alexa of home energy’

“One of the key technologies that we’re trying on this house is almost like a building management system for residential buildings,” said Tom Cox, UK technical director at Saint-Gobain.

UK mega-lab generates weather to test homes of future
Scientists can test a year’s worth of weather conditions in a week.

“It’s almost like the Alexa of the home energy system—and that can be automated as much as the occupant wants.”

And now with their mega-laboratory, scientists and companies no longer have to wait for extreme swings in the weather.

“We can test a year’s worth of weather conditions in a week,” added Cox.

The “ultimate goal is to create that environment which is comfortable and cost effective and commercially viable to deliver”, added Cox.

“At the same time (we are) addressing the sustainability issues that we have in construction.”

© 2023 AFP

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UK mega-lab generates weather to test homes of future (2023, February 5)
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Tesla hikes price of Model Y after US alters tax credit rule

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A Tesla Model Y Long Range is displayed on Feb. 24, 2021, at the Tesla Gallery in Troy, Mich. Tesla has raised prices on its Model Y in the U.S., apparently due to rising demand and changes in U.S. government rules that make more versions of the small SUV eligible for tax credits. Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File

Tesla has raised prices on its Model Y in the U.S., apparently due to rising demand and changes in U.S. government rules that make more versions of the small SUV eligible for tax credits.

The Austin, Texas, electric vehicle company bumped up the price of the Model Y Long Range version by about 2% to $54,990 and the Performance version by about 2.7% to $57,990, according to its website. The prices exclude shipping and an order fee.

The moves, made Friday, come three weeks after Tesla cut prices nearly 20% on some versions of the Model Y, the company’s top-selling vehicle. The price cuts were made to boost sagging demand, and also to make more versions of the Model Y eligible for the $7,500 electric-vehicle tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. The full tax credits will be available at least into March.

On Friday, The Treasury Department revised vehicle classification definitions to make more EVs—including SUVs made by Tesla, Ford and General Motors—eligible the full $7,500.

The change came after lobbying by automakers that had pressed the Biden administration to change vehicle definitions to allow higher priced vehicles to qualify for a maximum credit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with top aides to President Joe Biden last week to discuss the EV industry and the broader goals of electrification.

Under the sweeping law approved last summer, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans with a sticker price up to $80,000 qualify for EV tax credits, while new electric cars, sedans and wagons can only be priced up to $55,000. The rule had disqualified some higher-priced SUVs, such as GM’s Cadillac Lyriq and some versions of the Model Y, prompting complaints from Tesla and other automakers.

The January price cuts apparently worked. On Tesla’s earnings conference call last week, CEO Elon Musk said that so far in January the company had seen the strongest number of orders year-to-date in company history. He also said the company had raised the Model Y price “a little bit in response to that.”

After Tesla’s price cuts, Ford responded by reducing the price of its Mustang Mach-E, in part to qualify for the tax credit and also to spur buyer interest. But crosstown rival General Motors said it had no plans to cut EV prices.

The EV tax credits are among a host of changes enacted in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress approved in August with only Democratic votes. The law is designed to spur EV sales as part of a broader effort to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

But a complex web of requirements, including where vehicles and batteries must be manufactured to qualify, has cast doubt on whether buyers can receive the full $7,500 credit.

The Treasury Department said Friday that it hopes to make it easier for consumers to know which vehicles qualify for the credit. Under the revised rule, vehicle classifications will be determined by a consumer-facing fuel economy labeling standard, rather than a more complicated formula set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Treasury said.

A message was left Saturday seeking comment from Tesla on the price increases. The increases were reported Friday night by Bloomberg News.

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull

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The new RB19 F1 car is unveiled during an event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Formula One’s booming popularity in the United States has lured another American brand to the series as Ford said Friday it would return to the globe-trotting series as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing.

The partnership begins with immediate technical support this season, but Ford engines in 2026 when F1 adopts new hybrid regulations that lured Ford back after a 24-year absence.

Red Bull powertrains and Ford will partner on the development of a hybrid power unit that will supply engines to both Red Bull and AlphaTauri when new F1 regulations begin in 2026. The partnership—which is for at least eight years—was announced in New York as Red Bull unveiled the car design it will use in 2023. Red Bull won the constructors title last season, and Max Verstappen is the two-time defending world champion.

“Red Bull is committed to winning and they’ve demonstrated that they are capable of winning,” Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, told The Associated Press. “We want to be in motorsports for the technology and for the marketing, but we want to do it winning and with the right partner. They’re committed to that, they have a winning culture.”

Ford dominated F1 in the late 1960s and 1970s as an engine manufacturer with Cosworth and the American automaker is the third most successful engine maker in F1 history with 10 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ championships. Ford won 176 races and owned and ran the Jaguar F1 team until 2004 when Jaguar was sold and became Red Bull Racing.

Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
The new RB19 F1 car is unveiled during an event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Ford was lured back to F1, where it competed for 38 years until it pulled out in 2004, by F1′s focus on sustainable racing and explosion in popularity throughout North America.

“To have the ability to draw on Ford’s experience, EV knowledge and depth of resource is tremendously exciting,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “From the first moment we met and spoke, it was clear there was a natural synergy between the two companies. an easy deal to put together because the desire was there from both sides.”

Ford is the first American engine supplier to commit to F1 and its impending regulations as the series is set to race five times this year in North America, with three of those races in the United States. General Motors has announced a partnership with Andretti Global to be its engine supplier if Andretti gets an F1 team.

Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
The new RB19 F1 car is unveiled during an event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

“The numbers globally are enormous for Formula One,” Rushbrook told The AP. “Especially in the United States, where the growth and diversity of the fans is enormous. That’s important for us. We don’t want to just race and learn technology. We need to do that. We must do that. But we also must be able to connect with fans.

“With Red Bull and AlphaTauri, that’s exactly what we will be able to do.”

Ford chairman Jim Farley and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali appeared on Fox early Friday to announce Ford’s return and discuss the push toward electric technology. The partnership with Red Bull was not announced until Red Bull’s launch an hour later.

“Ford is a global brand with an incredible heritage in racing and the automotive world and they see the huge value that our platform provides with over half a billion fans around the world,” Domenicali said. “Our commitment to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030 and to introduce sustainable fuels in the F1 cars from 2026 is also an important reason for their decision to enter F1.

Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
Christian Horner, team principal of the Red Bull Formula One team, left, talks with Ford CEO Jim Farley during an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

“We believe that our sport provides the opportunity and reach unlike any other and we cannot wait for the Ford logo to be racing round F1′s iconic circuits from 2026.”

And Mohammed Ben Sulayem, head of F1 ruling body FIA, said Ford’s return to the series is validation of the 2026 engine rules.

“There are few manufacturers who have such a celebrated motorsport history as Ford, so to see them coming back to the FIA Formula 1 world championship is excellent news,” Sulayem said. “It further underlines the success of the 2026 Power Unit Regulations that have at their heart a commitment to both sustainability and spectacle, and of course having more interest from the United States is important for the continued growth of the world’s top motorsport category.”

The F1 2026 rule changes call for the current twin-turbo V6 engines to run on sustainable fuel and be fitted with hybrid components.

Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
Christian Horner, team principal of the Red Bull Formula One team, left, talks while Ford CEO Jim Farley, right, listens during an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Red Bull will continue to race with unbranded Honda power units until 2026. Honda withdrew from F1 at the end of the 2021 season and Red Bull used its own-badged engines to win both championships in 2022. Honda still owns the intellectual property of the engines and agreed to maintain and support the powerplants until 2026.

Porsche was set to replace Honda with Red Bull and when that deal collapsed, Ford jumped in. Ford will begin with immediate technical assistance and then supply Ford engines when the new regulations begin.

Ford has split itself into two divisions, one to focus solely on electric vehicles and the other to handle internal combustion engines. Last year Ford laid off about 3,000 white-collar workers to help fund the multi-billion dollar transition to EVs. The company is acquiring battery minerals and setting up partnerships to build EV batteries.

  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    Oracle Red Bull Racing drivers Sergio Perez, left, Max Verstappen, center, and Daniel Ricciardo participate in an event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    Ford CEO Jim Farley, left, and Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen participate in an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    Ford CEO Jim Farley speaks during an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    Christian Horner, team principal of the Red Bull Formula One team participates in an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    The new RB19 F1 car is unveiled during an event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen participates in an Oracle Red Bull Racing event in New York, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
  • Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull
    In this Oct. 20, 2019 file photograph, a Ford logo is displayed at a Ford dealership in Littleton, Colo. Ford will return to Formula One as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing in a partnership announced Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, that begins with immediate technical support this season and engines in 2026. Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

It has announced three new battery factories in Kentucky and Tennessee. Ford expects to be able to produce electric vehicles at a rate of 600,000 per year by late this year, and hit a manufacturing rate of over 2 million per year by the end of 2026.

“This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motorsports story that began when my great-grandfather won a race that helped launch our company,” said Bill Ford, executive chair. “Ford, alongside world champions, Oracle Red Bull Racing, is returning to the pinnacle of the sport, bringing Ford’s long tradition of innovation, sustainability and electrification to one of the world’s most visible stages.”

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Google, Apple, Amazon give investors reason to fret

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In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo the logo for Alphabet appears on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York. Alphabet Inc. reports financial earnings on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

Wall Street had its eyes Friday on big tech after some of the biggest companies in the world posted lackluster quarterly financial performances.

That included Apple Inc. The company posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season.

Amazon reported worse-than-expected fourth-quarter profits, but its revenue beat expectations boosted by sales in its cloud-computing unit AWS, which is also seeing a slow-down in growth.

Google’s parent company Alphabet posted a lower profit and a small revenue increase for last year’s fourth quarter, as a decline in online ad spending and competition from rivals weigh on the search giant. While overall revenue grew, advertising revenue fell by nearly 4% and revenue at YouTube declined 8% year-over-year.

Amazon ended Friday down 8.4% and Alphabet lost 2.8%. Apple bounced back, finishing the day up 2.4%.

  • Google, Apple, Amazon give investors reason to fret
    The Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center is shown in Romulus, Mich., April 1, 2020. Amazon reports financial earnings on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
  • Google, Apple, Amazon give investors reason to fret
    This Wednesday, July 24, 2019 photo shows an Apple Store in Chicago is seen. Apple reports financial earnings on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File

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Google, Apple, Amazon give investors reason to fret (2023, February 3)
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Piloting drones reliably with mobile communication technology

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Wingcopter in Malawi. Credit: Falco Seliger

Drones are operating increasingly in areas out of sight of the person controlling them. However, conventional remote controls have a limited range, which makes them unsuitable for these flights. On the other hand, simple mobile network-based systems have so far been unable to guarantee a reliable connection when mobile network loads are high or where there is a lack of network coverage. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI have joined forces with partners in the SUCOM project to develop a new mobile network system that can be used to control drones even over long distances and over difficult terrain.

Autonomous drones that communicate via mobile networks often do not have a stable connection. A lack of network coverage is one explanation for outages. Experts also suspect that drones operating in high altitudes can access too many cell towers at the same time and keep switching between network cells, which can lead to disconnection. Researchers at Fraunhofer HHI, on the other hand, found that the communication protocols that drones use and that regulate the flow of data between the drone and the controller pose problems. If they are not robust enough for fluctuating data rates, some data packets arrive more slowly, and some are lost altogether.

Fraunhofer HHI researchers therefore joined forces with Wingcopter, the Hessian drone manufacturer, Emqopter GmbH and CiS GmbH to develop new communication protocols that are insensitive to jerky data streams. The drone stays connected, even if the data rate fluctuates. Safety-critical information required for the creation of aerial photographs, such as position, altitude, flight direction, speed and other data, can be transmitted without interruption—a key prerequisite for the high safety requirements in aviation.

Highest level of reliability

“For comparison, we equipped a drone with a commercially available LTE system and with our SUCOM mobile network module, which has the new communication protocols,” says Tom Piechotta, a scientist at Fraunhofer HHI. “While the connection that used the conventional module kept dropping out, the SUCOM module provided a stable connection. Thanks to our new protocols, the connection is so stable that there are no interruptions.” For the researcher, this is a clear indication that disruptions in drones are not solely caused by a lack of network coverage.

The SUCOM mobile network module can also be installed in drones that are already in use: In Malawi, for example, drones equipped with the new module deliver medicines, blood supplies and other vital materials to the population during the rainy season, covering distances of up to 40 kilometers. They take off from four airfields, each of which has a “remote pilot” who enters the current route into the system and defines the waypoints that will guide the drone. One click is all it takes to send the flight plan to the drone.

The data needed to make this happen is sent to a server in Cape Town, from where it is transmitted to the SUCOM module and then on to the flight controller on the drone. While in transit, the drone is monitored continuously by the remote pilot in real time. The drone is also equipped with satellite technology, which can be used if the DSL connection fails. The drones can also be operated via a smartphone and VPN connection, if needed.

From Malawi to Berlin in 170 milliseconds

To ensure the rapid transfer of data between the drone and the server in Cape Town, customizations were made to the server hardware and software. The connection is now so fast that the drones in Malawi are able to communicate with Fraunhofer HHI back in Germany in real time. It only takes 170 milliseconds for a data packet to make its way from the drone to Berlin via the server in Cape Town over a mobile communication network.

The SUCOM system could also provide better coverage for remote locations in Germany. To demonstrate this, the project team flew over a large forest area in northern Brandenburg, one of the largest network dead spots in Germany with a diameter of 14 kilometers. The flight was a success. Thanks to the SUCOM module, the drones did not lose connection at any point during the flight.

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Spain court rules against Amazon over freelance drivers

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Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

A Spanish court has ruled that over 2,000 people who used their own vehicles to deliver packages for Amazon as self-employed freelancers should have been hired by the firm as formal employees.

The Madrid labor court said in Thursday’s ruling that these workers were “false freelancers” who should have been tied to the US firm with work contracts.

It also ordered the online shopping giant to pay social security contributions for the 2,166 people it hired under the guise of freelancers, according to a copy of the ruling seen Friday by AFP.

The court did not say how much the measure would cost but Spanish trade union UGT, which filed the complaint against Amazon, put the price tag at “several million” euros.

The union said this is the first time a court has ruled against the company’s Amazon Flex service, which works like ride-hailing service Uber.

Drivers use an app to sign up for shifts to pick up packages at warehouses and deliver them to Amazon customers’ doors.

Amazon Flex ceased operating in Spain in 2021 just before the country passed a law requiring delivery riders to be recognized as employees instead of self-employed contractors.

UGT said it would “continue to fight so that the rights of workers who provide services on digital platforms are respected” and to avoid “situations of labor exploitation”.

Amazon had argued it only acts as an intermediary who connects retailers and distributor —a claim rejected by the court.

It said in its ruling that Amazon used an app to direct and coordinate the drivers who “lacked their own autonomous business organization”.

Amazon said it disagreed with the court‘s rationale and would appeal the ruling.

© 2023 AFP

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Activision to pay $35 mn to settle charges from US securities regulator

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Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Videogame giant Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $35 million to settle charges from a US securities regulator over its disclosure policies on workplace harassment complaints, regulators said Friday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) determined that between 2018 and 2021, Activision lacked procedures “to collect and analyze employee complaints of workplace misconduct,” the agency said in a news release.

Also, separation agreements between ex-employees and the maker of “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush” flouted an SEC whistleblower protection rule, by requiring notification to the company if they received a request for information from commission staff.

Activision’s failures “left it without the means to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors,” said Jason Burt, head of the SEC’s Denver office.

An Activision spokesperson said the company was “pleased” to resolve the matter.

“We have enhanced our disclosure processes with regard to workplace reporting and updated our separation contract language,” the spokesperson added. “Activision Blizzard is confident in its workplace disclosures.”

The company’s workplace policies came under scrutiny in the summer of 2021 following employee protests and a California state lawsuit alleging it enabled toxic workplace conditions and sexual harassment against women.

In September 2021, the company established an $18 million fund to settle claims alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination in an agreement with a different federal agency, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In January 2022, Microsoft announced a $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but the deal has been challenged by US regulators over concerns that it would stifle competition.

© 2023 AFP

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Activision to pay $35 mn to settle charges from US securities regulator (2023, February 3)
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