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Spike Aero Tests Supersonic Jet Design

It will fly from NYC to LA in three hours. Also, Raytheon's new laser weapon, and smartwatches read your muscles and tendons.

Smarter Devices May Use Ultrasound Sensors

You may soon be able to control your smartwatches with simpler, more intuitive hand gestures. New work out of the University of Bristol uses ultrasound imaging to make it easier to manipulate connected devices with simple hand gestures. The research team is using ultrasonic imaging, which is used predominantly in the medical industry, to capture and identify muscle and tendon movements. 

Using image processing algorithms and machine learning, the team is able to very accurately classify discrete gestures and continuous angles. For example, if you had a smartwatch connected to your personal internet-of-things (IoT) network, you could program a specific gesture to adjust the smart lamps in your home. 

Right now, it simply isn't practical to wear a trend-setting ultrasonic imaging sensor. However, with the growing popularity of smartwatches, the sensors could soon find a way onto the backs of every smartwatch.

As the sensor and smartwatch technology evolves, this research could also provide a roadmap to more simple swiping when you’re removing spam from your inbox, responding to messages, or even learning the guitar. That’s right, in one particular example, the researchers demonstrate how the sensor could determine if you were holding a guitar's strings with the right amount of pressure or at the correct angle.

Raytheon’s New Laser Shoots Down Drones

Another week, another drone-killing laser cannon. We recently watched Lockheed's 30-kilowatt laser weapon, ATHENA, take down five UAVs with it's extremely powerful laser. Yesterday, Raytheon rolled out a little competition at the Association of the United States Army Exposition in Washington, DC.

According to a report from Wired, Raytheon's Multi-spectral Targeting System (MTS) can fire up to 30 shots over a four-hour period on a single charge. The MTS can track threats using a combination of infrared and optical sensors, and it's programmed to track drones that a commonly used by terrorists, like small 20-pound drones up to 55-pound drones.

Similar systems have already been used by helicopters, but this new setup is mounted to a dune buggy, specifically a Polaris MRZR, which could provide protection in forward-operating bases.

The reason these new lasers are so in favor is cost, as a pulse of energy is much more cost effective than shooting drones down with traditional artillery.

Spike Tests Supersonic Jet Design

Spike Aerospace wants to build the world's first quiet supersonic jet, a jet that can fly from New York City to Los Angeles in three hours with a low sonic boom. According to the company, it will travel at Mach 1.6, that is 1,227.63 mph. Such speeds a possible now, but the flights create incredibly loud sonic booms. Spike is hoping to put an end to that racket.

The Boston-based company started working on a prototype in Summer 2016. Last Saturday it came one step closer to becoming a reality. The company had its first successful test flight of the subsonic subscale SX-1.2 demonstrator aircraft. 

The unmanned prototype is a scaled-down version of Spike's 22-passenger S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet. According to the company, the seven short test flights validated the jet's aerodynamic design and flight controls. The team was able to gather significantly more data than traditional wind tunnel tests performed in artificial environments.

The company has already begun work on the SX-1.3 as it works towards flying the first S-512 by 2021.

This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey. 

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