When Eugene-based tech entrepreneur Jim Cupples came home from a National Wildlife Federation conference in Washington, D.C., he’d already turned his mind to solving a problem presented there: Is there a way blockchain technology can further the use of sustainable agriculture practices?
Yes, Cupples said, there is. And it involves drones.
He’s calling it AgCheck, and Cupples is relying on local university students to build it.
“It’s really the connection between two different technologies, one of them being drone images and the other one being blockchain technology,” said Cupples, a recent devotee of agriculture technology. “It helps up the credibility of what farmers say they’re doing regarding regenerative farming.”
Blockchain is an open list of records that’s protected from modification, a technology that has evolved from its origins as a ledger for cryptocurrencies. Cupples said he believes a database of farm photos on a blockchain will help suppliers and consumers verify that farmers are living up to practices they preach.
There’s currently only a limited ability to assure sustainable farming practices are being followed as advertised.
National Wildlife Federation Policy Specialist David DeGennaro said much of the sustainable agriculture market exists in “the Wild West of labeling,” leaving consumers to make their best guesses about what they’re buying because there’s no government agency overseeing that kind of branding.
“For consumers to be confident that the products they’re purchasing have a certain sustainability footprint, there has to be some accountability there. One of the weaknesses for many of the sustainability initiatives that exist is that they’re self reported by the producers,” DeGennaro said.
That’s why a Lane County Community College drone recently flew patterns above Moondog’s Farm in Marcola.
Cupples recruited LCC Chief Flight Instructor Sean Parrish and his drone pilot class to participate in the first step of building the AgCheck prototype. Earlier this month, the class programed their drones to map Moondog’s Farm with aerial photographs and document the farmer’s planting practices.
Cupples likewise brought in two Oregon State University engineering students to use those photos in building the AgCheck blockchain prototype.
“What I found instructive for the students was the fact that we’re combining the technology they know very well, drones, with the blockchain,” Parrish said. “These are developing technologies and will be something they’ll deal with in the future. It has a lot of forward-looking applications.”
The drone snapped away as it flew over the farm, providing topographical mapping for owners Dan Schuler and Shelley Bowerman, which would help them better plan for their farm’s future. But because Cupples has been documenting local agriculture practices for his other project, a database called All The Farms, he knew Moondog’s Farm would present an opportunity to provide the first blocks in the blockchain he’s hoping AgCheck will offer.
“There’s a lot of things you can do in regenerative agriculture, but there’s a few that are really visual,” Cupples said. “They’re really the big three in regenerative agriculture: No till or reduce till farming; the second one would be using cover crops; and then the third one would be crop rotation.”
The Dec. 6 Moondog’s Farm flight was the first, and so far only, opportunity for the AgCheck team to collect images of farming practices. But OSU engineering student Aaron Galati and Josh Fisher are working on a server and website for AgCheck and how to communicate with the blockchain.
“We can verify the pictures are from where they say they were and at what time they were taken. We can take the data from the images and push that onto the blockchain system, which is a public ledger, and that data would be unchangeable,” Galati said. “It’s 100% verifiable.”
AgCheck will serve as the engineering program capstone project for Galati and Fisher, which means the prototype must be finished by next spring. Galati says he envisions a user-friendly website that helps people sort farms by their practices, empowering them to make better purchasing decisions.
But Cupples sees other future applications: supporting organizations that offer farm grants for sustainable practices, identifying farms that use appropriate vegetation for thriving bee hives or providing a resource for grocers who want to assure they only purchase from earth-friendly farms.
“The knowledge that we’ve gained in understanding how to move drone images directly to blockchain is something that has wide applications,” Cupples said. “You could have drones capturing images of boats and prove they were at this time and place and that they actually did capture these fish in a sustainable way. I think there’s a ton of other ways that you can use drone-to-blockchain technology.”
“Especially with a lot of supply chain companies who are making these really exciting commitments toward sustainability, such as certain amounts of cover crops or soil health practices, there’s issues that need to be figured out how to verify through the supply chain what’s actually happening on the ground and whether those practices are actually being implemented,” said National Wildlife Federation Agriculture Policy Director Aviva Glaser.
AgCheck is the first solution the wildlife federation’s DeGennaro said he’s heard of since the Washington, D.C., conference, but he said he sees one major flaw.
“The idea of flying drones over people’s farms is probably not going to go over very well in farm country,” DeGennaro said. “Farmers are fiercely protective of their privacy and their data and what they do on their land. I don’t think that’s something that we would be advocating necessarily.”
Follow Adam Duvernay on Twitter @DuvernayOR or email [email protected].
(c)2019 The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.)
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Uber and Hyundai Are Planning to Offer Flying Taxi Rides by 2023
At CES 2020, Uber and Hyundai showed off a full-size mock-up of a flying taxi that both companies hope will be ferrying you above congested city streets by 2023.
The electric plane, called Uberdai, will carry a pilot and three passengers up to 60 miles, at speeds of up to 180mph, slashing journey times and helping get cars off the road. Eventually the craft will be automated, but for now the two companies are focusing on manned craft.
The flying taxi market is starting to get pretty lively. Last year, Boeing began test flights to test the safety of Boeing. Next, an electric aircraft with passenger pods designed to travel up to 50 miles, and Bell Helicopter unveiled the Bell Nexus, which the company hopes will “redefine air travel”.
The difference with Hyundai’s plane is its partnership with Uber, which is a name synonymous with ride-sharing throughout much of the world, and already has the infrastructure in place to offer flights as an option alongside trips by car, bike, scooter, helicopter and even submarine.
Ready for lift-off?
Uber has been aiming for the skies for several years now, teaming up with various aerospace companies to build a fleet of mini aircraft. At the Uber Elevate Summit in June 2019, it revealed a concept created in collaboration with Jaunt Air Mobility – a business that’s aiming to create a fully autonomous aircraft by the end of 2029.
This design was a cross between a helicopter and a plane, with a rotor to get it off the ground, and wings for gliding once airborne to conserve power.
“It’s called the compound aircraft, and what it’s doing is really trying to get the best of both worlds of hover and high-speed efficient flight,” Uber’s head of engineering Mark Moore said at the event.
Uber intends to launch its first swarm of flying cars in the US and Australia in 2023, with schemes planned for Dallas, Las Vegas and Melbourne. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more over the coming months.
Delta Crashes… Air Line Nosediving?
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting refugee access for 120 days. He also halted travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. As a result, protesters mobbed airports around the country, causing chaos for travelers. And while those actions certainly took a toll on airport congestion, there appears to be another culprit equally involved; Delta Air Lines. What’s going on at Delta? Should shareholders be worried?
What Exactly Happened?
Airline travelers had a frustrating weekend thanks to protests. Even taxi drivers got involved, as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance temporarily paused service to JFK Airport in a show of support to those affected by Trump’s executive order immigration ban, which many see as a ban on Muslims. But while everyone focuses solely on the scene from Trump protests at major airports throughout the country, people are missing some serious issues from Delta Air Lines, which could absolutely have added to travel frustrations and should be seen as red flags.
Put simply, Delta crashed. Well, not its planes, but Delta’s computers.
Delta’s systems went down Sunday evening around 6:30 PM, taking down all “essential IT systems”. As a result, at least 280 Delta flights were canceled, leaving thousands of Delta passengers stranded. The expense of housing and feeding passengers for an airline can be huge, so to have to do so for thousands of passengers at once can be a big hit for a company. However, the bigger hit comes in not doing anything at all for them and risking losing long term, repeat customers.
Delta chose to go with the latter option, only offering waivers for the cost of changing flights for those passengers scheduled for travel between January 29th and 30th – as long as they rebook by February 3rd.
The lack of customer service and compensation is sure to lose the airline a significant chunk of customers. But the real concern is that this isn’t a new problem. In fact, it’s quite a recent problem, as Delta Air Lines suffered a global outage less than 6 months ago.
That system outage was disastrous, with Delta canceling more than 2,300 flights, stranding tens of thousands of passengers, and costing the company more than $100 million. And while that fiasco was blamed on a fire at its command center, this newest computer problem doesn’t seem to have a culprit. Shareholders should be concerned. Between its lack of customer service and its tech problems, the country’s second-largest airline looks to be running out of gas.
Watch the news from CBS This Morning for more update on the delayed Delta flights:
Shares of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) stumbled DOWN on Monday, and should continue to do so until Delta takes action to bring customers back.
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Top 5 Private Jet Websites
For the wealthy, hiring a private jet is the norm and has now become more accessible to a wider market since the rise of the internet.
From a recent survey, it found over 80% of wealthy Americans came from a working and middle-class background.
Here’s a graph showing data from the US Trust on wealth and worth survey:
A company, Beacon, tried to take private aviation to a new level, by providing an Uber-like service.
The benefits of a service like this:
- It made booking private flights as easy as booking an Uber car.
- It was affordable; allowing $2000 of monthly payments to use an unlimited private charter service.
- Passengers only need to go through a white glove service before going straight to the plane.
Those benefits were very ambitious, and unfortunately, Beacon folded last year due to financial pressure.
Blackjet was also another private charter company to have closed down a year ago.
Although this shows the risk level private jet companies take, there are still plenty that are in operation today.
Let’s look at the top 5 online private jet services:
This aviation company offers private jets starting from $2,800 per hour.
The planes available for booking:
- Mid-size jets (starting from $3,800 per hour).
- Super mid-size (starting from $4,500 per hour).
- Large cab jets (starting from $6,500 per hour).
It’s a pay-as-you-fly service, and no long-term commitment is required.
They strive in ease of service as they make all arrangements for your jet, and boast to be the pioneers of online booking.
This business is most similar to Uber in the private aviation market.
Their website lets you state where you are, where you want to be picked up, and where you want to go.
Bluestarjets has access to 5000+ planes from across the world.
The plane service is very popular, and is ranked very highly by its users on quick and easy service.
This private charter service allows users to compare live quotes, while also being able to select the aircraft and price which most suits their needs.
The firm has built an excellent reputation for being informative regarding flights, which includes details on flight updates, airport, and aircraft information.
Another charter company who markets for those with flexible travel schedules and empty-leg flights.
You can download their app to get started, which includes a membership option for discounts.
You can also book customized charters.
This company made noise in the newspapers last year when they offered a flight for $4 – also it was over July 4th.
However, there were some clauses to this purchase; you had to sign up for a lottery and get picked, the amount of planes available were limited, and the flight was only one way (you had to arrange your travel back).
With the marketing aside, this firm sells customized itineraries for members (only affordable to the wealthy), while the cheaper empty-leg flights cost on average $550.
Private charters are reluctant to fly their passengers back home, unless its paid for, so offering empty-leg helps to save some of their expenses.
So your itinerary must be flexible to fit with their flight schedule.
General forecast for private flight charters
Bigger competition and overcapacity have mostly contributed to prices going down. What once used to cost thousands, is now instead available for hundreds (although a one-way trip is very likely).
If you do purchase any flights from these services, then you must be wise and do research beforehand.
Many quick methods to check a company’s reputation online are:
- Check forums for comments on the service.
- Check at least 4 or 5 companies for a comparison.
- Look for their social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter (this can provide the consensus amongst commenters).
Also, when BlackJet folded many paid customers lost their money, so if you are committing for the long-term, then always do a bit of digging behind the company beforehand – are they on the stock market?
Or have you checked their latest press report?
It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Ways to ensure a company is trustworthy
It’s been recommended to examine the business’ financial backing, having a discussion with executives, and going for the firms that have been around for many years.
If a private charter owns their planes rather than managing someone else’s fleet, then this is a safe bet too.
Who travels on private charters?
It’s very obvious to say the wealthy, but many experts have pointed out other benefits to flying privately.
CEOs and high-up executives state that when arriving at an important meeting, it is crucial for them to be in the best mental and physical shape – which can be otherwise compromised when using standard airlines.
They see failure being far more costly than the price of private jet travel.
The cost of flying a plane
Not only is this business very competitive, but also very expensive for providing the service.
Here is a pie chart representing the cost factions to putting a plane in the sky:
There will always be a place for private jets, especially amongst the wealthy executives and CEOs in the world.
But with tech firms trying to change the way aviation works, by bringing in uber functions, then it will be very exciting to see how this new digital market unfolds.
But for the time being, the average person will have to stick with Uber cars instead.
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