Congratulations Felix Baumgartner! That was an amazing jump. We all held our breath for about 4mn. Great performance. Felix Baumgartner, Austrian skydiver, base jumper and adventurer finally executed his jump with the Redbull Stratos team. After 2 hours in a capsule, he reached the altitude of 120,000 ft, or 39km and after a brief procedure, came steps outside of the capsule, at the edge of space. This must have felt very empowering but frightening as well. Ground control team mate Joe Kittinger could reassure Felix as Joe did a similar jump in the 60s, from about 102,000 ft. The objective there was to go higher in order to go faster and break the sound barrier. Mission accomplished, as Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier establishing a new world record for the fastest free fall jump at 1341,90 kmh, the highest altitude for a jump, and the highest altitude reached by man in a balloon. The date of the jump coincided with the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in an airplane. That was a well chosen date, and again, an amazing performance.

Norway places firm order for the F-35

Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide said the decision to move forward came after U.S. authorities confirmed their support to integrate a joint strike missile developed by the Norwegian conglomerate Kongsberg Gruppen ASA into the F-35 aircraft. The two aircraft authorized today are expected to be joined by a second pair in 2016, and will be based in the United States as part of a joint partner training centre. They are to be followed by up to 48 additional aircraft from 2017 that are to be based at Ørland Main Air Station in central Norway.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. The F-35 has three main models; the F-35A is a conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant.

f-35 jet fighter

The F-35 is descended from the X-35, the product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. JSF development is being principally funded by the United States, with the United Kingdom and other partner governments providing additional funding. The partner nations are either NATO members or close U.S. allies. It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin. The F-35 took its first flight on 15 December 2006.

The United States intends to buy a total of 2,443 aircraft to provide the bulk of its tactical airpower for the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy over the coming decades. The United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, Israel and Japan all will equip their air and/or naval forces with the F-35.

Controlling aircrafts by gestures

Controlling drone aircraft could one day be as simple as waving your arms. Yale Song and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a way of controlling drones taxiing on a runway using gestures. Drones can already land autonomously on aircraft carrier decks, but humans control them during taxiing. With piloted aircraft, navy flight-deck marshals use a codified set of hand gestures to instruct them to, for instance, cut their engines, open weapon bay doors or move to a refuelling bay.

To test whether these gestures could be recognised by a computer, Song’s team wrote an algorithm that analyses 3-second clips from a depth-sensing camera trained on a person performing flight-deck gestures. The system recorded body, arm, wrist, hand and finger positions, and was subsequently able to recognise a flight-deck command correctly 76 per cent of the time.

The team says it is now working on improving recognition levels. The research will appear in a forthcoming issue of ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems. “I can’t see why this wouldn’t work ultimately,” says Peter van Blyenburgh, head of UVS International, a drone trade group. “The gestures are clearly defined – an image sensor should be able to pick them up.”

The MIT team isn’t the only one interested in gesture-controlled drones. In 2009, aerospace firm Boeing, based in Chicago, filed a patent on the idea of controlling squadrons of unmanned aircraft using human gestures. That would mean a pilot on the ground covered in motion sensors could control a drone swarm flying overhead.