As you take your final exam, you may find yourself shopping last minute for your family’s holiday gifts. Don’t despair. There is a day for that. December 18th is Free Shipping Day; a one-day, online-shopping event when thousands of merchants offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.1
So how do your packages go over the river and through the woods to arrive at your grandmother’s house in less than a week? Current delivery methods include carefully choreographed and computerized warehouse management structures as well as expedited ground and air express shipping services. Now, another method is rapidly taking off: commercial drones.
Typically, drones are associated with clandestine military operations. However, a year ago Amazon announced that it is developing aerial robotic technology to fly packages directly to a person’s doorstep.2 “Drones ‘will change the way we conduct some of our existing business in the not-too-distant future, but more importantly, will create completely new and world-changing applications we haven’t even thought of yet,’ said Jeff Lovin, a Woolpert senior vice president.”3
What is required to make this happen? The Federal Aviation Administration, the government agency responsible for all aircraft flying in the United States airspace, must approve of their safety. “The key safety element is to prevent drones from colliding with other aircraft, or with people on the ground. That means ensuring ways for other aircraft to detect and avoid drones, and for drones to land safely if they lose contact with remote pilots.”4
Because of the high demand for developing commercial, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the FAA is pressured to expedite rules and regulations. In a letter to the FAA, Amazon said its indoor testing of drones must now move outdoors “to practice in real-world conditions.” Paul Misener, the company’s vice president of global public policy, said the company might move its research abroad if the FAA does not act quickly. With a Congressionally mandated deadline of September 2015 looming large, the government agency has set up six test sites across the country and given exemption status to a few companies in order to learn more about how the technology works.5
What if you miss Free Shipping Day? Perhaps purchase your own Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and personally deliver your gifts in record time.
2Amazon Unveils Futureristic Plan: Delivery by Drone December 2, 2013 (Source: 60 Minutes CBS News website)
3FAA Lets 4 companies Fly Commercial Drones (Source: USAToday.com, December 10, 2014)
5FAA’s Treatment of Amazon Proves Congress Must Act or Companies Will Take Drone Research Abroad (Source: Forbes.com, December 10, 2014)
Bestaoui Sebbane, Yasmina. Planning and Decision Making for Aerial Robots. New York: Springer, 2014. Engineering Library TL718 .B47 2014
Commercial Drones (Source: Popular Science website)
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Source: Federal Aviation Administration website – FAA.gov)
“60 Minutes” reports on the uncertainty of regulating drones March 14, 2014 (Source: YouTube)
In 1942, while Dr.Percy Spencer was testing a magnetron, a candy bar in his pocket melted. This was Dr. Spencer’s ‘aha moment’ when he realized that radioactive beams can cook food. The Raytheon Company filed a patent application for Spencer’s invention on October 8, 1945. Then the company built the first commercially available microwave oven calling it the Radarange. It debuted in 1947 standing six feet tall and weighing over 700 pounds.1
Obviously, this behemoth model did not become popular in the average American home. However, during the 1970s, smaller “electronic ovens” started to make their way into the ordinary kitchen. At first, they were used reticently because the radioactive waves were considered harmful. However, the convenience of microwave cooking outweighed the fear factor. During the 1980s, the market was saturated with microwave cookbooks and products such as microwave bacon trays. Even Dire Straits references the kitchen appliance in Money for Nothing. Today’s average microwave cooks between 1000-1200 watts and is America’s sweetheart appliance for fast and convenient defrosting of frozen foods, rewarming of leftovers, or popping of corn. Bon appétit!
How does a microwave oven work? “A microwave oven produces high-frequency electromagnetic waves. Passing through food, the waves reverse polarity billions of times a second. The food’s water molecules also have polarity, and they react to each change by rapidly reversing themselves. Friction results, heating the water and cooking the food.2 For a visual explanation, watch the video, “How a Microwave Oven Works” by Bill Hammack from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
1 National Microwave Day (December 6, 2009)
2 Langone, John. How Things Work: Everyday Technology Explained. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006, p.14. Engineering Library T47 .L2923 2006
Books and Standards
Crupi, Giovanni, Editor. Microwave De-Embedding: From Theory to Applications. Waltham, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press, 2014. Engineering Library TK7876 .M53 2014
Hwang, Ruey-Bing. Periodic Structures: Mode-Matching Approach and Applications in Electromagnetic Engineering. Singapore: Wiley, 2013. Engineering Library TK872.F5 H93 2013
Maas, Stephen A. Practical Microwave Circuits. Boston: Artech House, 2014. Engineering Library (on order)
Pozar, David M. Microwave Engineering, 3rd. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2005. Engineering Library TK7876 .P69 2005
Rohde, Ulrich L. RF/Microwave Circuit Design for Wireless Applications, 2nd. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2013. Engineering Library TK7876 .R65 2013
December 1st is Cyber Monday, a day created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Employees returning to their desks after the holiday, stuffed full of turkey, are considered prime to shop on their high-speed internet connections at work. Warehouses, such as Amazon, are stocked to the brim with merchandise, and according to the Wall Street Journal, its order-fulfillment plans for this year’s holiday season will involve 10,000 robots. “Hugging the floor like a Roomba, and about the size of a big suitcase, these bright-orange bots lift and carry shelf-stacks of merchandise to warehouse workers who pack items for shipping. The idea is that it’s easier for the humans to stay in one place rather than tromp around a cavernous facility.”1, 2
Kiva Systems, now owned by Amazon Inc., has been engineering automated guided vehicles (AGVs) since the early 2000s.3 But as early as the 1970s, robotic lifts were being developed. In 1976, a self-propelled “Wheeled vehicle adapted to turn on the spot” with a load-carrying body or platform was issued by the US Patent Office.4
However, before the days of high tech, and still widely used, manual and motorized fork lifts move heavy items from one place to another. The first fork truck was the two-wheeled hand truck made of wrought iron axles and cast iron wheels Then, “in 1906, an official of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Altoona, Pennsylvania added storage battery power to a baggage wagon, producing what was probably the first powered platform truck. The controls were placed so that the operator had to walk out in front.” Between 1913 and 1919, trucks were engineered to lift small cranes both horizontally as well as vertically and forks and rams were introduced.”6
The Industrial Truck Association represents the manufacturers of powered and non-powered industrial trucks (forklifts) who do business in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It assumes responsibility for the Safety Standards for Low and High Lift Trucks as well as the Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles.7,8
6 Emmett, Stuart. Excellence in warehouse management : how to minimise costs and maximise value. Chicheser, West Sussex, England : Hoboken, NJ : Wiley, 2005. Engineering Library HF5485 .46 2005