Senate and House bills to boost spending on airport improvements

Two bills that were introduced June 21 and 22 provide very different outcomes for the future of aviation in the United States. Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, introduced a six-year draft House bill called the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act (AIRR Act), a revised version from last year’s bill.

The bill includes provisions and reforms to reduce red tape in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification process for aircraft and aviation products, foster innovation in unmanned aircraft systems, fund the Nation’s airport infrastructure,  and privatize air traffic controllers (ATC). It also would beef up some protections for the flying public. For example, the legislation prohibits airlines from involuntarily bumping a passenger once they have already boarded a plane. The bill also requires airlines to install secondary metal barriers on new planes to prevent terrorists from entering the flight deck. Another provision would prohibit the transportation secretary from approving any foreign airline service to the U.S. if the carrier is established in a country other than its majority owner. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bill Tuesday. Now the legislation must be considered by the full House and the Senate.

The second bill, introduced by Sen. John Thune and Sen. Bill Nelson, unveiled the Senate’s  FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017,which reauthorizes federal aviation programs through fiscal year 2021.

The Thune-Nelson bill would help manufacturers by reforming certifications, improve certain consumer protections, underpin ATC technology modernization, and boosts unmanned air vehicle enforcement powers at the FAA. The Senate legislation would require FAA to update its “NextGen” technology to replace radar-based air control with a GPS-based system. The bill also directs the Department of Transportation to create a carrier certificate allowing for package deliveries by drones, according to a summary. It also addresses issues with personal drone usage, including criminalizing reckless drone behavior, promoting safety and increasing privacy, as well as developing other innovative uses. The reauthorization act improves requirements for the bulk transfer of lithium batteries and supports contract air traffic control towers. The legislation also allows general aviation airports more flexibility to facilitate infrastructure investment. The senate commerce committee is slated to vote on the Thune-Nelson bill on June 29.

One key similarity between the bills is the boost each one would provide to airport construction spending.

Both bills hike FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) infrastructure grants from this year’s $3.35 billion appropriation. The Thune version raises AIP in steps to $3.75 billion in its last year, 2021. Its annual AIP average over the four years is $3.65 billion, up 9 percent from this year’s level. Shuster’s version also has gradual annual increases for AIP, to a maximum of $3.82 billion in the proposal’s final year, 2023. Its annual average is $3.62 billion, an 8 percent hike over 2017.

Here are a few airport improvement projects coming up throughout the U.S.:

The Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Yosemite Airport in California are seeking a request for statements of qualifications for architectural and engineering services.  Aviation consultants will provide up to 25 percent conceptual design services in support of the environmental documentation process for a proposed new 40,000 square foot, three gate passenger terminal and an associated approximately 119,500 square foot aircraft parking apron capable of parking three commercial aircraft. Initial services will support the National Environmental Policy Act and California Environmental Quality Act review and documentation. Later phases are expected to include final design, consultation during construction and construction management. Responses to this request for statements of qualifications (RFQ) are due at 4 p.m. on July 20.

The Spokane Airport Board in the State of Washington is seeking statements of qualifications from qualified firms or teams of firms to provide architect and engineer services for the terminal renovation and expansion program. Spokane International Airport is the second busiest airport in the State of Washington and serves as the primary commercial service air transportation facility for eastern Washington and northwestern Idaho. The Board intends to deliver a series of projects that will unify the terminal complex, provide for future growth, improve efficiency by optimizing passenger flow and use of space and upgrade the overall passenger experience at Spokane International Airport. The RFQ is due by 2 p.m. July 10.

The General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisc. is inviting qualified professional firms or teams to submit astatement of qualifications (SOQ) to provide airport planning services for the update of the Airport Master Plan. The most recent update to the Master Plan was in 2000. The update, including airport layout plan will reflect existing conditions and depict future airport development. This medium hub airport serves the Milwaukee Metropolitan area and surrounding urban, suburban and rural communities of Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. The SOQ is due by 2 p.m. on July 10.

Elmira Corning Regional Airport in New York will apply for $11.5 million in FAA funding toward the airport’s $58 million terminal overhaul. The money — $10.06 million of which would come from a discretionary pot of funding from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, and $1.43 million of which would come from the airport’s annual entitlement — would leverage a $40 million state grant awarded for the project. Funding would be used toward the first phase of terminal construction, which could begin as soon as next month. The airport’s overhaul will occur in phases.

Work anticipated for the initial phase includes demolition of the terminal’s eastern half, construction of a temporary departure lounge and baggage claim area, and the construction of foundations, structural steel, exterior walls and roofing for the new portion of the terminal. Acquisition of a new jet bridge to accommodate larger aircraft would also be initiated in the first phase.

In a project narrative attached to the application and made available to legislators, officials list the terminal rehabilitation as a priority project under the airport’s master plan. The existing terminal was originally built in the 1950s and last renovated in 1990, and its design needs to be updated for post 9/11 security requirements and the needs of modern travelers. Bids for the first phase will be opened in the next couple of weeks and construction is anticipated to start soon after.

Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport  in Oklahoma could be looking at the start of two major improvement projects by fall, including construction of a new fire station. Construction of Fire Station No. 2 will replace the aging facility on Bishop Road that was built in the 1970s. The building has structural damage, and the airport and city of Lawton are working under an agreement that is using funding from three sources, including $2.4 million from the FAA, to build a new joint use facility that provides a crew dedicated to aviation emergencies and another handle emergencies in south Lawton. That runway work was suggested by an engineer to resolve problems with cracking. An in-depth analysis revealed the problem stemmed from water under the runway and taxiways. The project to be bid in July will help resolve the problem by sealing joints and cracks in the runway and, in some cases, completely replacing concrete segments.

Cities are providing drivers a smart way to park

Parking your vehicle in a congested part of town can be just as stressful as the drive to get there. Of course there is the thrill of driving behind a pedestrian who has bags in hand and is heading towards their vehicle to leave. Disappointment sets in as they unload their bags, but don’t leave or forget where they parked and leave you behind on parking deck Z. There is also the stress of getting to the parking meter before it expires or wishing you hadn’t fed the machine such a large quantity of coins. Parallel parking, getting blocked in a space, loading and unloading zones, private parking only… the ordeals of parking are just as long as the lots that are full. But, technology is changing the way we park.

Testing is taking place for Cyber Valet Services, which allows vehicles equipped with special programming to park without a driver on board in connected car parks. The driver exits the vehicle at the car park entrance and activates the automatic parking system using a smartphone to park itself and returning when the driver is ready to leave. Car parks using this technology are equipped with Wi-Fi, video sensors and artificial intelligence-based solutions.

In Georgia, the city of Atlanta’s ATLPlus app allows drivers to pay by phone and extend parking time without having to return to their vehicle or to a meter. The app will also alert drivers when they have 15 minutes on their parking time. Customers can also notify a rapid response team if they spot a broken meter. This team is expected to fix the meter within 24 hours.

In Maryland, the city of Wheaton is also installing smart meters that allow drivers to use coins, credit cards or they can pay through their cell phone. The old meter poles will remain, but the inner workings of them will be updated with the new technology. Law enforcement have access to the meters and can tell if they are expired or in use. All of the meters are solar powered.

In Texas, the San Antonio Airport is using a parking guidance system which uses license place recognition technology and directional signage to help guide drivers to the nearest available space. The signage displays real-time parking availability throughout the entire facility of over 1,200 spaces. The parking technology also provides surveillance cameras which captures streaming video whenever motion is detected in or around a space.

A program called Trucker Path was launched in 2015 to help truckers locate parking in their vicinity. The free service is constantly updated and verified by a community of truckers to ensure its accuracy. It provides drivers a trip planner with detailed information about truck-friendly points-of-interest along the way including hotels, weigh stations, truck stops, truck washes, restaurants and rest areas.

The smart-meter trend is growing and there are several cities throughout the United States requesting information and proposals to update their parking experience for drivers. In New York, the city of Rochelle is seeking to update and modernize its 750 on-street meters to accommodate smart growth and planning for the city. The selected vendor will be required to sign a service agreement for a term of three years with an option to renew for two additional three-year terms. The request for proposals is due by Aug. 3.

In Florida, the city of Delray Beach is looking to eliminate free street-side parking downtown, including the parking garages, by adding smart parking meters to its 3,000 plus parking spaces. The meters would change cost per hour depending on demand, similar to surge pricing. The plan will require the city to hire additional personnel to enforce the meters and city commissioners want to look at cost estimates and revenue projections before approving the meters. Currently, the parking garages charge a $5 flat fee after 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and other parking spots downtown are free 8-hour or 2-hour parking.

In Louisiana, the city of Lafayette is experimenting with smart meters and would like to phase out the city’s 630 coin-operated meters. The smart meters could accept credit cards, sense if a vehicle is in a parking spot, update parking rates and allow drivers to sign up for a payment system through their cell phone.  City council members plan to vote on July 11 whether to move forward with the meter installation and begin charging drivers through dynamic pricing or demand-responsive pricing. The proposed changes would also allow the city to set aside certain parking spaces for electric vehicles and offer vehicle charging services at those sites.

In South Carolina, the city of Charleston approved a budget for smart parking meters after reviewing a parking study that was completed in the fall. Each meter is expected to cost between $800 and $900. The budget will also be used to establish parking on the first floor of parking garages and new signs.

With increasing adoption of these efficient real-time parking systems the demand is expected to increase at airports, hospitals, shopping malls, commercial parking garages, universities and other event avenues. The strong integration of the real-time parking system, Internet of Things and cloud data is opening new avenues for the users and manufacturers.

If you are looking for a different way to pay for parking, a company called TravelCar will let you park for free, but you have to be willing to let someone else borrow your car. The Paris-based car sharing service turns parked cars into cash for their owners, offers free airport parking and helps travelers earn money by renting out their car to other travelers while they are away.  If you agree to let your car be rented by other travelers while you’re traveling, you get free airport parking. Your car is protected with $1 million in liability insurance and is covered against theft and physical damage. You also get paid for every mile that’s driven. If your car is not rented, you still get free parking.

From a renter’s perspective, you get access to a private car rather than paying the cost of renting from traditional rental car companies. If you’d rather not share your car, you can still park with TravelCar and receive the lowest airport parking rates guaranteed. TravelCar launched its U.S. operations on June 14 with an office in Los Angeles. Founded in 2012 and based in Paris, TravelCar is currently operating in 30 countries in 200 locations. They are slated to open at a San Francisco location in July, followed by eight additional U.S. markets this year.

Amphibious and autonomous? Drones and other vehicles making waves underwater

A drone that vacuums the ocean? One that collects whale mucus? An autonomous submarine? Airborne drones and autonomous vehicles are going under the surface of the ocean for data and defense, and they’ve got the nautical miles to prove it.

The submerged portion of bridges and piers need to be surveyed for signs of erosion, destruction and for visual signs of distress. Commercial divers undergo the task of underwater bridge inspections and for safety reasons, teams of three or more divers navigate below the water to not only inspect the bridge’s edifice but also monitor the other divers’ security. Underwater drones can now protect divers from these situations and make routine inspections and repairs possible. A survey and imaging system can be mounted on a remotely operated vehicle or an autonomous underwater vehicle to inspect the deepest structures and bridges. Underwater drones can supply better methods for acquiring and recording data that improve quality, cost-effectiveness and safety of traditional inspections.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recently announced the Governor’s Ocean Task Force in an effort to build better national security by using unmanned maritime technology. The new task force would consist of 25 volunteers who will develop a master plan for the Gulf Coast that will create an environment for attracting the unmanned maritime systems industry to the state. The Task Force, which is modeled after Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson’s Task Force Ocean, will address a growing need within private and public sectors to close a widening competitive gap around ocean science and technology.  The master plan is due 120 days from the announcement of the Task Force, which will exist through Bryant’s term.

The Navy, in its 2018 budget submission to Congress, said it plans to conduct trials with existing underwater drones and continue developing new types of technology before formally adding the craft to the fleet. Underwater drones have become an area of increasing interest to the Navy as the branch plans to grow spending on undersea systems to $3 billion in future years. Large defense companies have made acquisitions of underwater drone makers within the past year in an effort to position themselves for that growth. The Navy has been developing underwater drones that could patrol the world’s seas along a network it calls “the Eisenhower highway,” which eventually could include refueling stations that would allow the unmanned craft to stay at sea for months at a time.

During a briefing at the Surface Navy Association conference in Virginia, officials announced plans to release a request for proposals as early as this month for the Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle program. The Navy’s goal is to have large, underwater drones that can be linked together and provide an undersea network of communication.

The drone will have the ability to be released from the shore and have the potential to perform offensive maneuvers while underwater. The drones will be judged on vehicle design and construction. The government will chose up to two competitors for a 12 to 18 month design phase before selecting to a single company, which will build the first five vehicles.

Another underwater vehicle that has piqued the interest of the Navy is the Echo Voyager, a full autonomous underwater vehicle measuring 51 feet long. The vehicle is built to operate at sea for months at a time with a hybrid rechargeable power system. Testing on the 50-ton prototype began June 5 in the Pacific Ocean.

This year’s Rose Festival Fleet Week wrapped up on Monday in Portland, Ore. The event welcomes the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy who bring large vessels to Portland’s waterfront for a celebration. In the past, divers would go underwater to clear the seawall to make sure it’s free of obstructions or anything that could be hazardous to the ships. For the first time ever this year, the Coast Guard instead sent remote operated water drones down to look for weapons or devices.

While some drones are looking for hazardous weapons, others are looking for hazardous waste. The Waste Shark is a small aquatic drone that can vacuum up 1,100 pounds of floating trash. There are four prototypes riding around the Port of Rotterdam Authority in the Netherlands  through the end of the year. The sharks, which are approximately the size of a passenger car, pick up trash in a 14-inch opening that extends below the surface of the water. They’re autonomous, which means they’re able to patrol for trash continuously without oversight.

It’s not necessarily trash, but whales a spewing out body waste that’s  getting collected by a SnotBot. The drone is fitted with a camera and collects aerial video and images from the whales, which scientists use to review the whale’s behavior and body features without disturbing the mammals with loud boats or aircraft. The drone collects the mucus that’s exhaled out of the blowholes on the tops of whales’ heads. In the past, scientists would position a long pole over a whale’s blowhole to collect samples or perform a necropsy on a dead whale. The drones, which have been used along the coasts of Patagonia, Mexico and Alaska, can identify particular whales and assess their health in real time.

Another drone that could make waves someday come from a company in Richmond, Calif. A 30-foot prototype drone will travel by land and sea sometime this year as it carries cargo across the ocean. If the test is successful, the company plans to develop an 80-foot drone that will fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii in 2019. Made of carbon fiber composites and powered by jet engines, the drones would take off from the water, eliminating the need for landing gear and long landing strips. It would land on water several miles from port before taxiing to the dock, where cranes would unload the cargo.

The amphibious drones would cruise at an altitude of about 20,000 feet and would fly slower than piloted cargo planes. If this is successful, the next step is to build a 140-foot drone with a 200,000-pound cargo capacity.

3D printers are growing and so is their amazing output

From human organs to houses, the decreased cost and increased attention to three-dimensional, or 3D, printing is putting these machines in the hands of several industries that are eager to try them out and make prototypes.

NASA is experimenting with 3D printers by taking them to the final frontier. Testing a 3D printer on the International Space Station was the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space. Three-dimensional printing offers a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, a huge benefit to long-term missions with restrictions on weight and room for cargo.

Mars Ice House NASA Habitat Challenge

NASA just completed phase 2 of their $2.5 million 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, an architectural competition to design a colony in space. The goal is to not transport materials from Earth, but use what the planet has to offer for construction. Phase 3, which is currently under development, will focus on fabrication of complete habitats and will debut in August.  View more on an out of this world challenge.

When astronauts head to Mars, they will need a safe place to stay on a planet with an atmosphere that doesn’t provide protection from high-energy radiation. For researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., the best building material for a new home on Mars may lie in an unexpected material: ice. Nasa experts, designers and architects came up with a Mars Ice Dome.

In May, engineers from a U.S. commercial space firm successfully launched a 3D rocket from New Zealand into space, but not into orbit. The carbon-composite rocket, whose engine took a full 24 hours to print, made it up past Earth’s atmosphere with a cargo of sensors. Data will now be analyzed to figure out how to improve the rocket, named the Electron.

The technique of 3D printing is spreading rapidly in the field of medicine. Many hearing aids and dental crowns are now 3D-printed, as are disposable surgical instruments and even prosthetic limbs.  In 2014, the federally funded National Institute of Health launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange, a public website that enables users to share, download and edit 3D print files related to health and science.

Perhaps, in the future, patients won’t have to wait on a donor list for an organ transplant. The 3D bioprinter is used to fabricate functional human tissues that possess human tissue-like composition and architecture. Those functional tissues can be used for repairing damaged tissues and regeneration. Bioprinting is like regular inkjet printing, but the bioprinters use living cells instead of pigment-based inks and inject the cells into a matrix instead of printing on paper.

Scientists have already been able to successfully print lung tissues. The process includes printing a cluster of basic lung epithelial tissues which are then allowed to grow and proliferate, becoming the trachea. Drugs are injected into this system to make the artificial trachea contract and expand much like our normal wind pipe would do.

Using a 3D printer to build us a place to live and work on our current planet has been happening for a few years. In 2015, It took 17 days for a 3D printer to print a 2,700-square-foot office building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In 2015, China  successfully 3D-printed a five-story apartment building and a three-story mansion that were constructed using a 500-foot-long 3D printer. The villa cost about $161,000 to build, decreased production time between 50 and 70 percent and saved between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste.

A San Francisco-based 3D-printing startup, recently showed it can 3D-print concrete walls for a small house in less than 24 hours. Using a 3D printer to lay down concrete walls on a test site in Russia, the firm was able to print a 400-square-foot house. The printer, which resembles a small crane, places layers of a concrete mixture the company claims can last for 175 years and after the walls have been laid, the printer is removed and insulation, windows, appliances and a roof is added. Advocates of 3D printed-structures tout that they are affordable with less waste, can resist winds of up to 220 mph, use of natural materials, compatibility with Internet of Things devices and lower insurance costs because the materials carry low-risk hazards such as fire and roof damage.