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‘Personal flying machine’ maker plans deliveries this year

Agency Press France

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WASHINGTON — A Silicon Valley “flying car” startup, Kitty Hawk, reportedly backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, released a video on Monday of its airborne prototype and announced plans for deliveries of a “personal flying machine” this year.

“Our mission is to make the dream of personal flight a reality. We believe when everyone has access to personal flight, a new, limitless world of opportunity will open up to them,” said a statement on the website of the Kitty Hawk company, based in Google’s home town of Mountain View, California.

“Today we’re announcing our first prototype of The Flyer, a personal flying machine that will become available for sale by the end of 2017.” The craft, propelled by eight rotors, takes off and lands vertically, like a helicopter.

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It is said to weigh about 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and fly at speeds up to 25 miles per hour (40 kph) and can hover at 15 feet (4.5 meters) high.

The company describes the Flyer as “a new, all-electric aircraft,” which is “safe, tested and legal to operate in the United States in uncongested areas” under US federal regulations for ultralight aircraft. No pilot’s license is required, and two hours’ training is said to be all that is needed.

The website offered few details about the company, but several reports in recent months have said Page has poured millions of dollars into Kitty Hawk and another electric car startup.

Kitty Hawk president Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University computer science professor who has been called the father of Google’s self-driving car, tweeted: “Changing the future of personal transportation. Join us @kittyhawkcorp to get information about #theFlyer prototype.”

The company announced it was offering three-year “memberships” for $100 to be placed on a waiting list and to get a discount on the price of the new transporter. The price is to be announced later this year.
The startup offered only limited details about the company.

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An email response to an AFP query said the lead engineers were Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert, who created a startup called Aerovelo which aims to produce the fastest human-powered vehicle.

Kitty Hawk said the flyer going on sale later this year will have a different design than the prototype.
A blog post by writer Cimeron Morrissey, who took the flyer for a test run, offered some clues on how it feels.

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Science & Technology

Android apps may be illegally tracking children, study finds

Gorkha Post

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Over 3300 free and popular children’s Android apps available on the Google Play Store could be violating child privacy laws, according to a new, large-scale study, highlighting growing criticism of Silicon Valley’s data collection efforts.

Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family and child oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids’ data, potentially putting them in violation of the US’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13).

Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 apps for children and found that 3,337 of them may be in violation of the COPPA, according to the study report. The tested apps collected the personal data of children under age 13 without their parent’s permission, the study found.

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“This is a market failure,” said Serge Egelman, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done.”

The researchers are adamant that they’re not showing ‘definitive legal liability.’ These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it’s up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it’s also unclear how common this problem is across platforms.

The potential violations were abundant and came in several forms, according to the study. More than 1,000 children’s apps collected identifying information from kids using tracking software whose terms explicitly forbid their use for children’s apps, the study found.

The researchers also said that nearly half the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by COPPA. Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study.

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Unfortunately for parents, there’s little consumers can do to protect themselves since the policies and business practices of app developers and ad tracking companies are often opaque, Egelman said.

The study also points to a breakdown of so-called self-regulation by app developers who claim to abide by child privacy laws, as well as by Google, which runs the Android platform, he said.

Agencies

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