First commercial flight lands on remote St Helena

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As seen from inside the cabin, the first ever commercial flight lands at St Helena AirportImage copyright
AFP

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As seen from inside the cabin, the first ever commercial flight lands at St Helena Airport

The first scheduled commercial airline service to the remote British island of St Helena in the south Atlantic has touched down safely.

The virgin flight, an SA Airlink service from South Africa, ends the island’s long-standing reliance on a ship which sailed every three weeks.

It is hoped that the service, funded by the UK, will boost tourism and help make St Helena more self-sufficient.

But British media have dubbed it “the most useless airport in the world”.

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PA

Image caption

The opening of the airport was delayed by problems with wind

Built with £285m ($380m) of funding from the UK Department for International Development (Dfid), the airport should have opened in 2016, but dangerous wind conditions delayed the launch.

After further trials this summer, the weekly service between Johannesburg and St Helena was passed as safe.

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AFP

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One observer said the aircraft made a “perfect landing”

St Helena had for decades been one of the world’s most inaccessible locations, served only by a rare ship service from South Africa.

It is chiefly known as the island to which French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and where died.

The Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft took off from Johannesburg on Saturday morning, carrying 78 passengers. It reached St Helena in the afternoon after stopping in the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

“I for one am getting really excited about the new chapter in St Helena’s history,” said St Helena governor Lisa Phillips.

  • Population 4,255

  • Area 122 sq km (47 sq miles)

  • Major language English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Currency St Helena Pound (equal to British pound)

  • Economy Agriculture, fishing concessions and tourism

BBC

Previously travel to and from the tiny island, with its population of just 4,255, was only possible on the RMS St Helena, which took around six days to complete the journey from South Africa.

The ship’s final voyage is scheduled for February.

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Media captionA one-off commercial flight makes a wobbly landing in 2016

St Helena relies on British aid of £52m a year and officials hope increased tourism will make it more self-sufficient.

“This is an important moment in St Helena’s route to self-sufficiency,” a Dfid spokeswoman said.

“It will boost its tourism industry, creating the opportunity to increase its revenues, and will bring other benefits such as quicker access to healthcare for those living on the island.”

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, the island’s diverse geology and wildlife, such as the whales that gather off its coast, may appeal to visitors.

But “more flights will have to be added if the airport is to be deemed a success – and not an expensive white elephant”, the report said.

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CNN Harvey Coverage, Commercial Boasts, ‘Americans are Loving the HurryCane!’

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CNN Harvey Coverage

Commercial Boasts

‘Americans are Loving the HurryCane’

9/1/2017 6:39 AM PDT

CNN has been covering Hurricane Harvey almost nonstop, which makes a commercial that ran Friday night at 9:30 PM PT all the more shocking … a 60-second spot for the HurryCane.

It’s an ad hawking a cane that helps people walk with ease. For a full minute you hear people say, “I love my HurryCane” and “People are falling in love with the HurryCane.”

“I Love how secure I feel with my HurryCane.”  And there’s more … “Americans are loving the HurryCane.”  And, “They love how it stands on it’s own.”

And it’s offered at an “historically” low price.

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Ford seeking commercial vehicle autonomous tech partnerships

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Earlier this week, Ford revealed that its first autonomous vehicle development partnership is with Domino’s Pizza. Naturally, the Blue Oval’s self-driving ambitions extend far beyond an expedited large pepperoni with extra cheese, and now it’s been revealed that the company is thinking bigger about driverless commercial vehicles, too. 

According to Reuters, Ford is exploring numerous partnerships to develop autonomous large commercial vehicles. It’s not immediately clear what types of vehicles are being planned or who the potential partners are, but Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says that targets include “ride-sharing and delivery services.” 

Ride-sharing is something Marakby knows something about: In 2016 and early 2017, he worked at Uber as vice president of their global vehicle programs prior to rejoining Ford in June.

Ford’s ride-share on-demand service, Chariot, could be a target for self-driving tech.


Ford

Perhaps not incidentally, Ford already operates its own low-cost on-demand service, Chariot, which uses 14-seat Transit vans to deliver passengers in cities like Austin, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. It’s possible that in the future, Ford could develop its driverless technology using this platform, or seek out a larger ride-hailing player like Uber or Lyft. 

Ford acquired a similar startup to Chariot, Boston-based Bridj in early 2016, but it announced plans to wind-down the company in April.

With the US trucking industry’s acute, prolonged shortage of long-distance drivers, any development in the area of autonomy is likely to be given a warm welcome by the logistics and transportation sector of the economy. The complexities of big rigs hauling trailers is likely to be a more complex problem for Ford’s self-driving engineers to solve, but the commercial potential is huge.

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Amazon opens up access to developer tools for adding Alexa to commercial products

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Amazon wants to make its virtual assistant Alexa available on more devices, instead of just its own hardware. To that end, the company today is broadly opening up access to developer tools that will allow commercial device makers to build products powered by Alexa. With the launch of the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, companies can add a fully functional version of Alexa to their devices that’s able to handle speech recognition, as well as other Alexa functionality, like streaming media, using timers and alarms, notifications, weather reports, and accessing the thousands of voice apps, known as Alexa skills.

The SDK was previously available in an invite-only developer preview period, says Amazon. During this period, over 50 commercial device makers have been working to add Alexa to their products.

Amazon highlighted a few of these initiatives in a blog post for developers this morning, including Technicolor, which is adding Alexa to its Home Networking Gateway and Extender; and Berlin-based smart home device maker, Senic, which is adding Alexa to COVI, its smart home hub.

The company has for some time pursued a strategy where access to Alexa functionality – and even technology for building voice-powered devices, like the microphone array – is easily accessible. The goal, simply, is to bring Alexa to as many devices as possible as something of a land grab in the nascent voice computing market.

The same goes for this Alexa Voice Service Device SDK, which is now open to all developers through a free, open source license on GitHub. The SDK rounds out a suite of developer aids, which also includes hardware development kits, APIs, and documentation on how to create Alexa-enabled products.

Already, we’ve seen some examples of Amazon’s strategy in action, as with the Huawei Mate 9 smartphones, which includes Alexa as a voice assistant option; the Ecobee4 smart thermostat; the Triby internet radio; as well as other devices, like speakers, alarm clocks, intercoms, and even smartwatches. Meanwhile, Amazon is broadening its own lineup of Alexa devices, with new speakers with additional features – like the camera on the Echo Look or the screen on the Echo Show.

Not all of these Alexa-powered devices will break out the way the Echo did, but it’s a strategy worth pursuing – one where Alexa’s platform is like Android OS for the voice computing world, giving it a chance to retain its lead in terms of market share and users.

Featured Image: Joby Sessions/T3 Magazine via Getty Images

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