NEWS BEYOND OUR BORDERS
New BC legislation for Engineering Geoscience
Engineers and Geoscientists BC - On November 27, 2018, the Professional Governance Act received Royal Assent in the BC Legislature and became law.
The Act represents the culmination of the government’s Professional Reliance Review, which examined the current legislation governing qualified professionals and the role their professional associations play in upholding the public interest.
In particular, the new Act consolidates government oversight of the professions of engineering and geoscience, among others, under a new Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance.
This Office will set consistent governance standards, including common ethical principles, increased public representation on Councils, enabling the regulation of firms and providing whistleblower protection.
The Act suggests that before any engineer or geoscientist takes on any project, they would need to file a declaration of competence and conflict of interest with the regulator.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC has significant concerns with these provisions, their risks and potential for unintended consequences. The association is engaging with government and other stakeholders to articulate its concerns.
Canada still go-to country for robotic space arm
APEGA - The U.S.-led Lunar Gateway – an international space station planned for launch in 2024 to orbit the moon – could be equipped with Canadian technology.
NASA has asked Canada to contribute a new Canadarm, but this version would differ from its predecessors by relying on artificial intelligence instead of humans to guide its movements. If the Canadian government decides to invest, this would be the third Canadarm in the NASA space program.
The first debuted in 1981 and flew on 90 space shuttle missions before its retirement in 2011. Canadarm2 was installed on the International Space Station in 2001, where it helped assemble the orbiting laboratory. The device continues being used there to perform station maintenance, move supplies and equipment and help dock visiting vehicles.
Since the company that designed and built Canadarm2, Maxar Technologies (formerly MDA) is likely to get the contract for Canadarm3, the Canadian Space Agency recently commissioned the company to conduct preliminary studies on how the new robotic system might work.
The AI functionality would add a new level of sophistication to Canadarm. As the federal government mulls over the project, the Canadian aerospace industry and Maxar Technologies are running a public awareness campaign called #dontletgocanada. They want Canada to commit before the opportunity is grabbed by another space agency.
OIQ out from “probation”
OIQ - On February 20, 2019, the Québec government lifted the trusteeship placed on the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) on the basis of the progress on the performance indicators put forward by the government.
Le Comité de mise sous administration, which reported quarterly to the Office des professions du Québec, believes that, with a new culture of efficiency and collaboration in place and improvements in the application of its protection of the public, the OIQ is on the right track.
The Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Quebec and Minister responsible for the administration of professional legislation Sonia LeBel also requires the Office des professions du Québec to send her a report next year documenting the evolution of the performance indicators.
“The significant progress made by the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec over the past two years in terms of governance allows us to believe in a sustainable recovery of the organization. We noted a reduction in the trustee’s investigation times, an increase in the rate of professional inspections, as well as a change on the management team and the financial recovery of the Ordre. It is reasonable to believe that the public protection mission will now be fulfilled,” LeBel said.
Europe developing standards for Hyperloops
IEEE Spectrum - Hyperloops is a futuristic idea whose fame emerged from the enthusiasm of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The concept involves building an airless tube where a pod can carry people or cargo at near supersonic speeds. But regulatory realities have brought hyperloops down to Earth – a necessary step for any new transport technology.
The European research community, rail companies and regulators are trying to establish standards for fitting evacuated tubes into existing long-distance rail networks before each company and country adopts its own approach, as they did with rail more than a century ago. Spain and France, for example, which neighbour each other and are both members of the European Union, have different rail widths, voltage standards and operating rules.
“Nobody thought the countries that would form the European Union would connect their rail networks in the future,” said David Villalmanzo of the International Union of Railways. “So hyperloop startups should be thinking about that now, by way of some European framework, to discuss standardization.”
The tension between agreeing on rules and promoting innovation is very much present in these early days for hyperloops. Companies can keep an eye on how the technology – and the standards – evolve while they decide which hyperloop train to catch.
Electric container ships are stuck on the horizon
IEEE Spectrum - Just about everything you wear or use around the house once sat in steel boxes on ships whose diesel engines propel them from Asia, emitting particulates and carbon dioxide.
Why not make electric container ships? Actually, the first one should begin operations this year: The Yara Birkeland, built by Marin Teknikk in Norway is not only the world’s first electric-powered, zero-emissions container ship but also the first autonomous commercial vessel.
Most large container ships today carry roughly 18,000 containers and journey at a slow but fuel-saving crawl of 16 knots (for example, a trip from Hong Kong to Hamburg takes 31 days).
The Yara Birkeland will carry just 120 containers, its service speed will be six knots and its longest intended operation will be 30 nautical miles – between Herøya and Larvik, in Norway. Today’s state-of-the-art diesel container vessels thus carry 150 times as many boxes over distances 400 times as long at speeds three to four times as fast as the pioneering electric ship can handle.
To match the speed and distance of diesel ships, an electric ship would need to be loaded with 100,000 metric tons of today’s best commercial Li-ion batteries, making up about 40 per cent of the maximum cargo capacity, an economically ruinous proposition.
Mining the moon ready to lift off by 2025
Mining.com - European scientists have announced plans to start mining the moon as early as 2025, though what they’ll be extracting is neither gold nor diamonds, but waste-free nuclear energy thought to be worth trillions of dollars.
The goal is to place a lander on the lunar surface to mine and process the lunar surface for water, oxygen, metals and an isotope called helium-3, which may prove useful for fueling future fusion reactors.
Europe isn’t the only one getting on board with the lunar mining train. Both India and China have floated ideas about extracting Helium-3 from the Earth’s natural satellite. Beijing has already landed on the moon twice in the 21st century, with more missions to follow.
There are an estimated one million tonnes of helium-3 in the moon, scientists estimate only 25 per cent of that could be brought to Earth. But that’s enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two and maybe as many as five, centuries, said the expert, who estimates that helium-3 is worth almost $5 billion a tonne.
Canada is also eying the moon. Last year, Northern Ontario-based Deltion Innovations partnered with Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, on future opportunities in outer space.