This engineer lived in an RV in Tesla’s parking lot — now he’s on a quest to build electric planes

Impossible Aerospace founder and CEO Spencer Gore hopes to make self-flying electric planes that would make jet fuel — and the pollution from burning it — obsolete.

But he’s starting small by building battery-powered electric drones.

The company’s flagship product, dubbed the US-1, can fly for about two hours on a single charge, about as long as a helicopter can fly on a full tank. Gore describes the small unmanned aerial vehicle half-jokingly as “a battery with propellers attached.”

More than half of the mass of the US-1 is made of battery cells and the entire structure serves as one big battery pack.

Impossible Aerospace US-1 1
Impossible Aerospace US-1 drone
Andrew Evers

Impossible Aerospace shares DNA, and a clean energy mission, with Tesla.

Before he caught the start-up bug, Gore worked as an intern at two Elon Musk-led companies, SpaceX and Tesla. He was offered an internship at the electric vehicle maker in 2014, and and later became a full-time battery engineer there. He accepted the internship even though he was still working on an engineering degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Rather than dropping out of college like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, Gore decided to lead a double life. He convinced his professors he would be able to mail in his assignments, and travel back and forth between Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California and their campus for exams.

To save money and eliminate commute time, Gore even lived in an RV in the parking lot at Tesla for six months while finishing up his degree. He has no regrets.

“Honestly that was that was one of the happiest times of my life,” he recalls. “If you think about the two things that stress people out in Silicon Valley the most it’s commuting and paying rent. If you if you don’t have to do those two things, life is pretty good.”

Spencer Gore's RV
Spencer Gore’s RV

Gore says he learned some important lessons about shipping new products and keeping teams focused through major challenges during his tenure at Tesla. In the years that he worked there, Tesla was perfecting the design and manufacturing processes for battery modules that power its Model S, Model X and Model 3 electric cars.

Both Tesla and Impossible Aerospace created their vehicles thinking about battery needs first. Other companies tend to start by designing their vehicles first, and battery later. That can lead to cars or aircraft that aren’t as efficient and don’t perform as well, Gore said.

Replacing helicopters for some first responders


Drones have become a valuable tool during emergencies, because they can be launched within minutes to give first responders situational awareness, fight fires from above or help search and rescue operations. They’re even beginning to replace helicopters in some cases.

Impossible Aerospace research found that there are around 18,000 municipal police departments across the US, and around 32,000 fire departments, but only sixty municipalities have access to a helicopter. That’s partly because a police-grade helicopter can cost millions of dollars. “A drone can provide about half of the utility of a helicopter at less than 1 percent of the price,” Gore says. “It can even be more useful than a helicopter, because a drone can fly lower and get in closer to evaluate dangerous situations.”

The start-up is flying its US-1 drones on behalf of first responders in Santa Clara County, near its headquarters, to demonstrate the drones’ potential and teach officers how to fly them.

Impossible Aerospace US-1
Impossible Aerospace US-1
Impossible Aerospace

Because Impossible offers free help to police and fire departments near its office, Gore and employees at his company sometimes answer calls to bring a drone out to a fire or crime scene in the middle of the night.

Impossible Aerospace has raised more than $11 million from venture investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures and Eclipse Ventures, where ex-Tesla executive Greg Reichow is a Partner. While Reichow sits on the board at Impossible Aerospace today, the two hadn’t worked together directly at Tesla.

Several other companies are working on electric and hybrid-electric planes, including Pipistrel, Joby Aviation, Eviation, XTI Aircraft and others.

Gore said he’d be happy to see them all succeed, though he favors a pure-electric approach:

“These drones are direct predecessors to the aircraft that I think we’ll be flying on in the future. The real question is is not when will we have electric airplanes, but when we have electric airplanes that fly far enough to start replacing conventionally fueled air transport. We’re not going to stop until until it’s possible to travel anywhere in the world emissions free. It has to be done.”

Bill Gates ‘thrilled’ by legislative boost for nuclear

29 March 2019

The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), bipartisan draft legislation which aims to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear technologies and re-establish US leadership in nuclear energy has been re-introduced to the US Senate.

Bill Gates (Image: GatesNotes)

NELA was submitted on 27 March by a group of 15 senators led by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It was previously introduced to the Senate in September 2018 and was one of several bipartisan bills supporting advanced nuclear innovation to be considered by the 115th US Congress, which ended on 2 January. One of those bills – the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act, which modernises US nuclear regulation and supports the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors – became law on 14 January.

“Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the US Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies,” Bill Gates, the technologist, business leader, and philanthropist, tweeted, with a link to Murkowski’s announcement. “I can’t overstate how important this is,” he said.

“To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to reach near-zero emissions on all the things that drive it – agriculture, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings – by investing in innovation across all sectors while deploying low cost renewables.

“Nuclear energy is one of these critical technologies. It’s ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.

“I’m thrilled that senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to support advanced nuclear. This is exactly the kind of leadership our country needs to both solve the climate challenge and reassert our leadership in this important industry,” he said.

In his 2018 year-end blog, Gates, who co-founded the Microsoft Corp and chairs the TerraPower LLC nuclear energy venture, gave notice that he plans this year to “speak out more” about how the USA needs to regain its leading role in nuclear power research.

The draft bill was formally introduced to Senate by Murkowski on behalf of herself and Senators Cory Booker, James Risch, Joe Manchin, Mike Crapo, Lamar Alexander, Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Gardner, Chris Coons, Dan Sullivan, Tammy Duckworth, Lindsay Graham, Michael Bennet, Shelley Moore Capito, and Rob Portman. It directs the US Secretary of Energy “to establish advanced nuclear goals, provide for a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source, make available high-assay, low-enriched uranium for research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts, and for other purposes”.

It includes the authorisation of long-term power purchase agreements; the establishment of a long-term nuclear power purchase agreement pilot programme; advanced nuclear reactor research and development goals; a nuclear energy strategic plan; a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source; advanced nuclear fuel security programmes; and a university nuclear leadership programme.

Advanced reactors are the next generation of breakthrough nuclear technologies that will offer significant advantages for power generation, the senators said. “Although the United States invented and commercialised nuclear power, our leadership has slipped, creating the need for new policies that encourage opportunities for the industry to design and deploy advanced reactor concepts. NELA will help facilitate the path to market for advanced reactors by allowing the federal government to be an early adopter of commercialised technologies; providing for needed scientific research facilities; demonstrating advanced reactor concepts; breaking down fuel availability barriers when the market cannot; and training the next generation of nuclear scientists.”

Electrek Podcast: Tesla’s biggest end-of-quarter sale, new Autopilot capability, Model 3 efficiency, and more

The Electrek Podcast is me, Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief of Electrek, and Seth Weintraub, founder and publisher of Electrek and the 9to5 network, discussing all our top stories of the week while taking questions from our readers and highlighting the most insightful comments on the site.

The show is live every Friday at 4pm ET on Electrek’s Youtube channel. As a reminder we’ll have an accompanying post, like this one, on the site with an embedded link to the live stream. Head to the Youtube channel to get your questions and comments in.

After the show ends at around 5pm ET, the video will be archived on YouTube and the audio on all your favorite podcast apps through our RSS feed: Grab the quick link to iTunes here.

We now have a Patreon if you want to help us to avoid more ads and invest more in our content. We have some awesome gifts for our Patreons and more coming.

Here are a few of the articles that we will discuss during the podcast today:

Here’s the live stream for today’s episode starting at 4:00pm ET (or the video after 5:00pm ET):


Although it isn’t very real-world practical, researchers at Cal Tech have produced a DNA-based programmable computer. Spectrum reports that the system executes programs using a set of instructions written in DNA using six bits. Like any programmable computer, this one can execute many programs, but so far they have run 21 different programs.

Using DNA for computation isn’t new — your body does it all the time. But, in general, DNA computers were akin to some logic gates that would do one set of things, not a general-purpose reprogrammable computer.

DNA has two parts composed of four different chemicals — you can think of each part as a ladder cut vertically down the middle with each “rung” being one of the four chemicals. Each part will try to pair up with a part that has a complementary set of rungs. The researchers created DNA strands to act like logic gates that have two inputs and two outputs. They combine five of these gates to create a layer with six inputs and six outputs. A program contains a stack of these six-bit layers.

The computer’s complete set of instructions uses 355 different types of components known as tiles. Each one uses multiple DNA strands for redundancy which helps combat errors. Despite this, the error rate is still relatively high compared to an electronic computer. The team reports they have programs that do copying, sorting, recognizing palindromes and multiples of three, random walking, obtaining an unbiased choice from a biased random source, electing a leader, simulating cellular automata, generating deterministic and randomized patterns, and counting to 63. The overall per tile error rate of less than 1 in 3,000.

A custom compiler takes input and produces the information required to “run” the DNA computer. The compiler produces a list of DNA sequences to add, when to add them, and at what temperature. It takes about a day for a program to complete, so this isn’t going to power the next wave of supercomputers.

It takes one or two hours for the DNA origami nanotube to grow and another day or so for the computation to complete. However, it does have possible applications for creating self-assembling programmable matter.

Maybe its time to start getting some DNA lab gear built. Maybe you can watch a movie on some bacteriaduring your breaks.

This $20 Alexa smart speaker is just as good as a $50 Echo Dot

Okay seriously, don’t buy an Amazon Echo Dot. We love the Echo Dot, don’t get us wrong, but there’s a comparable smart speaker out there that looks the same and gives you the same hands-free access to Alexa. The difference, however, is that it costs half as much. You’ll pay $50 for an Echo Dot on Amazon or elsewhere, but the Eufy Genie Smart Speaker with Hands-Free Amazon Alexa can be had for just $19.99. Definitely check it out before you buy a Dot.

Here’s what you need to know from the product page:

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  • eufy Genie is a voice-controlled smart speaker with Amazon’s intelligent Alexa voice assistant. Just say the wake word “Alexa” and Genie plays music, controls your smart home devices, answers your questions, sets calendars, reports the weather and news and more.(2.4GHz Wi-Fi Network Support Only, No Bluetooth) If you have more than one Eufy Genie or Echo in your home, Spatial Perception Technology intelligently selects the Eufy Genie or Echo closest to you to answer your request.
  • Built with a 2W speaker that delivers dynamic audio and room-filling sound, so you can truly enjoy your favorite playlists from streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn, Pandora and iHeartRadio. Call or message almost anyone hands-free with your Eufy Genie and instantly connect to other Alexa-enabled devices in your home using just your voice.
  • Enables a true voice-controlled smart home experience. Use Genie to control all Alexa-compatible Eufy smart products, such as RoboVac 11c and Lumos LED Smart Bulbs, in addition to other brands that work with Alexa.
  • Easy setup with the free EufyHome app. Use the Amazon Alexa app to access 10000+ skills and services, such as Sirius XM, Domino’s Pizza, Uber, ESPN, NPR News, and much more. Plus, Genie is always getting smarter. Future updates include: Alexa messaging and calling. (EufyHome requires a smartphone or tablet running iOS 8.0 (and above) or Android 4.3 (and above) to operate.)
  • What You Get: eufy Genie, AC power adapter (5ft/1.5m), AUX cable (5ft/1.5m), user manual, safety instruction card, our worry-free 12-month warranty and lifetime technical support.

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Artificial intelligence group DeepMind readies first commercial product Device can diagnose a range of eye diseases in real time as accurately as the best specialists Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Madhumita Murgia in London MARCH 30, 2019 Print this page4 DeepMind, the British artificial intelligence group, has built a working prototype of a device that can diagnose complex eye diseases in real time, in a major step towards the Alphabet-owned company’s first medical device.

In a live demonstration this month of its AI system, where a patient agreed to be examined publicly, DeepMind performed a retinal scan and real-time diagnosis of her eye. The scan was analysed by a set of algorithms in Google Cloud, which provided an urgency score and a detailed diagnosis, all in roughly 30 seconds. The system is capable of detecting a range of eye diseases — including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration — with the same level of accuracy as the world’s leading specialists.

It was developed in conjunction with London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital over the past three years. Details about the research were published in Nature Medicine, the scientific journal, last August. In recent months, the company has collaborated with the team at Moorfields to build a working product, although it has not yet received any regulatory approval. A DeepMind spokesperson said that if the research results in a product that passes clinical trials and regulatory approvals, doctors at Moorfields will be able to use the product for free for an initial period of five years. Alan Karthikesalingam, project lead and senior clinician scientist at DeepMind, said it was a “major milestone” towards a bedside tool that could be used by GPs.

“What we’ve been working on really hard is how to take this type of early-stage research system and start to move it into a cloud technology, building a prototype of a system really used in practice,” Mr Karthikesalingam said at the Wired Health event in London where the demo took place. He said the goal of the AI tool is to figure out “should someone call a specialist and if so, how urgently and why?” DeepMind founded its health division, as part of its applied team led by co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, in 2016. The goal of this team has been to develop and deploy AI technologies in real-world settings, including GP surgeries and hospitals, but so far it has no commercial products and the division has yet to generate any revenues. Other health projects include a medical diagnosis app, Streams and programs using AI to analyse medical scans in the UK and the US. From the archive DeepMind Technologies Ltd Inside DeepMind as the lines with Google blur In November, DeepMind announced that it would transfer control of its health unit to a new Google Health division in California, an indication of its plans to expand and commercialise its efforts.

The market for AI healthcare services is rapidly expanding, with analysts expecting it to reach $6.6bn by 2021. “This is likely part of a larger strategy to make Google a reliable outsourced R&D partner. Demonstrating that its applications of AI can have a significant impact on outcomes builds necessary credibility as they move deeper into healthcare, which as a whole could be a significant business for them,” said Nikhil Krishnan, former healthcare analyst at CB Insights. “However as a business, eye screening alone probably wouldn’t move the needle relative to Google’s core search/ad business, especially considering the risk they’d be taking on it,” he added. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration’s approvals of medical AI algorithms has expanded dramatically, from two in 2017 to one or two a month in 2018.

One is an algorithm from Iowa-based start-up IDx that, like DeepMind, can scan and diagnose diabetic retinopathy in real time and is already used in clinical care across Europe. The FDA said it was the first AI system to provide a medical decision “without the need for a clinician to also interpret the image or results, which makes it usable by healthcare providers who may not normally be involved in eyecare”. DeepMind claims its product will not just offer diagnoses, but also be able to explain exactly how it arrived at its conclusion and how certain it is of the result, which is crucial for healthcare professionals. “For an ophthalmologist, this is jaw-dropping. What you can see is [the AI] has segmented every single point, about 65m data points in this scan [creating] super high-resolution images,” said Pearse Keane, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields. “We have to bring the same levels of rigour [to] how we validate the algorithms that we would with any medical device, but my personal prejudice is that ophthalmology will be the first speciality of medicine that is fundamentally transformed by AI.”