The quest to break the world land speed record is a long and winding road that leads to South Africa – and is designed to inspire school kids everywhere with a love of science and technology, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
There can be few more desolate places in the world than Hakskeen Pan, a flat, endless dried-out lake bed in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, near the border with Botswana and Namibia.
But that is precisely what has propelled it into the international spotlight. It is one of the few places in the world that is isolated enough, flat enough, and with the right terrain to support a bold quest.
The crust of the lake bed at Haksteen Pan is ideal for an attempt not only on the world landspeed record, but for the first land vehicle to travel at 1 600 kilometres per hour. Project Bloodhound will stretch the limits of a vehicle on wheels far beyond what was ever thought possible.
The man behind the project, the crusty British racing veteran Richard Noble, is no stranger to absurdly extreme feats like this.
“We’ve got a long history of doing it,” he said in an interview last week. “I broke the world land speed record in 1983. After that, we were up against the Americans to achieve the first ever supersonic ride in 1997, and we succeeded. In this case, we’re increasing the land speed record by a whopping 30%, and we’re convinced we can do it.”
The pilot will be Andy Green, but a vast team of engineers, researchers and other specialists has come together in pursuit of the vision.
“We’ve gone through a very difficult phase,” he said. “The weakness of a project like this is the finances. It’s a long-term project because of its considerable investment in terms of engineering. There have been a whole lot of financial setbacks, but the team has held together. In a lesser organisation people would have just walked, but they’ve absolutely stuck together.”
In the next two weeks, the car will go through its most critical test yet.
“We’ve got to get the car into what we call runway form, and where we work in Bristol is unsuitable for running a jet engine. So we will be running it in Newquay in Cornwall to prove that the car works and runs, but at this stage we will go no faster than 200 miles per hour.”
Part of the challenge is that the project is no longer only about engineering, as it was back in 1983 and 1997.
This time round, it remains as important, but is joined by technology that had barely arrived back then: the Internet, high-speed mobile connectivity, database software, and a wide variety of environmental sensors.
This combination means that the Bloodhound SSC (for supersonic car) will produce a massive amount of data that will be accessible instantly, worldwide. And that, in turn, will be used for one of the most ambitious global attempts inspire schoolchildren to want to learn about the STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The car is being built and tested in the United Kingdom, but the project depends on Hakskeen Pan.
While the terrain provided the needed long, flat landscape and the right surface, it was also littered with rocks and stones. So the first essential piece of work was to clear the area by hand. The local Mier community was employed to do the job. Last year, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) presented certificates of recognition to over 300 members of the community for “the largest area of land ever cleared by hand for a motorsports activity”. They had removed 16 000 tonnes of rock from 22 million square metres of dry lake bed.
Project Bloodhound announced: “Their amazing work has been a vital part of building the world’s fastest race track and means that next year Andy Green can drive Bloodhound SSC at over 1400kph in Northern Cape, South Africa, without worrying about a single stray rock damaging the Car.”
The attempt, set for 2018, should have been made during 2017, but ran into a hitch and, Noble admitted in an interview last week, it was not a technical one. He had just presented a keynote address on the project at Oracle OpenWorld, a massive annual conference in San Francisco, where more than 60 000 people come to learn about the latest offerings from global database software giant Oracle. The company had already committed to providing the technology platform needed to share the car’s massive data output with the world.
At the event, Oracle’s president of product development, Thomas Kurian, announced that the company’s educational arm, Oracle Academy, would partner with Project Bloodhound to popularise STEM subjects.
“Effectively, Oracle is educating the world,” said Noble. “The idea came from the US manned space programme. When you study what happened with the Apollo programme, you see this enormous growth in the emergence of scientists, engineers and mathematicians as a result of interest in space flight.
“We were working so hard taking project Bloodhound forward, we didn’t have time to look over shoulder to see what we’d achieved. We asked the University of Swansea, which is working with us on the aerodynamics of Bloodhound, for a letter telling us what had happened as a result of the project.
“They said their engineering applications and intake were up 150% directly as a result of their work on Bloodhound. Intake of aerodynamics students was up 350%. The value of Bloodhound, to them, was 5-million pounds every year. Kids were coming from the USA to study at Swansea.”
Another research partner in the project, the University of Western England, saw even greater benefit: they valued the benefits of their work on Bloodhound over ten years at 77-million pounds.
“We were staggered. We had no idea this was the scale of what we were doing. The STEM education system had all but collapsed and the kids all wanted to be singers and dancers. They saw physics as impossible and teachers were really struggling. Inspiring children is the unique selling proposition of Project Bloodhound.”
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube.
Seychelles floating solar project a first for Africa
The first independent floating solar panels in Africa aim to increase renewable power supply and decrease fresh water evaporation.
Implementation of Africa’s first independent power producer floating solar photovoltaic (FPV) project is continuing in the Seychelles. The project, launched by the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change and the Seychelles Energy Commission, will be the first utility-scale, private-sector funded floating solar project in Africa, and aims to support the country’s transition to renewable energy.
The project is being implemented by the Government of Seychelles and the Public Utilities Corporation with the support of the African Legal Support Facility and the Clinton Foundation, with Trinity International LLP and Multiconsult Norge AS serving as the transaction and tender advisers. The floating solar power plant will be located in Providence lagoon on Mahé Island and will have an estimated capacity between 3.5 – 4 MWAC.
This month, the request for proposals process was launched to a group of pre-qualified bidders and joint ventures who were selected last year as part of the first phase of procurement. With this process opening, this clean energy project moves another step closer to full implementation. Bidders are required to submit their full technical and financial proposals in September 2019, with an expected tender award in November 2019. Construction is expected to start soon thereafter, with the project becoming operational in 2020.
Fiona Wilson, senior regional manager at Clinton Climate Initiative, said: “We at the Clinton Climate Initiative are thrilled to support this innovative project, which represents a groundbreaking step forward for island nations and other regions with limited land available for solar development. Floating solar photovoltaic energy holds immense potential for islands, and our partners in Seychelles are demonstrating true leadership in addressing the global climate and energy crisis.”
“This will be a landmark project for Seychelles,” said Tony Imaduwa, CEO of Seychelles Energy Commission. “The project not only injects green energy into the grid but also exemplifies the country’s commitment and will in transforming its energy sector to a low-carbon one.”
Last week the Government of Seychelles hosted a pre-bid meeting and site visit for pre-qualified bidders to brief them on the tender process, site and build area. The pre-qualified bidders were able to view the lagoon and related sites in person, network with local contractors, and pose questions for clarification to the project team. Photos from this meeting can be accessed here.
During the next phase of the project, the bidders will prepare technical and financial proposals. These pre-qualified bidders include Building Energy South Africa Ltd, Cobra Instalaciones y Servicios SA, Générale du Solaire and Total Eren, GreenYellow SAS and Voltas Ecobiotech Ltd, Masdar, Quadran (Seychelles) Ltd and Vetiver Tech, Scatec Solar ASA, and Solar Philippines and Corex Solar.
Bidders will have more than three months to prepare their full proposals in line with the requirements of the request for proposals. The proposals will be evaluated against a set of technical and financial criteria, and the best-evaluated bidder will be selected to finance, design, build, own, and operate the plant. Electricity generated from the plant will be sold to the Public Utilities Corporation at a fixed tariff under a power purchase agreement with a 25-year duration.
When fully constructed and operational, this innovative project will be the first utility-scale, private-sector funded floating solar plant in Africa, and Seychelles’ first independent power producer, drawing international expertise and capital to both transfer knowledge to the local energy sector and accelerate Seychelles’ transition to renewable energy. The plant will also be the first utility-scale floating solar project in a marine environment worldwide, paving the way for further marine projects, a crucial opportunity for island nations and other land-scarce energy systems.
Demystifying the (ERP) cloud
By DANIEL VAN ECK, strategy director at Epic ERP
Thanks to the recent arrival of multi-national data centres in the country, the cloud has become a business priority. It is an essential tool in how a company remains competitive in a continually changing digital environment. Within this context, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have a critical role to play.
And this is reflected in the momentum of the cloud worldwide.
Gartner estimated that the global public cloud services market will grow 17.3 percent this year to $206.2 billion, up from the $175.8 billion in 2018. But this does not mean the cloud is a silver bullet that can solve all organisational challenges. There must still be a fundamental strategic value in making the transition, whether it is through ERP solutions or simply accessing documents collaboratively.
In South Africa, with its growing small to medium enterprise (SME) market, ERP has become something of an anathema. Thanks to how it has been positioned in the past, ERP is viewed as expensive, cumbersome, and inflexible solutions that integrate different business components. And while there is some truth to this, the modern ERP environment is quite a different one, especially for the small business sector.
Part of this can be attributed to the success of the cloud when it comes to delivering more secure solutions more cost-effectively using more computational power than what a business can afford to have on site. Even so, SMEs do not care about the cloud or even ERP as a concept. They just want to get business value as cost effectively as possible with the minimum amount of disruption to existing operations.
If anything, ERP in the digital landscape (within the focus of the cloud) should be viewed as a more intelligent way of managing a business. Irrespective of whether a company is using public, private, or hybrid cloud services, ERP must be able to integrate data and deliver on business expectations with an all-in-one solution that transcends IT knowledge.
ERP is vital in the modern environment driven by data. Consider some of these statistics. By 2020, every person will generate approximately 1.7MB of data per second. Also, by that year, the accumulated volume of big data will increase from the current 4.4 zettabytes to approximately 44 zettabytes (equal to 44 trillion GB). Google now processes more than 40 000 search queries per second. According to InternetLiveStats.com, when the company was founded in 1998, it was serving 10 000 search queries per day.
Furthermore, the much-touted cost benefits of going the cloud route is not something to ignore. With corporate budgets under pressure, everything from human resources to IT spend need to be managed. And with cloud providers offering all these services in a hosted environment, companies can focus less on spending resources on hardware and software upgrades, and more on delivering strategic objectives.
Another significant advantage of going the cloud route, is its ability to scale up or down according to the needs of the business. Instead of purchasing additional servers or expanding an on-site data warehouse, the cloud provider has the required functionality to add capacity.
An ERP world
One of the advantages of migrating to the cloud is that the solutions (irrespective of what function they fulfil) will automatically be updated when new features become available. No more worrying about patching or updating software.
A cloud-driven ERP environment provides a more secure way of benefitting from a digital approach to business. Given the complexities of regulatory compliance, it is all about keeping data safe, available, and online using dedicated resources tailored to the specific needs of the business, irrespective its size or industry sector.