Nominated by Nicholas Weaver. What's your pick?You wanna talk dangerous? What if a little radio interference could cause a 500-car pileup? Or send a jumbo jet plummeting to its doom?In the old days, to do a computer-controlled, "fly-by-wire" airplane or "drive-by-wire car," you had wires, and wire bundles, everywhere. The wiring loom on something as simple as a motorcycle can be a nightmare. That's what you get, when you replace mechanical and hydraulic controls with digital ones. These days, however, its tending towards CAN-based systems ("Control Area Networks"), where a couple of wires can communicate all the necessary information.But some brilliant engineers seriously think that one wire is one too many. Yes, that's right, prepare for the fly and drive-by-wireless future, featuring Bluetooth (the same technology that connects your mobile phone to the wireless handset, oh-so-flawlessly, at all times, regardless of interference, jamming, or a Bluetooth Sniper Rifle). That's what some geniuses have in mind to used to control those critical fiddly-bits on your airplane's wing.
The 3-metre-long uncrewed plane "AIVA" will rely entirely upon a Bluetooth wireless network to relay messages back and forth between critical systemsTests flights on a partly wireless prototype carried out in Portugal have shown that the system works well. Cristina Santos, at Minho University in Portugal, who developed the plane, says the aim is primarily to reduce weight and power requirements. "Also, if you do not have the cables then the system is much more flexible to changes," she says.But that's not all. Don't want those pesky hydraulic lines in your car?
Even so, Santos says the system would need extensive testing before she would be willing to ride in a fly-by-wireless plane. She also admits that stringent aviation regulations may mean the technology first appears in cars rather than planes."Cables are already a problem in cars," Santos says, because many manufacturers cram ever more electronic gadgetry into each new model.She admits the idea of having no physical connections may seem scary at first but believes ultimately it will become an accepted way to control brakes and even steering mechanisms in road vehicles.Yes, you too can be living in a future where anyone with a simple jammer -- or just a few too many radios operating on the same frequency -- could stop everyone's brakes from working, causing the Mother of All Car Crashes. A future where some piddling radio noise causes your plane to nose-dive all because it was too hard or too heavy for the engineer to drag a single wire (well, a single wire in addition to the power cable, assuming you don't have wireless power instead) through the tail to the rudder.Me, given the choice? I'll take that personal copter thankyouverymuch. At least the engineers there probably know how dangerous it is.What's your candidate for the most lethal gear of all time? E-mail us or post it here.