Fuel Savings For Airlines

Developed by researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Direct-To software uses an algorithm that analyzes real-time air traffic to figure out if pilots can take a shortcut to their destination. If there are no conflicts and more than one minute of travel time is saved, the software notifies controllers. In 2011, Boeing incorporated the software into a product called Direct Routes, which suggest shortcuts based on traffic, wind, and airspace constraints. If used by all commercial airlines, the product could save 20 million gallons of fuel annually--slashing costs by $50 million (and if we’re lucky, saving money for customers).

High-Pressure Fire Suppression

NASA’s rocket propulsion technology provided the basis for a company called HMA Fire to develop a more efficient way to put out hydrocarbon-based fuel fires with a high-pressure system that releases water more efficiently than traditional methods. The result: less water is needed to quickly put out big fires. Using the HMA system, firefighters have been able to drop the temperature around a big blaze from 1,400 °F to under 250 °F in 60 seconds. That’s 2 minutes and 30 seconds faster than with standard systems.

Ventilator Technology

Both NASA and the military have to deal with the medical challenge of treating patients who are nowhere near a hospital. NASA’s Space Medicine Division’s Advanced Projects Group, which works medical support in space, teamed up with Impact Instrumentation to build a remotely-controlled ventilator with altitude compensation capabilities that can be used in space--or on the battlefield.

Vital Sign Tracking

Motion sickness is, as you might imagine, a big problem for astronauts in space. By using biofeedback, the agency can teach astronauts how to self-regulate unpleasant physiological responses (like puking) before there’s a problem. The device used to measure vital signs--developed by NASA and a company called Zephyr--uses "smart" fabric to monitor breathing, heart rate (and heart rate variability), skin temperature, posture, and motion. All the information can be transmitted elsewhere via Bluetooth. A consumer-friendly version of the technology, the Consumer HxM, measures distance, speed, and heart rate. It’s on sale now.

Vital Sign Tracking

The Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (ICOS), a tool created by NASA and Los Gatos Research, doesn’t look like much. Devices based on this technology can, however measure exact amounts (to parts per billion) of any molecule that has an absorption spectrum, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. There are endless possibilites for ICOS: it has been used to gather greenhouse gas data from Earth’s carbon sinks, study pollutants greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and even measure methane distribution in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.



5 New NASA Technologies That Are Now Making Your Life Better

Projects that were designed to help us discover more about the universe often find uses outside the space program. This year, the newest examples are helping us save plane fuel, put out fires faster, and more.

NASA is so much more than an agency that flings humans into space. That memory foam you sleep on? It comes from NASA technology. The aircraft anti-icing systems that allow you to fly around in the winter? That comes from NASA, too. Every year, NASA puts out a report (PDF) highlighting some of the most exciting recent spin-off technologies. Check out our favorite new NASA-inspired tech that could make your life better in the slide show above.

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