Almost 90 years ago aviator Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic is his plane the Spirit of St Louis alone and changed history. Something like that just happened—without the fanfare.
In late July the plane called Solar Impulse 2 touched down in Abu Dhabi to complete its around the world trip after 16 months and 17 different legs of the journey.
Here’s the significance.
At no stage did the plane burn fuel. 17,000 solar cells on the wings—which are as large as a Boeing 747—powered four electric motors, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lithium batteries let the plane fly at night.
Now, admittedly it’s early days yet for solar flight. The plane can only hold two people at a time. But consider the implications as this technology develops.
The first is the considerable environmental damage of air travel can come down. The second is the possibility of slashing fuel costs across the industry. The gains could be enormous. You’ve heard about electric cars… but planes may be even more significant in time.
How can you not be positive about the future after such a feat?
Look at how air travel developed from the Wright Brother wobbling their way into the sky then into humans traveling into space well within a hundred years.
Speaking of space…
The Wall Street Journal reported that a space exploration startup called Moon Express Inc has become the first commercial venture to get US regulatory authorization beyond Earth’s orbit.
The company wants to send a small, unmanned scientific spacecraft to the moon by late 2017. It needs a few things to get there yet: a rocket and cash being the most important.
Moon Express is no sure thing but this regulatory move from the US has set a precedent now for the growing commercial space industry. Regulations and legislation are being drafted to send private enterprise to outer space and beyond.
Commercial space flight may become one of the biggest industries in the US, according to Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars.
Don’t forget that Elon Musk’s company SpaceX plans to send an unmanned mission to Mars somewhere 2018-2020. Humans are on track to follow in 2027.
That’s as close as ten years. Can you believe it?
But perhaps here is the key quote from the Wall Street Journal report is this: ‘Ultimately, Moon Express hopes to mine and retrieve minerals.’
Yep, we’ve got an old-fashioned resource race on our hands. That will mean our current property right system being exported to outer space.
Presumably it won’t be long before the US military looks to set up a permanent base on the Moon to protect US private enterprise. After all, US military bases are all over the world, so why not the moon?
It’s interesting to note that SpaceX for one already has contacts with the US military because SpaceX tenders for its various satellite launches.
SpaceX is also working on providing a rocket for the US to send humans into space again. Currently the US relies on Russian rockets to send teams to the International Space Station.
Developments may not be completely ‘free enterprise’ here.
And if investing in rockets and galactic travel seems a bit too much, don’t forget the possible $US100 billion market developing a little closer to home.
Yep—we’re talking drones. In June the US federal government issued regulations that clarified and simplified who could own drones. And its to say, practically everyone.
There’s more guidance to come on this. Like any nascent industry, there’s a lot of grey areas and hesitation when it comes to flight paths, crowds and privacy.
But drones have an immeasurable number of uses. For starters, developers are using them show prospective property buyers their housing estates under construction.
Mining companies use them to investigate the huge territory their leases often cover. The potential is enormous across a wide range of industries. It will drive productivity higher and higher.
As we keeps saying over at Cycles, Trends, and Forecasts, the incredible innovation and ongoing disruption happening across the world are driving what will become the biggest boom of all time.
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CALLUM NEWMAN is an editor at The Daily Reckoning, Australia’s biggest daily financial email. He’s also the associate editor of investment advisory Cycles, Trends and Forecasts and hosts The Daily Reckoning Podcast. Originally graduating with a degree in Communications, Callum decided financial markets were far more fascinating than anything Marshall McLuhan (the ‘medium is the message’) ever came up with. Today Callum spends his day reading and researching why property markets, commodities and stocks move like they do. So far he’s discovered it’s often in a way you least expect.