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Altiscope performs research, simulation, and analysis on the integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with our airspace. Here are our publicly published documents.

TR-001: Understanding UAV Mission Risk

This is the first in a series of white papers documenting the process and findings behind Altiscope’s risk framework. Altiscope is collaboratively developing a quantitative risk model for present-day UAV mission profiles that will remain relevant as operations and technologies scale and evolve in the coming years. We explore where Altiscope’s risk model fits in the larger realm of UAV risk assessment, including how it relates to other industry and regulatory efforts and what the resulting model may look like. We’ve identified several high-level challenges, along with approaches we plan to take in tackling them. Finally, review existing research literature on UAV reliability and related issues. …

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Tons of small restaurants and fast food establishments are using Square tablets to accept payments. They’re convenient and fast, even automatically emailing you a receipt. But Square snuck something in that has been bugging me for a few years. The compulsory tip.

At the end of every transaction, Square prompts to you tip. And they do it because they know you’ll feel bad if you don’t tip. They’re guilting you into it. Square even admits it:

Interestingly, according to a survey by the restaurant tech reviews firm Software Advice, people are more likely to tip if they’re required to to press a “no tip” button to opt out of tipping. …

NBC spent $12 billion for the rights to host the Olympics. Primetime ratings — the ones advertisers pay the most for — are down 17 percent from London. In the coveted 18–49 age bracket, ratings are down 25 percent. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, except…

Steve Burke, NBCUniversal’s CEO, says:

“We wake up someday and the ratings are down 20 percent. If that happens, my prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn’t know it.”

No Steve, we knew about the Olympics. You delivered us a horrible product. I watched the summer Olympics religiously when I was younger — from the opening ceremonies, which for the first time weren’t broadcast in their entirety, to the closing ceremonies, incredibly dull this year. This time around, I didn’t even have much interest in the games. …

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In the US, everyone knows 9/11. In Japan, everyone knows 3/11. The day of the Great Eastern Japan earthquake. More than five years since it hit Ishinomaki with full force, the town is still hurting. Ishinomaki — a town of 150,000 — wasn’t more than a blip in guidebooks before the tsunami. Primarily a commercial fishing port, its claim to fame is the world’s best manga museum.

Everywhere you turn, there’s remnants of the tsunami. A sign in the train station shows the height of the tsunami. Over 75,000 homes were lost, and many look like ancient Roman ruins — the building’s plan is all that’s left. …

Congratulations United, you did it!

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A United 787 Dreamliner on approach to London’s Heathrow airport. Photo by Lewis Smith.

The Dreamliner is the most amazing, sophisticated airplane in the world. It is a space-age plane built with carbon fiber, LCD dimming windows, and mood lighting. Yet airlines managed to destroy the experience onboard this modern marvel.

I flew the 787–9 for the first time with ANA Business Class — the original launch customer. Then I flew the 787–9 with United BusinessFirst — the North American launch customer. My experience was notably different. (Full disclosure: I’m a United 1K member and United Million Miler)

As a Product Manager, I listen to users and try to anticipate what they want. Often they use products in ways I could never predict. Airlines buying a jet from Boeing or Airbus are similar. The planes are designed based on feedback from airlines, but manufacturers just sell the shell. …

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I joined the State Department as a Presidential Innovation Fellow just after Hillary Clinton left as Secretary of State. John Kerry was now in the saddle, but my colleagues wanted to tell me stories about Clinton.

Hillary came into the State Department and told her staff that she has her own agenda. Most Secretaries of State are there to take on the President’s agenda, but Hillary had her own.

She told her staff: “We are here to carry out the President’s agenda. And we’ll do more than that agenda for the State Department. …

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Philadelphia Night Skyline” by Chris Hunkeler.

Explore offbeat Philly instead of the convention tourist trap

The Democrats descended on the city of brotherly love for the 2016 convention. Ahhh, Philadelphia. It’s a direct, gritty, stubborn city filled with love and affection… as long as you’re rooting for our team. After all, our fans famously threw snowballs at Santa while booing him. Classy. Besides Independence Hall and the Rocky statue, what’s there to do in this blue collar town?

I asked friends from Philadelphia: “If Hillary and Bill were on vacation, where are they least likely to go?”

Their answer: Philadelphia.

Grab your Tastykakes, a Yuengling, and a cheesesteak wiz wit. Here’s the real Philadelphia. Don’t expect Hillary Clinton to make an appearance at any of these. …

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I know you’re busy. The FBI is all up in there. You’re building a money pit for the largest corporate profit you’ve ever had. And I know, it is a lot of work to create a spaceship with a carbon-fiber dome.

There’s a big problem in boomtown though. You know about it. It’s called deep linking.

You have a big, beautiful app store. There are over 1.5 million apps available in all their native Objective-C and Swift glory. Think back to when “apps” on the iPhone could only be webapps and they totally sucked? …

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I met Mina Guli over Thanksgiving dinner last year. “I’m going to run a bunch of marathons next year,” she says to me nonchalantly. I think to myself, why? She continues, “You’re from California, you know there’s a water crisis, right?” Well yeah, of course, I know about the drought. “No, the global water crisis.” Oh.

“Did you know that access to water is the biggest threat facing our planet over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum?” Well no, I didn’t. She then connected water to just about everything I can think of — not just the drinking water every human being needs to survive, but that local economies could collapse if they can’t grow crops, and countries going to war over water. …

People are all worked up over the caucus and primary, saying crazy things like “New Hampshire proves Americans hate politicians.” These states make up 1.4% of the total American population, and what’s worse, only 0.3% actually participated — less than a million people. Both states have populations that are are over 92% white. To say they represent the will of our great nation is completely wrong.

As we’re a representative democracy and not a direct democracy, the results of these elections elect delegates, which ultimately vote for the candidate later in the year. You might think that the delegates then decide who wins the nomination, right? In Iowa, it is actually much worse than that. In the case of the Democratic party, the caucus only elects delegates to the district and state elections, which later in the year determines which candidate(s) get the state’s votes. …


Joe Polastre

Unrelenting traveler, United Million Miler, Pennsylvania native, Pilot, often found on a ⛵️, product manager

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