Monday, June 15, 2015

Behind every invention there’s serious work, often a lifetime of time and money invested before a great idea can be realized but the moment it is realized the future and the every-day life of humanity is changed. After research and development new technical solutions improve industry and production – giving competitive advantages to some people over others. Or a technical innovation decides the outcome of battles and helps to end conflicts. The B-29 American bomber and deep-sea oilrigs under the Gulf of Mexico are seemingly unrelated. But they aren’t. They both changed history.

From battles on the Pacific Ocean to deep-sea oil rigs

On December 7th, 1941 the United States were attacked by Japan and the USA have entered World War 2. On the enormous Pacific Ocean the Americans needed an airplane that could fly over huge distances and could also defend itself. The solution was the B29 superfortress, the most advanced bomber of this era. The effective distance of the B29 superfortress was 9380 km. Its terminal velocity was 587 kph and could carry 9000 kg of bombs. It was also equipped with a revolutionary device. What made the B29 unique was its fire control system. As a matter of fact this was the first airplane that had all of its turrets controlled centrally and automated.

The fire control system initiates. Superhuman computational capacity by pressing one button. The importance of the fire control system of the B29 was that it eliminated the clumsiness of targeting and firing and made it possible for the gunner to fire multiple weapons simultaneously.

Through the fire control system the gunner could follow moving targets taking into account the speed of the wind, altitude and other ballistic factors and move the weapons as well.

Thanks to the remote controlled turrets the internals of the B29 could be pressurized so the bomber could ascend over the effective range or anti-air artillery.

The mission of the Enola Gay, the B29 that dropped the A-bomb was like that.

They say that the B29 was the winning weapon of the Pacific theatre but its effects could be felt many years later. The revolutionary fire control system technology contributed to the creation of today’s automated world.

The operation of this world is highly dependent on dwindling mineral resources. Primarily oil. The most advanced oil rig, Per Dido is operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Per Dido produces 100 000 barrels of oil per day. And for that it is imperative that its technical equipment are able to regulate themselves. The many automated control systems of Per Dido make it possible for us to mine oil and natural gas from the most inaccessible place of the world, from the bottom of the ocean. 2450 meters deep an underwater system automatically separates oil from gas and pumps it to the surface.

The most unique aspect of Per Dido is the underwater pumping station. The oil is brought to the surface by these electric underwater pumps. The pumps of Per Dido are equipped with the most gauges. They are advanced versions of ordinarypumps. They are full of sensors and systems controlling the oil flow. If the need arises the system automatically accelerates the oil flow and automatically slows it down if it exceeds the safety limits, sends an alarm and it is also able to stop it immediately.

But the list of automated devices of Per Dido does not end here. Installing, operating and maintaining this underwater system is serious work. These are handled by automated machines, submarines without a crew. A robot submarine can reach the bottom of the ocean at 2500 meters altitude in less than 2 hours. This submarine is equipped with advanced instruments to operate in deep sea and has a sophisticated controlling system to maintain its own location.

With the help of its sensors and on-board computer the submarine can remain in one place in the midst of underwater currents. These automated systems provide the last link in our story, the last link in the historical inventions that lead us to produce gas and oil under the sea.

Let’s recap how we reached this point!

We started with waterproof cement which the Romans used to build aqueducts. Cities got water and with double action pumps they used it to extinguish fires. Pumps spraying Greek fire was used to defend Constantinople, the city that with its classical culture led to the Renaissance. This era brought us fountains that inspired the experiments involving vacuum, and those led to the science behind the steam engine. This led to the invention of the regulator by James Watt which led to the fire control system of the B29 and was the forerunner of almost every modern automated technology.

Our story however does not end here since newer and newer automated systems are being developed through automatization. The engineers at the research and development at General Motors are developing a completely automatic vehicle. The principle is that the EMV communicating with other vehicles would find the optimal route and drive itself.

The inventions of today are merely steps towards the inventions of the future and these inventions will eventually reform our world.

Author: Béla Molnár

Tags: invention, invested, research and development, innovation

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