As Published In
Oracle Magazine
January/February 2007

CHANNELS: Cutting Edge

Driving and Flying

Encrypted hard drives and planes that mimic birds

Secure Hard Drives

In this fast-paced world, we've all got plenty to worry about, so losing a laptop with sensitive information on it is the last thing you need—especially if you work for a large company or government organization. Sure, there are passwords and other security applications that limit access to data, but there are better ways to secure hard drive content.

Seagate's DriveTrust technology is a drive-level set of security services that take advantage of the hard drive's computing environment. Modern disk drives contain a full-fledged computing element, including processor, RAM, a multitasking operating system, and dedicated private magnetic storage. Although host operating system environments are designed to enable widespread application support, hard drives are closed computing environments that run specialized code to manage drive functions. In short, the hard drive is an ideal place for securing information because its internal operations are sealed off from other computing system resources.

DriveTrust-enabled drives automatically encrypt and decrypt all the data that travels in and out of the drive. Unlike other data encryption applications, DriveTrust encryption keys are password-protected and never appear in any readable format on the drive. Encryption combined with strong authentication simplifies and secures hard drive disposal and reuse. Data on an encrypted drive is only accessible when the encryption key is enabled through a valid password. If the encryption key is changed or eliminated, all of the data is instantly rendered inaccessible.

Technicians can now safely repurpose or dispose of the drive, without compromising sensitive information. Just don't forget your password.

Perching Plane

It's a bird! It's a plane! No. . . it's a perching plane—a plane that lands like a bird. From the early days of aircraft design, engineers have looked to birds for inspiration. Whereas most engineers focus on how birds fly, Ephrahim Garcia at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, believes birds have a lot to teach us about landing. He is designing a pilotless aircraft that can land vertically by "perching" like a bird.

Web Locator

 Seagate DriveTrust
Perching plane

Currently the perching plane is being developed to address a problem with reconnaissance planes: They find something interesting to look at but can't inspect it properly because they don't have enough fuel to keep flying over the area for any length of time. "If you could land the plane on the edge of a nearby building, you could continue surveillance of an area," says Garcia. Since runways are hard to come by on the tops of buildings, the reconnaissance plane would have to land vertically. Existing vertical landing craft, such as helicopters or Harrier jump jets, are too heavy and require too much fuel to make them suitable for surveillance. Instead, Garcia believes, by mimicking the way birds come in to land, he can bring an aircraft to a gentle stop using aerodynamics alone.

When a bird wants to perch, it flares its wing feathers, angling them against the airflow; then it does the same with its tail feathers as it lowers them. This configuration produces as much drag as possible, and slows the bird enough for a safe touchdown. When Garcia's plane is preparing to land, the wings rotate upward to force the fuselage down, creating strong drag. The tail extends away from the body on a long boom, which is articulated so the tail can droop down to provide varying degrees of drag as it moves.

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