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The House of Representatives issued the "Cromnibus" bill that will give NASA an $18 billion budget in 2015, a 2 percent increase than 2014, while also giving NASA more than $500 million it requested. Pres. Obama's original $17.5 billion budget request asked for $4.79 billion to be used for the Science Mission Directorate, $1.28 billion to planetary sciences research - the Science Mission Directorate will receive $5.24 billion and $1.44 billion towards planetary sciences.
The additional budget should be welcome news for the US space agency, which has fallen short of federal budget targets in past years. This is good news for NASA, which must spend at least $100 million of the budget to launch a robot probe to Jupiter's icy moon of Europa.
"They added nearly $300 million to the entire science mission directorate," said Casey Dreier, Planetary Society advocacy director, in a statement to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "No one paid the price for restoration of the cuts to planetary science. That's a big deal."
The Japanese absolutely love robotics, and the multi-billion-dollar industry is recovering with a strong boost by the country's government. Described as a "pillar" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to help Japan's struggling economy rebuild. Humanoids can be used in factories, retail stores, offices, retirement homes, and a wide variety of locations to interact with customers, residents and visitors.
"The adoption of robots tailored to the individual needs of each workplace is without a doubt a major trump card that will drive our local economies," Abe recently said, while speaking at the Robot Revolution Realization Council.
Longtime Japanese electronics and technology companies have struggled to keep up with rivals in the United States, China and Korea - and investing in robotics could help the country standout against other rivals.
Following news that a drone flew in near proximity of an Airbus A320 in July, there is growing concern among UK researchers that terrorists could use small drones to attack aircraft. The drones are small, difficult to see, and aren't picked up on radar - and carrying some type of explosive charge, would be able to cause chaos.
It would seem most likely the Airbus A320 incident involved a small drone operated by a civilian, but experts wonder what could be done if terrorists began to operate the drones.
"But what if that was a terrorist that had bought several drones on the Internet?" asked David Dunn, University of Birmingham professor, in a statement published by the Telegraph. "They could surround the aircraft with multiple drones at 200 ft. after take-off and take out the engines and leave it with nowhere to go. It would be the equivalent of an aerial truck bomb, like a suicide bomb only the terrorist could fly it remotely, with impunity."
NASA is developing a new bio-drone that could splash down in a body of water, disintegrating while not hurting the environment. The biodegradable drone's chassis is made of mycelium, which is a fiber found in mushrooms - and can also be found on or in soil located near mushrooms.
"If you have living organisms acting as biosensors and the plane crashes, there certainly could be problems as the plane interacts with the environment," said Lynn Rothschild, NASA developer spearheading the project, in an interview with the team. "Hopefully people could think of this in advance, and design such that this never becomes a problem."
Drones that crash can have a significant impact in the immediate area, such as if it crashed on coral reefs and other sensitive habits that are being studied. Flying this type of custom drone allows researchers to get a closer look at unique locations, and researchers are continually making adjustments to make it as eco-friendly as possible.
What better way to sell a product than a working in-store demonstration? That's the ideology of Suitable Technologies, which is using its telepresence robots in its Palo Alto, California-based store. The retail location is a live demonstration of the Beam Remote Presence System, featuring a wheeled base and two support beams for a screen.
The telepresence technology, which costs $20,000 - with a $2,000 consumer version available - also includes Wi-Fi radios, cameras and microphones.
Automotive futurist company Rinspeed will publicly debut its "Budii" autonomous-driving concept vehicle in March 5, 2015, during the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. The vehicle is reportedly based on the BMW i3 and will be fully autonomous, learning the "habits and preferences" of the driver. Budii is an electric-powered car that the automaker hopes will become a driver's "best buddy."
Rinspeed showed off the XchangE, a modified Tesla Model S, autonomous vehicle during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.
Autonomous vehicle research is evolving rapidly, with a number of automakers interested in self-driving car concepts. Rinspeed believes publicly available autonomous cars will one day be inevitable, but will take multiple stages before they are common on roadways.
It's not just commercial pilots in the United States reporting a growing number incidents with small drones, as a pilot in the UK flying into Heathrow Airport said he saw a drone flying close to the airport. The pilot of the Airbus 320 airliner estimates the drone was about 700 feet off the ground, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority issuing it a Class A (serious risk of collision) labelling.
The UK doesn't allow drones less than 44 pounds to go above 400 feet in elevation, and they cannot fly near commercial airspace and airports. However, it's possible private drone operators might not be aware of the restrictions - and are unaware of potential dangers.
Trying to prevent incidents between small drones and airliners is being left up to national governments, though they are responding slowly. Both the US and British governments are considering safety rules for airspace around airports, which would hold drone operators accountable for flying safely.
Researchers have made great progress in prosthetics development in recent years, and a team in Korea and the United States have pushed things even further. Amputees will be able to better experience the world around them by using prosthetics equipped with "smart skin," able to allow them to feel sensations.
The unique elastomer soft polymer has integrated temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, along with electrodes that are able to stretch and stimulate the patient's existing nerves. Trying to develop technology able to send control commands from the nervous system to the prosthetic - and sensory feedback from the prosthetic back to the nervous system has proven to be difficult.
"Previously, these robots or prosthetic arms/legs did not have skins that enable high resolution/sensitivity sensing of pressure, strain, temperature, humidity," said Kim Dae-Hyeong, author co-study, in a statement to CBS News. "We focused on this point by developing high density/sensitivity sensor array that is similar with the real human skin."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given permission to four companies now able to operate drones for commercial purposes, granting five new exemptions. Specifically, UAS, Woolpert, Clayco, and VDOS Global will fly drones to help conduct oil rig flare stack inspections, aerial surveying, and monitoring construction sites. All flying drones must be within visual sight of the operator and weigh less than 55 pounds, according to the FAA.
"Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public," said Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary. "We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America's airspace."
The FAA granted seven exemption waivers to movie studios earlier in 2014, and has received 167 requests.
Researchers from Singapore have demonstrated a unique robotic eel that is able to travel through the water in a similar fashion as a real eel. The prototype is able to move quietly and could become an excellent stealth tool to sneak up on ships and other water-based vehicles.
Militaries are interested in using underwater robots to help conduct research, map the sea floor, check for mines, and other operations. The eel robot should prove to be adaptable to varying environments, such as hulls, reefs, and other geological formations.
"Anguilliform [eel like] fish consume less energy when on a long distance journey than regular autonomous underwater vehicles," said Jianxin Xu, a researcher from Singapore, in a statement to Defense One. "They are highly maneuverable and flexible, making them more suitable than Gliders for navigation... they're less detectable than robot subs that propel themselves the same way as conventional subs."