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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 11

US Army building airport at Fort Bliss just for drones

The US Army is building a custom airport for its Gray Eagle and Shadow drones at Fort Bliss, located in Texas. The location will include a 50,000 square-foot hangar, 1,000-ft. runway for Shadow aircraft, and a 5,000-ft. runway for Gray Eagle drones. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a $33-million-dollar contract to a private contractor, which will also build a maintenance facility and a hazardous waste disposal facility.

 

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In addition to surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the Gray Eagle can carry up to four hellfire missiles while traveling faster and at higher altitude than the Predator. However, it has a window of just 25-hours of flight time, 15 hours shorter than the Predator.

 

The Army hopes to use its custom facility to research and better understand how to improve its drones.

NASA's OPALS system provides broadband Internet in space

NASA hopes the International Space Station (ISS) will have better Internet courtesy and communications access courtesy of the laser-based Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) instrument. A SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle delivered OPALS to the ISS in April, and has successfully completed four months of testing - with a focus on minimizing atmospheric turbulence that leads to increased data loss.

 

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OPALS uses four individual lasers to send a beam down to the JPL's Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station in California. The ground station is able to send four lasers and deliver a payload, and is working on daytime testing.

 

"OPALS has shown that space-to-ground laser communications transmissions are practical and repeatable," said Matthew Abrahamson, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory OPALS mission manager, in a statement published by Space.com. "As a bonus, OPALS has collected an enormous amount of data to advance the science of sending lasers through the atmosphere. We look forward to continuing our testing of this technology, which sends information to and from space faster than with radio signals."

Researchers want to study sleep disorders by using your smartphone

Researchers from Florida State University and the Stevens Institute of Technology teamed up for a six-month study that used earbuds equipped with an in-line microphone and an Apple iPhone. Participants' breathing habits could be accurately recorded within half a breath per minute while using the smartphone and earbuds next to the bed, even when compared to a chest-worn respiration monitor.

 

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A custom smartphone app will be released sometime next year. Using the app would be an accurate and significantly cheaper method to track quality of sleep - and could help identify sleep apnea and other potential health problems. Researchers will present their paper during the IEEE Infocom conference next April.

 

However, it could be difficult to accurately measure respiratory signals if there is more than one person sleeping in the bed, according to Andrew Campbell, a co-director of the Dartmouth Networking and Ubiquitous Systems Laboratory.

NASA being given extra funds in 2015, as space research accelerates

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.

 

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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."

Japanese government betting on country's humanoid robotics industry

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.

 

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"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.

Concern growing that drones could be used as weapon for terrorists

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.

 

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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 developing new biodegradable drone, helps the environment

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.

 

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"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.

Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots

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.

Continue reading 'Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots' (full post)

Rinspeed Budii autonomous car concept to be unveiled at auto show

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."

 

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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.

UK pilots also reporting close calls with small drones in the skies

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.

 

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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.

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